Professional Development

All practising lawyers are required to complete and implement an annual professional development plan, and report they have done so in their Annual Lawyer Report.  

We also recommend that lawyers engage in at least 50 hours of self-learning/self-study annually, in addition to the mandatory CPD Requirement. 

Creating a CPD Plan

Looking for information on creating a CPD Plan?

CPD Requirements

The Society requires all practising lawyers to create an annual professional development plan and commit it to writing (see Regulation 8.3.6).  All practising lawyers are expected to complete a minimum of 12 hours of professional development in each reporting year (Regulation 8.3.4

Each year, we ask lawyers to indicate on their Annual Lawyer Report (ALR) whether they have prepared and written their CPD Plan and implemented their plan from the previous year. 

The deadline for creating your CPD Plan is June 1 each year. If you already have a plan that operates on a calendar year, you may continue to use that rather than creating a plan that runs from June 1 of a given year to May 31 of the next year. 

Developing a CPD Plan 

Use any type of professional development plan that works for your type of practice, as long as it is in writing and can be produced should the need arise. If you or your firm or other legal entity already have a structure for creating and implementing plans, you don’t need to change your methods.  

The Society will ask you to report each June if you have a plan, but your plan does not need to run from June 1 to May 31. Some organizations create professional development plans that operate over a calendar year. As long as you are able to report that you have a professional development plan in place at all times that you are practising, it need not coincide with the Society’s fee year. 

Although there are no strict requirements for what may be included in your CPD Plan, it’s a good idea to include the following elements: 

  • substantive legal education and skills development; 
  • risk and practice management; and 
  • professionalism and cultural competency 

The Society’s CPD Requirement is a flexible and convenient method to ensure lawyers meet both their professional duty of competence and the Society’s public interest mandate, by implementing a regulatory program to ensure the ongoing competence and professionalism of lawyers in Nova Scotia. As the Society regulates lawyers in the public interest, it is important to be accountable and demonstrate to the public that lawyers maintain and strive for high levels of professionalism and competence in the practice of law.  

Extensions for declaring your professional development plan 

To request a formal extension for declaring (on your ALR) you have implemented your plan from the previous year and/or you have created your plan for the upcoming year, please use the CPD Extension Request form or CPD Exemption Request form.

Prior to completing your request, please review the  Policy regarding the Granting of Waivers (Extensions and Exemptions) to a Member’s Continuing Professional Development requirement. 

Please note the Society is no longer pro-rating hours. It is mandatory that lawyers in Nova Scotia create and declare a CPD Plan on their ALR and it is expected that each lawyer will complete a minimum of 12 hours yearly (see Regulation 8.3.4). 

Find CPD opportunities 

We provide ongoing notices and information about CPD resources but we do not accredit programs. Our events & news sections for upcoming conferences, seminars, webinars and other offerings.  

We also continue to offer the Online Land Registration Act  Training Program, which is mandatory for all lawyers who wish to use the Property Online system, and other occasional mandatory education as directed by Council.  

Continuing professional development is readily available to lawyers across Nova Scotia in a number of formats. Many programs are now online, so lawyers can learn in the convenience of their own homes and offices, on their own timetables.  

Increasingly, lawyers are organizing CPD study groups – thereby ensuring their CPD is relevant and available at no or little cost.  

Formal programming is offered through a wide range of CPD providers, including but not limited to the following:  

Finding affordable and accessible CPD 

There is wide latitude in terms of how your recommended CPD hours can be achieved, with emphasis on accessibility and affordability. The Society is not accrediting programs. Lawyers are free to choose education that is most relevant to their practice of law. 

In addition, the ‘formal’, in-person education courses and conferences that we traditionally associate with CPD, a wide range of learning-focused activities qualify toward your requirement: 

  • Online courses (including self-study courses) 
  • Webinars and podcasts 
  • Distance education courses 
  • Teaching and presenting 
  • Writing or editing a book, article or blog; 
  • Study group of two or more people 
  • Educational component of Bar and law association meetings 
  • Participating in a practice advisor / advisee or mentor / mentee relationship (to a maximum of 2 hours) 

Options for relevant and affordable CPD include: 

  • The excellent resources offered through the LIANSRisk and Practice Management Program. LIANS offers regular webinars and in-person CPD sessions exploring a wide range of Risk & Practice Management topics. 
  • The NSBS Annual Meeting – three hours of CPD is provided at no cost to attendees; also, keynote speeches are made available to view on the Society’s website. 
  • Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law offers the popular “Sessions @ Schulich” series. These are advertised in InForum and on the Society’s website, as well as on the Schulich site. 
  • Mentor a student or young lawyer. In addition to acting as a supervisor to an Articled Clerk, there are a number of formal mentorship programs for Nova Scotia lawyers, including: 
  • LIANS Mentorship Program 
  • The Dalhousie Association of Women in the Law (DAWL) - This mentorship program is aimed at connecting women and trans law students with women involved in all aspects of legal practice in the Halifax community. 
  • Legal Legacies & Bridges (LLB): African Canadian and Aboriginal Law Student Mentorship Program – The Society offers this mentorship program in conjunction with the Indigenous Black and Mi’kmaq Initiative at Dalhousie University (IB&M). 
  • The Internationally Trained Lawyers Observership Program: The Society runs this mentorship program in collaboration with Immigrant Settlement & Integration Services (ISI) in Halifax.  
  • Pride Mentorship Program: This program, for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered lawyers, is offered in collaboration with the CBA Sexual Orientation Gender Identity (SOGI) section. Its purpose is to provide a community of support for students and new lawyers entering the profession. 
  • Create your own customized CPD programming at no cost by forming a study group. 

Form a CPD Study Group  

We aim to make relevant CPD accessible for all Nova Scotian lawyers at no or limited cost. The flexibility of the Society’s CPD Requirement makes this achievable, as lawyers can design and deliver customized CPD programming through study groups. 

What is a study group? 

A study group is a group of two or more lawyers studying together for a primarily educational purpose. It is an eligible CPD activity toward the Society’s CPD Requirement. 

The study group format provides endless scope for delivering creative CPD content. A few examples: 

  • Lawyers with a mutual practice area interest can review recent court decisions and discuss their implications. 
  • A colleague attends a conference and presents highlights to the practice group.  
  • A group of lawyers invites a LIANS representative to provide a group presentation and Q&A session on risk and practice management issues. 
  • Lawyers watch a video on advanced negotiation techniques, then practise through a simulated negotiation exercise. 

How do I organize a study group? 

  • Start by identifying one or more gaps in your skills and knowledge
  • Consider your market. Are you a rural practitioner? Consider those topics or areas of shared interest among local practitioners. 
  • If the knowledge or skill you seek to develop is specific (e.g., recent developments in trademark law), propose a study group session with lawyers who have similar interests or practices: practice group colleagues, other practice area specialists across the province, etc. If, however, the knowledge or skill can be shared by a wider group (e.g., risk and practice management issues, legal ethics), the ‘pool’ of potential lawyers is much wider. 
  • Identify your objectives, such as enhancing skills or knowledge in one or more specific areas. Then analyze potential CPD activities: Read and discuss case law? An expert presentation? Watch and discuss a pre-recorded conference presentation? Is this appropriate as a single session or as a series of meetings? 
  • Consider the logistics for your study group session. Will you meet at your office, an external venue or by webinar? Which dates and times work best for participants? 
  • If appropriate, assign roles and responsibilities: Is anyone presenting? For how long? Who will make arrangements for technology, catering, etc.? 
  • Schedule the session(s) well in advance and send reminders a week beforehand. 
  • Prepare a draft agenda for your CPD study group meeting and keep the session on track. 

CPD FAQs

What is the deadline for creating my CPD Plan?

The deadline for creating your CPD Plan is June 1 each year. You will be asked on your Annual Lawyer Report if you have created your plan. If you already have a plan that operates on a calendar year, you may continue to use that rather than creating a plan that runs from June 1 of a given year to May 31 of the next year.

Is the NSBS CPD Requirement mandatory?

Yes. The Society’s CPD Requirement is a regulatory program and a mandatory requirement for all practising lawyers.

What are the goals and objectives of the Society’s CPD Requirement?

The goal of the NSBS CPD Requirement is to enhance lawyer competence and to be accountable to the public for the ongoing professional development and competence of lawyers. The objective is to ensure that each lawyer in Nova Scotia strives for excellence in the delivery of legal services through the mandatory annual planning and implementation of an effective CPD Plan.

The Society’s CPD Requirement is structured to foster a self-directed and lifelong learning approach to continuing professional development that enhances and ensures lawyer competence. The CPD Requirement is a flexible and convenient method to ensure lawyers meet both their professional duty of competence in the delivery of legal services and the Society’s public interest mandate, by implementing a regulatory program to ensure the ongoing competence and professionalism of lawyers in Nova Scotia.

What are the key elements of the NSBS CPD Requirement?

All practising lawyers in Nova Scotia, pursuant to Regulation 8.3.6, must:

  • prepare an annual CPD Plan in written form;
  • declare to the Society  that they have made a CPD Plan in their Annual Lawyer Report annually;
  • implement and evaluate the CPD Plan and activities from the previous year;
  • retain the CPD Plan for five years; and
  • produce the CPD Plan to the Society upon request.

Why does the Society require that lawyers evaluate their CPD activities from the previous year?

To ensure that the goal of enhancing lawyer competence in the delivery of legal services is met, 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. 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?
  • How did this CPD activity improve my competence as a lawyer?
  • How much time did I spend on these CPD activities last year?
  • What will be carried forward to my CPD Plan for next year?

As well, lawyers should reflect upon 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?
  • Am I meeting my CPD goals as set out in my CPD Plan?
  • How are the activities I am engaged in enhancing my competence and the quality of legal services that I deliver to my clients?

There is now room in your plan to add reflections throughout the year to assist you with this ongoing assessment. 

What qualifies as a continuing professional development activity for the purposes of the NSBS CPD Requirement?

A continuing professional development activity is broadly defined in Regulation 8.3.3 as follows:

8.3.3 “Continuing professional development” is any activity that has education as its primary purpose that is:

(a)  relevant to the professional needs of a lawyer; and

(b)   preserves and enhances a lawyer’s knowledge or skills in the areas of:

(i)    substantive legal education and skills development;

(ii)   risk and practice management; and

(iii)  professionalism.

Do lawyers have to report their CPD hours?

Unlike in many other jurisdictions, the Society’s CPD Requirement does not have a mandatory minimum number of accredited hours to be counted towards CPD. It is mandatory, however, that lawyers in Nova Scotia create and declare a CPD Plan and it is expected that each lawyer will complete a minimum of 12 hours yearly (Regulation 8.3.4).

Do lawyers have to get their CPD activities accredited by the Society?

No, lawyers do not need to have their CPD activities accredited by the Society. It is each lawyer’s obligation to ensure that the CPD activities incorporated into their CPD Plan meet Regulation 8.3.3.

Do legal education providers have to get their programs accredited by the Society?

No. Unlike many other jurisdictions, the NSBS CPD Requirement does not have a mandatory minimum number of accredited hours to be counted towards CPD. It is mandatory, however, that lawyers in Nova Scotia declare annually that they have created a CPD Plan, including a range of learning activities relevant to their professional development. The CPD Plan must also evaluate their previous year’s plan including those CPD activities that have been implemented.

The Society does not accredit courses offered by CLE providers nor assign hours to a course. It is the decision of each lawyer whether a CPD course or activity meets the requirements of Regulation 8.3.3 and whether to include it in their CPD Plan.

It is important for CLE providers to develop and market the courses they offer to Nova Scotia lawyers as activities that may be included in a Nova Scotia lawyer’s annual mandatory CPD Plan. Below is suggested wording for CLE providers to use in their brochures and web notices:

For Nova Scotia lawyers, consider including this course as a CPD learning activity in your mandatory annual Continuing Professional Development Plan as required by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society.

Does compliance with a CPD program in another jurisdiction satisfy the Society’s CPD Requirement?

Yes, lawyers who are members in other jurisdictions and whose main practice is in that province may use their home province activities as evidence of their compliance. Lawyers who are members in a province with no CPD requirement must create and implement a plan in Nova Scotia.

Does the CPD Program apply to in-house lawyers too? Part-time lawyers? Lawyers engaged in non-traditional practice?

The NSBS CPD Requirement applies to all active members of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society.

What about articled clerks? Are they required to comply with the CPD rules?

Striving to continually enhance competence in the practice of law by planning to excel is one of the keys to a satisfying legal career. All newly admitted students are therefore encouraged to create a CPD Plan early after their admission as a member of the Society. That said, clerks do not have to create a CPD plan while they are articling. They will, however need to create a plan once they commence practice.

May I include mentoring a student/lawyer in my CPD plan?

Yes. Acting as a mentor or practice advisor can be included but should not be the only education in your plan. Being a principal, for instance, should not be included as the only item in your CPD plan. In addition to helping newer lawyers, a practising lawyer should also be updating their own education and skills each year.

May I include CBA section meetings in my CPD Plan?

Yes. Again, you should include only those parts that are for an educational purpose and not the business meetings of a section or committee.

May I include reading in my CPD Plan?

Yes. Self study is an important part of professional development. The Society recommends that every lawyer complete at least 50 hours of self study per year that is separate from the reading they do to prepare a case. But again, this should never be the only item included in your plan. Part of a robust professional development plan is participating in activities that will challenge you to go beyond your comfort zone and to learn new skills and gain new knowledge in a situation where you can discuss with other lawyers.

May I include writing in my CPD Plan?

Yes. Writing or editing a book, article or blog – for primarily educational purposes – may be included. Writing for a client is remunerative work and should not be part of your CPD Plan.

May I include presentations I give to my clients or to others in my CPD Plan?

Yes, if they are for primarily educational purposes.

May I include teaching in my CPD Plan?

If the teaching you are doing, even if it is paid for, is not a core function of your regular employment, then you may include it.

May I include my firm’s in-house education programs in my CPD Plan?

Yes, as long as they are relevant to your practice you may count any type of in-house education.

Do lawyers file their CPD Plan with the Society?

No, currently lawyers do not file their CPD Plan with the Society. Lawyers must keep a copy of their CPD Plans on file for five years and produce it for the Society upon request.

Regulation 8.3.6 indicates that lawyers must produce their CPD Plans for the Society upon request. When would a lawyer be asked to produce a CPD Plan for the Society?

A lawyer’s CPD Plan may be requested in the event of proceedings under the Legal Profession Act (Conduct, Practice Review or other regulatory processes of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society). In the event that a lawyer fails to produce, declare, prepare, implement or retain their CPD Plan, these may be factors that will be taken into account during such proceedings.

What if I don’t create and implement a CPD Plan?

Nova Scotia lawyers have had a high compliance rate since the inception of the original NSBS CPD Requirement in 2012. Although this revised program does not require lawyers to automatically file their annual CPD Plans, the Society takes its requirement seriously to ensure the competence of lawyers in service of the public interest. For this reason, if you fail to provide a copy of your plan when asked, the Executive Director may commence an investigation under Regulation 9.2 pursuant to Regulation 8.3.7. That investigation falls under the purview of the Professional Responsibility process.

Will anybody ever look at a lawyer’s CPD Plan to ensure they have implemented their CPD Plan activities? 

Yes. Lawyers are required to retain their CPD Plan for five years. In circumstances when conduct comes to the attention of the Society, lawyers may be asked to produce their CPD Plan and advise of the steps taken to implement and evaluate their CPD activities and CPD goals.

How will success of this program be evaluated?

Since the inception of the original NSBS CPD Requirement in 2012, there has been outstanding compliance. In 2015, the Society undertook a review of its CPD Requirement, which led to these current changes. Lawyers were consulted about this new program and expressed appreciation for a program that leverages the professionalism of lawyers to encourage lifelong learning. As with any new program, the Society will continue to measure and review the revised CPD Requirement as it unfolds. 

Why CPD Plans? Why not mandatory minimum hour requirement for CLE attendance like other law societies and professions?

Mandatory minimum hour CPD programs for the legal profession are found in most of the United States and throughout Australia. This trend has spread to the legal profession in Canada. 

Fundamentally, the focus in mandatory minimum hour Continuing Legal Education (CLE) jurisdictions is on a culture of compliance with getting hours. Compliance with the hourly minimum becomes the motivation for CPD programming and not necessarily improving lawyer competence or professionalism. Most discussion papers on the issue of mandatory minimum hours CLE consistently make the point that there is no empirical evidence to support a link between attending CLE programming and enhancing the competent delivery of legal services in the practice of law.

The NSBS CPD Requirement is intended to foster a self-directed and lifelong learning approach to continuing professional development that enhances and ensures lawyer competence. Our CPD Requirement is a flexible and convenient method to ensure lawyers meet both their professional duty of competence and the Society’s public interest mandate, by implementing a regulatory program to ensure the ongoing competence and professionalism of lawyers in Nova Scotia.

Questions?

Contact us at CPD@nsbs.org or phone the CPD line at 902 422 1491 (ext. 371). We will get back to you within five business days.