How to Make a CPD Plan

CPD Planning Templates

General Information

What CPD may be included in my professional development plan?
Although the Society will not be tracking individual programs or hours, the basic principles and objectives of the NSBS CPD Requirement remain the same. Lawyers are expected to determine what education they need in any given year in a comprehensive and purposeful way.

The general test should be this: Is the activity primarily for an educational purpose and is it relevant to your practice?

The Society is not dictating what you can put in your plan but every lawyer is subject to audit and therefore, you need to keep track of your plans and your implementation of those plans for a five-year period. You may be asked to provide your plan and verify that you have completed your education. If you make a plan and then change your mind during the year and take something different, that’s okay. Just amend your plan and record what you’ve done for verification purposes. The purpose of the plan is to assist you in thinking about what education you need in any given year. It is not simply to fulfil an “hours” requirement. The Society wants to work with lawyers and ensure they are able to make plans and to find the resources they need.

In making your plan you may want to reference Rule 3 in the Code of Professional Conduct, which sets out the definition of competence for all practising lawyers. You should consider more than just the substantive areas of law in which you practise.

For that reason, we recommend you consider the following competencies and methods for attaining those competencies when creating your plan:


This competency requires lawyers to possess not only knowledge of legal ethics but the skill to apply legal ethics in practice and conduct themselves with professionalism as representatives of the court and the justice system in Nova Scotia.

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency:

  •  Identify and resolve ethical issues and problems
  •  Engage in critical thinking about ethical issues
  •  Make informed and reasoned decisions about ethical issues
  •  Use client conflict management system
  •  Identify need for independent legal advice
  •  Use time tracking, limitation reminder and bring forward systems
  •  Use systems for trust accounting, general accounting, client records and files, billing and collection
  •  Use practice checklists
  •  Cultural / intercultural competency training
  •  Diversity and anti-racism training
  •  Human rights training

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency:

  •  Attend a continuing legal education course (for ideas, see Events)
  •  Participate in a legal ethics forum
  •  Engage in online discussion and debate
  •  Review the Code of Professional Conduct 
  •  Attend a seminar on conflicts of interest
  •  Attend cultural competency education events
  •  Participate in an access to justice workshop


This competency requires lawyers to maintain an understanding of the core legal concepts applicable to the practice of law in Canada, including knowledge of substantive law relevant to the individual practice of each lawyer.

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency:

  •  Constitutional law
  • Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  •  Human rights principles
  •  Aboriginal rights
  •  Principles of common law
  •  Administration of law in Canada 
  •  Statutory construction and interpretation
  •  Contract law
  •  Property/Real estate law – conduct real estate transactions
  •  Torts/Civil litigation
  •  Family law
  •  Corporate/Commercial law 
  •  Wills and estates 
  •  Criminal law
  •  Administrative law
  •  Evidence law
  •  Rules of procedures
  •  Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes
  •  Ability to conduct matters, draft necessary documents and conduct appropriate transactions/activities for the above substantive law areas

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency:

  •  Attend a continuing legal education course (for ideas, review our Events page)
  •  Read a textbook
  •  Review case law
  •  Attend a legal conference
  •  Receive one-on-one instruction from a senior practitioner (not in the course of day-to-day work)
  •  Attend a legal refresher seminar
  •  Attend an updates in law seminar
  •  Complete a collaborative law program
  •  Achieve mediator designation
  •  Write a textbook
  •  Present at a continuing legal education conference
  •  Instruct a substantive law course
  •  Publish a case commentary
  •  Attend substantive law webinars
  •  Become a member of your local CBA-NS subsections and attend lunch and learns


This competency requires lawyers to possess strong oral and written communication skills to effectively represent clients and communicate professionally and effectively, as necessary for their practices. It also requires lawyers to effectively identify issues and analyze problems on behalf of clients, as well as properly research those issues and problems to properly advise clients. 

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency

  •  Use correct grammar and spelling
  •  Use language suitable to the purpose of the communication and intended audience
  •  Elicit information from clients and others
  •  Explain the law in appropriate language to the audience
  •  Obtain instructions
  •  Effectively formulate and present well-reasoned and accurate legal argument, analysis, advice or submissions
  •  Advocate in a manner appropriate to the legal and factual context
  •  Negotiate in a manner appropriate to the legal and factual context
  •  Identify client’s goals and objectives
  •  Identify relevant facts and legal, ethical and practical issues
  •  Analyze the results of research
  •  Identify due diligence required
  •  Apply the law to the legal and factual context
  •  Assess possible courses of action and a range of likely outcomes
  •  Identify and evaluate the appropriateness of alternatives for resolution of the issue or dispute
  •  Conduct factual research
  •  Conduct legal research: identify legal issues; select relevant sources and methods; use techniques of legal reasoning and argument, such as case analysis and statutory interpretation, to analyze legal issues; identify, interpret and apply results of research
  •  Effectively communicate the results of research

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency:

  •  Attend a writing course
  •  Publish an article
  •  Read a textbook on writing and grammar
  •  Proofread others’ writing
  •  Participate in Toastmasters
  •  Attend an advocacy course
  •  Learn how to use a legal research database
  •  Attend a logic course
  •  Act as a mooting judge
  •  Write a textbook
  •  Present at a continuing legal education conference
  •  Instruct a substantive law course
  •  Publish a case commentary


This competency requires lawyers to manage client relationships and interact effectively with clients in person, online and on the telephone. This involves managing client expectations, remaining in communication with clients and balancing the needs of all clients.

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency:

  •  Manage client relationships, establish and maintain client confidence, and manage client expectations throughout the retainer
  •  Develop legal strategy in light of client’s circumstances such as diversity, age, language, disability, socioeconomic and cultural context
  •  Advise client in light of client’s circumstances such as diversity, age, language, disability, socioeconomic and cultural context
  •  Maintain client communications
  •  Document advice given to and instructions received from client
  •  Interview potential clients
  •  Confirm who is a client / who is being represented
  •  Confirm client’s identity pursuant to applicable standards / rules
  •  Assess client’s capacity and fitness
  •  Confirm who will provide instructions
  •  Draft retainer / engagement letter
  •  Discuss and set fees and retainer
  •  Address outstanding client concerns
  •  Draft exit / reporting letter

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency:

  •  Attend a continuing legal education course (for ideas, see
  •  Attend a workshop for professionals
  •  Read a textbook
  •  Attend a “know your client” session
  •  Attend a fraud awareness class
  •  Attend a “dealing with difficult people” seminar
  •  Attend an interpersonal communications workshop
  •  Attend a conflict management program


This competency requires lawyers to run their business practices appropriately and in compliance with all legislative requirements, to manage office staff, manage files and manage finances.

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency:

  •  Manage time, including prioritizing and managing tasks, and tracking deadlines
  •  Delegate tasks and provide appropriate supervision
  •  Manage files, including opening/closing files, checklist development, file storage/destruction
  •  Manage finances, including trust accounting
  •  Manage professional responsibilities, including ethical, licensing and other professional responsibilities
  •  Learn about information management and protection of privacy
  •  Learn about electronic information management

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency:

  •  Develop a succession plan for emergency planning purposes and / or retirement
  •  Attend a session on trust accounting requirements
  •  Attend a course on effective time management practices
  •  Read a textbook on time management skills
  •  Work with a practice management coach to improve overall practice management skills
  •  Attend information sessions on storing data in the Cloud
  •  Take a seminar on best practices for social media
  •  Attend a session on privacy legislation and protecting client data
  •  Learn about employee engagement and effective employee management
  •  Attend a financial intelligence class
  •  Learn to use a budgeting tool
  •  Review resources from ARMA International (formerly known as the Association of Records Managers and Administrators) and AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management)
  •  Attend a conflict management program
  •  Attend a working with others program
  •  Attend a seminar in alternate service delivery or non-traditional billing practices
  •  Take a computer skills course
  •  Participate in an access to justice workshop


This competency requires lawyers to maintain awareness of their mental and physical health and wellness, and identify ways to maintain a healthy practice.

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency:Healthy eating habits

  •  Healthy sleep habits
  •  Ability to identify appropriate work/life balance
  •  Exercise practices
  •  Mental health awareness
  •  Financial wellness
  •  Stress reduction techniques

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency:

  •  Regular physical activity
  •  Engage a personal trainer
  •  Engage a life coach
  •  Attend a healthy eating seminar
  •  Attend a cooking course focused on healthy eating 
  •  Regular meditation
  •  Annual physical exam
  •  Quit smoking
  •  Reduce alcohol consumption
  •  Improve sleep patterns
  •  Attend a sleep clinic
  •  Schedule regular vacations
  •  Plan regular time with family and friends
  •  Schedule “down time”
  •  Unplug from electronic devices regularly
  •  Run or bike to work
  •  Take regular lunch breaks
  •  Visit with a counsellor
  •  Implement recommendations, in your workplace, from the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace
  •  Take an anger management course
  •  Attend a stress management class
  •  Sign up for financial management lessons
  •  Identify substance abuse support services
  •  Complete self assessments and other courses offered through the Nova Scotia Lawyers Assistance Program (NSLAP)


This category is for anything not captured in the previous competencies that will be of benefit to your practice. As each practice and each practitioner is unique, this category allows for the addition of activities specific to your needs that will maintain, develop or improve your competence. As this is your plan, this area allows you to further personalize your development activities.

A mix of formal and informal learning will help ensure a robust plan that meets the desired outcomes. There are many resources available to access professional development activities including the Canadian Bar Association, Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, Atlantic Provinces Trial Lawyers Association, law societies and legal education providers in other jurisdictions, local continuing education programs, online education providers, and many others. Find examples on the Upcoming events page of the Society’s website.

Through a consideration of specific competencies, lawyers should think holistically about their competence more broadly in the specific practice setting in which the lawyer is located, so the activities they select have value and a positive impact on their practice.

Set goals, implement, evaluate and reflect

Goal setting with measurable outcomes can assist in this process. It is important in developing your CPD Plan to plan, implement, evaluate and reflect.

The Society strongly recommends that you ask yourself questions about what your career goals are, where you want to be and what you need in terms of skills, practice management and professionalism as part of your plan.

Creating an Annual CPD Plan

To create an effective CPD Plan, consider the following:

1. Start with where you are now – identify your strengths and weaknesses. Refer to feedback you receive from employers, colleagues and educators.

  •  What do you enjoy about your current work? Which activities / clients / areas of law give you most satisfaction? The least satisfaction?
  •  What are your specific strengths and weaknesses? (Communication skills, client base, networking skills, leadership skills, administrative skills, practice area knowledge, likeability, etc.)

2. Identify where you want or need to be in the future by using “reverse goal setting”. This involves identifying your ‘end goal’ and working backwards, outlining specific steps to get you there.

  •  Where do you want your career to go? What clients would you like to work with? What does your ‘ideal’ career look like?
  •  Where do you see yourself in three/five/10 years (choose as appropriate)? What skills are required to be successful? What other factors will help get you there? (Relocation, retraining, promotion, etc.)
  •  With a view to your future career, where do you want to be a year from now? Describe the results you have achieved. (New clients, improved relationship with supervisor, increased billings, etc.)

3. Be specific and detailed in describing your goals and the steps that will get you there. If your plan lacks concrete details, you are much less likely to follow through with it. Be sure to set timelines, specific dates and name specific courses or groups.

  •  What are the specific initiatives you must take? (A client base you will target and how, methods for improving specific communication channels, request an office relocation, etc.)
  •  What skill and knowledge gaps must you fill? (Practice area knowledge, practice management techniques, language skills, cultural competency skills, communication skills, negotiation skills, etc.)

4. Revisit your plan regularly and update it as you adjust and refine your goals. Take account of changing circumstances and resources as you move forward in your career.

Your CPD Plan is to be kept by you. You will not be required to provide it to the Society unless it is requested. Questions about your plan will be included in the Annual Lawyer Report. Your plan need not comply with a specific form or format.  You simply need to have the plan in your records and be able to produce it should you be asked.

If you would like help creating your CPD Plan, here are some helpful resources:

  1. Use the Sample CPD Plan Questionnaire template;
  2. Use the CPD Plan Questionnaire, Templates and Models;
  3. Use CPD Plan Template 2;
  4. Contact Society staff, who will be happy to help you through this process, by emailing [email protected] or calling the NSBS CPD line at 902 422 1491 ext. 371. Someone will respond to your inquiry within five business days.

Assessing your CPD Plan

In reviewing the previous year’s CPD Plan and activities, the following questions can assist lawyers in their evaluation:

  •  What activities did I undertake pursuant to last year’s CPD Plan?
  •  Why did I select this activity and how will it help my practice?
  •  How did each CPD activity improve my competence as a lawyer?
  •  Did I meet my goals and objectives?
  •  Is further learning or professional development required in any of the areas identified?
  •  What will be carried forward to my future CPD Plan?

Lawyers should regularly assess the implementation of their CPD goals throughout the year. Quarterly reviews are a good start. Lawyers should ask:

  •  How am I doing with implementing the activities identified in my CPD Plan?
  •  Were the activities selected beneficial?
  •  Did the activities selected have the intended effect, tangible or intangible?
  •  Did the activities selected have unintended consequences, positive or negative?
  •  Am I meeting my CPD goals as set out in my CPD Plan?
  •  How are my CPD activities enhancing my competence and the quality of legal services that I deliver to my clients?

Goal setting with measurable outcomes can assist in the above process. It is important, in the development of the CPD plan to plan, implement, evaluate and reflect.

Through its mandatory CPD Requirement, the Society encourages all Nova Scotia lawyers to develop a “reflective practice” – a more engaged method of self-assessment and reflection in assessing competence.

In completing their annual CPD Plans and following through on them, lawyers are expected to reflect on their skills, knowledge and practice; to assess what is done well, deficiencies, areas for improvement and areas of new law or learning to acquire; and to conduct self-reflection on their values and aspirations. By completing these self-assessments when developing a CPD Plan, lawyers should recognize areas for growth that can be built into their lifelong legal learning. Lawyers should ask themselves where they need improvement; if any ethical issues have arisen that should be explored; and what opportunities exist to access education to meet their CPD needs.

In order to meet the requirements of a CPD Plan, lawyers must conduct a needs assessment in order to build their learning objectives and priorities for the year. Taking a reflective practice approach to CPD planning will ensure that the program supports and encourages all lawyers, even those with significant seniority and high knowledge and skill levels, to improve their competence in a way that best addresses their own personal practice needs.

To meet the goal of enhancing lawyer competence in the delivery of legal services, it is necessary for lawyers to plan their CPD activities in accordance with the Rules, implement those activities and then evaluate whether the activities undertaken in the past year were effective in improving and enhancing competence in the delivery of legal services.

Questions about your CPD Plan?

Please contact the Society by email at [email protected] or call the NSBS CPD line: 902 422 1491 ext. 371. Someone will respond to your inquiry within five business days.