Continuing Professional Development – Deemed Accreditation

When the mandatory Continuing Professional Development (“CPD”) Scheme and the Risk Management Education (“RME”) Programme were first introduced in 1998 and 2004 respectively, they were met with much resistance. Members undertook them unwillingly as a chore.

Hong Kong was one of the pioneers in introducing mandatory CPD and RME requirements. As more overseas jurisdictions came to recognise the importance of continuing professional education, similar mandatory schemes were implemented around the world. The global trend supports a culture of life-long learning in the legal profession and CPD has become part and parcel of a legal career.

The CPD Scheme is constantly evolving to suit the training needs of practitioners. Over the years, the Law Society has expanded the ways in which practitioners can fulfill their CPD obligations in a time conscious and cost effective manner. A variety of learning methods other than course attendance, for example, conducting legal research, writing legal articles and books, attending distance learning courses and webinars, preparing and presenting courses, coaching and others are treated as CPD activities. 

With the training culture gradually taking a stronghold within the profession after a decade of operation of the CPD Scheme, we progressed onto an honour-based system in 2008. Members no longer have to scan in and out of courses. Instead, they just have to maintain their own records.

Recently, a new deemed accreditation system has been introduced into the CPD Scheme. Quite a number of enquiries have been received about how this system works. 

Prior to the introduction of the deemed accreditation system, a course must be accredited by the Law Society before its participants can claim any CPD points for it. To allow more flexibility for practitioners to choose a CPD activity that suits their specific training needs, the Law Society now permits practitioners to claim up to 3 CPD points of the annual requirement of 15 CPD points by undertaking non-accredited courses on condition that those courses satisfy the following criteria:

– of significant intellectual or practical content and must deal primarily with matters related to the practitioner's practice of law, and

– conducted by persons who are qualified by practical, academic and/or professional experience in the subject covered, and 

– extends the solicitor's knowledge and/or skills in areas that are relevant to the practitioner's practice needs or professional development.

A course that satisfies the above criteria is deemed accredited so that those who have undertaken it can claim CPD points for it. As a general rule, 1 CPD point is awarded for each hour of the deemed accredited course.

When practitioners apply for their practising certificates, they are required to confirm in the supporting Statement of Compliance with CPD and RME Requirements that the courses undertaken by them under the deemed accreditation system have complied with the accreditation criteria. Practitioners should therefore keep documentary evidence of attendance including but not limited to course materials, in particular, materials proving the course fulfils the accreditation criteria and attendance certificate for at least 2 years after the end of the relevant CPD practice year for audit purposes.

The deemed accreditation system is particularly useful where some course providers, particularly those overseas, have no intention of applying to the Law Society for accreditation of their courses. Yet, some practitioners may find their courses relevant to their training needs. In such circumstances, the practitioners themselves can still claim CPD points for their attendance of those courses if the courses satisfy the accreditation criteria.

Our CPD Scheme strives to provide a convenient framework for the profession to meet the changing demands of clients and society to continuously update knowledge and skills, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the profession and to enable some practitioners to redefine their careers by learning new professional skills and areas of practice. The features of the Scheme will continue to adapt to the needs of the profession and your comments on ways to improve it are always welcome.

Jurisdictions: 

Secretary-General, Law Society of Hong Kong