A continuing professional development scheme for Canberra’s legal practitioners

Effective 1 April 2015 | Updated 6 November 2018


Continuing professional development (CPD) is a mandatory requirement for all ACT legal practitioners (practitioners), imposed as a condition on all practising certificates issued by the Law Society of the ACT (Law Society).

The purpose of CPD is to ensure the ongoing competence of practitioners, including ensuring that practitioners’ knowledge and skills remain current.

The Guidelines seek to assist practitioners understand their CPD obligations. Ultimately, practitioners must make their own assessment of their CPD needs and how best to fulfil them.

CPD Guidelines

1. Unless granted an exemption by the Law Society or a pro rata reduction applies under Guideline 13, a practitioner must complete a minimum of ten units of CPD each CPD year.

2. The CPD year is 1 April to 31 March.

3. To qualify as CPD, an activity must:

a. be of significant intellectual or practical content and deal primarily with matters related to the practice of law;

b. be conducted by persons who are qualified by practical or academic experience in the subject covered; and

c. seek to extend a practitioner’s knowledge and skills in areas that are relevant to the practitioner’s practice needs.

4. Up to three units completed during the months January to March may be counted in the following CPD year if the practitioner has completed more than ten units in the current CPD year.

5. CPD may consist of the following activities:




a) Attending or participating in a seminar, workshop, lecture, conference, tutorial, discussion group, audio/video/online presentation or other educational activity

1 hour = 1 CPD unit


b) Preparing and/or presenting a CPD seminar or other form of educational activity

1 hour = 1 CPD unit

Maximum 5 units per year

c) Writing or editing (structural) a legal article in a legal or non-legal publication

1000 words = 1 CPD unit

Maximum 5 units per year

d) Participating as a member of a committee where the work involved is of substantial significance to the practice of law, and assists the practitioner’s professional development

2 hours = 1 CPD unit

Maximum 3 units per year

Note: If you are in any doubt about whether an activity qualifies as CPD please feel free to contact the Law Society.

6. The minimum fraction of a CPD unit that can be claimed is one half.

7. The Law Society does not accredit courses or providers but reserves the right to refuse to recognise, as complying CPD, inappropriate courses or courses offered by inappropriate providers.

8. At least one unit must be completed in each of the following four core areas each CPD year.

Core Area 1 — Legal ethics and professional responsibility

  • Conflicts of interest and undue influence
  • How to identify an ethical issue 
  • Communicating direct with third parties 
  • Duty of competence
  • Duty of confidentiality, including when it can/should be breached
  • Difference between duty of confidentiality and legal professional privilege
  • Undertakings
  • Duties to the court
  • Duty not to abuse the court process or the administration of justice

Core Area 2 — Practice management and business skills

  • Staff welfare (including OH&S, staff wellbeing and the law relating to discrimination, harassment and bullying)
  • Staff management (including employment law; developing an appropriate level and balance of employee skills and expertise within the firm/department; identifying and drawing upon resources within and outside the firm/department)
  • Effective use of technology
  • File management
  • Caseload management
  • Risk management 
  • Costs rules
  • Trust accounting
  • Financial management (including understanding and interpreting financial statements and cash flow management)
  • Business and strategic planning
  • Mentoring/advising other practitioners in order to improve the operations of the firm/department

Core Area 3 — Professional skills

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Giving advice — identifying the options; how to break bad news
  • Client interviewing
  • Taking a witness statement
  • Plain English drafting and letter-writing
  • Use of precedents
  • Negotiation and mediation skills
  • Career and personal development
  • Advocacy
  • Legal research skills

Core Area 4 — Substantive law and procedural law

  • Substantive law
  • Legal procedure
  • Developments in the law
  • Legislative reform

Note: The example topics listed above are by way of illustration only and are not intended to be exhaustive.

9. Which core area a CPD activity falls within is for the practitioner to determine, according to the context and content of the activity.

10. Exemptions in whole or in part may be granted on application to the Law Society on the following grounds:

a. the practitioner has been admitted to practice for a period exceeding 40 years and holds a restricted practising certificate; or is a Notary Public who acts solely as a Notary;

b. illness or disability;

c. the location of the practitioner’s legal practice;

d. the absence of the practitioner from legal practice due, for example, to parenting leave, unemployment or sabbatical;

e. hardship or other special circumstances.

11. Exemptions granted under Guideline 10(b), (c) or (d) above will generally be granted on a pro-rata basis but, unless exceptional circumstances exist, the practitioner will be required to complete a minimum of five CPD units.

12. The Law Society may impose any condition it considers appropriate on an exemption.

13.a. Subject to 13.b, practitioners who are issued a practising certificate after the commencement of the CPD year will have their CPD obligation proportionally reduced as follows:

Month issued CPD required   Month issued CPD required
July 7   January 1
August 6   February 0
September 5   March 0
October 4   April 10
November 3   May 9
December 2   June 8

13.b. A practitioner who holds an ACT practising certificate for two separate periods within a CPD year must complete a pro-rated number of CPD units that reflects the total amount of time they held an ACT practising certificate in that CPD year.

14. Practitioners must maintain their own CPD records. Records may take any form but must establish to the satisfaction of the Law Society that the CPD was undertaken.

15. Practitioners must attest that they have complied with the Guidelines when required to by the Law Society. To that end, a declaration is to be included in the practising certificate renewal application.

16. The Law Society may conduct random audits of practitioners’ CPD records in order to monitor compliance with the Guidelines.

17. A reasonable opportunity to remedy noncompliance will be provided to practitioners.

For more information, please see our Frequently asked questions about CPD.

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