Continuing professional development
Australian legal practitioners must complete continuing professional development (CPD) activities during each year of practice. This helps ensure knowledge and skills are kept current.
The CPD year runs from 1 April through to 31 March of the following year. During this 12 month period each practitioner is required to complete 10 hours of CPD. Guidance on what constitutes CPD activities is provided in the CPD rules and in the Board’s CPD policy (see below). Practitioners must keep a record of all their CPD activities completed in the current year, and must retain those records for three CPD years.
Links to the CPD rules which outline the CPD requirements are provided below.
The CPD rules are set out in the Legal Profession Uniform Continuing Professional Development (Solicitors) Rules 2015 and the Legal Profession Uniform Continuing Professional Development (Barristers) Rules 2015 (Victoria).
The CPD rules provide for the educational aspects of CPD, such as the content of CPD activities, the amount and type of CPD units that must be completed, pro rata calculations and CPD record-keeping obligations.
The rules outline the Board’s powers to require certification, verification and rectification in relation to CPD. The rules also provide for the Board to exempt an Australian legal practitioner from their CPD obligations.
The Board’s powers under the Board CPD rules are currently delegated to the Victorian Bar (for barristers) and the Law Institute of Victoria (for all other lawyers). The Board has developed a Continuing Professional Development Policy (65KB PDF) to guide the exercise of these powers.
When practitioners apply to renew their Australian practising certificate, they must certify whether or not they have met their CPD obligations for the most recently completed CPD year. If they have not met their obligations, they should provide details of any exemption granted (see ‘Exemptions’ below) or submit a rectification plan with their renewal form (see ‘Rectification’ below).
At any time practitioners may be required to verify within 21 days whether they have met their CPD obligations for the current CPD year, or any of the three previous CPD years. If you are selected for verification (audit), you must provide:
- your CPD attendance record; and
- supporting evidence (eg. receipts, copies of presentation notes, copies of enrolment records or certificates of completion).
If certification or verification reveals that you have not met your CPD obligations, you will receive written notice requiring you to submit a rectification plan within 21 days. The plan must set out the CPD activities that you intend to take to rectify your non-compliance within 90 days after submitting the plan. You must comply with the rectification plan.
Download a rectification plan template (57KB PDF).
Practitioners may be exempted in whole or in part from the requirement to undertake CPD activities imposed by the professional association CPD rules. Exemptions may be granted on the grounds of hardship or special circumstances based on any one or more of the following:
- illness or disability
- the location of the practitioner’s legal practice
- the practitioner’s absence from legal practice
Applications for exemption should be made in writing to the relevant professional association.
Returning to practice from a period of extended leave
Lawyers are exempt from the CPD requirements for the duration of any period in which they do not have a practising certificate. If you a lawyer has let their practising certificate lapse, on renewal the lawyer must complete the CPD units for the CPD year of their return according to the pro rata calculation table in the relevant CPD rules. For example, if a lawyer recommences practice in September, the lawyer must complete five CPD units for the remainder of that CPD year, four of which must be completed in the compulsory fields. As above, an exemption can be sought from the Law Institute of Victoria or Victorian Bar as delegates of the Board.
It is a condition of a practicing certificate that CPD rules be complied with. Failing to comply with the CPD rules may constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct. A breach of the CPD compliance condition may also make a practitioner liable to civil penalty (100 penalty units). In some cases, it may also be taken into account by the Board in determining whether a person is a fit and proper person to hold a practising certificate.
Practising certificate renewal applications may not be processed until the applicants have met their outstanding CPD obligations, or have established a rectification plan. CPD is essential for preserving public and professional confidence in lawyers and their legal services.
Examples of CPD non-compliance include:
- failing to produce CPD records when required;
- failing to complete the required amount or type of CPD activities;
- failing to submit a rectification plan as required;
- failing to confirm compliance with a rectification plan as required.
The CPD scheme is administered by the relevant professional associations. For information about the CPD requirements, or exemptions from those requirements, please contact the Victorian Bar (for barristers) or the Law Institute of Victoria (for all other lawyers).