CPD discussion paper by niusheng11

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									                                     DISCUSSION PAPER

                                                 ON

               CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT



A.     INTRODUCTION

A.1.   Continuing Professional Development (“CPD”) for the legal profession will allow advocates
       and solicitors of the Singapore Bar to: (a) keep abreast of legal, regulatory and practice-
       related developments; (b) become better equipped to handle their work on a daily basis; and
       (c) foster a spirit of community building and camaraderie amongst the practitioners.

A.2.   The Singapore Institute of Legal Education (“the SILE”) will administer a scheme which will
       prescribe CPD requirements that will have to be met on a mandatory basis. For ease of
       reference, the just-mentioned scheme will hereafter be referred to as “the CPD scheme”.



B.     PERSONS SUBJECT TO THE CPD SCHEME

B.1.   Qualified lawyers to be subject to the CPD scheme

B.1.1. It is proposed that all lawyers who hold a practising certificate with the Law Society of
       Singapore (“the Law Society”) are to be subject to the CPD scheme. It is also proposed that
       all foreign lawyers who have taken and passed the Foreign Practice Examinations (“the
       FPE”) (which will be conducted by the SILE) and are issued Foreign Practitioner
       Certificates1 to practise Singapore law are to be subject to the CPD scheme. For ease of
       reference, these two categories of lawyers will hereafter be referred to as “qualified lawyer”
       or “qualified lawyers”, as may be required. Such an approach would be similar to the
       approach in other leading Commonwealth jurisdictions, including New South Wales and
       Victoria, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.

B.1.2. To facilitate a smooth introduction of the CPD scheme, foreign lawyers (not qualified to
       practise Singapore law) registered with the Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC”), Legal
       Service Officers (“LSOs”), academics working in tertiary institutions, paralegals, in-house


1      See the Foreign Practice Examinations Consultation Report dated 28 June 2010 at para 1.3.2.


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        counsel, arbitrators, and legal counsel in government departments or ministries who are not
        LSOs, should not be subject to the CPD scheme. For ease of reference, these members of
        the legal profession will be referred to as “non-qualified lawyers”. Apart from foreign
        lawyers (not qualified to practise Singapore law) registered with the AGC, there will be
        difficulty in ensuring compliance with CPD requirements amongst non-qualified lawyers, as
        they do not need practising certificates in their line of work (or are subject to a registration
        regime). The SILE may still, however, consider extending the CPD scheme to non-qualified
        lawyers in the future. Non-qualified lawyers should, nevertheless, be encouraged to
        participate in CPD activities. Non-qualified lawyers who have expertise in particular areas of
        law should also be encouraged to lecture and teach.

B.1.3. Constitutional appointees (such as the Attorney-General, Solicitor-General, and Judges of
       the Supreme Court) should not be subject to the CPD scheme.



B.1.    Summary of Proposals

B1.1.   Only lawyers who hold practicising certificates and foreign lawyers who are allowed to
        practise Singapore law (i.e., qualified lawyers) should be subject to CPD.

B1.2.   Other members of the legal profession (i.e., non-qualified lawyers) should be encouraged to
        participate in CPD activities



B.1.    Questions for Consultation:

Q.1.    Do you agree that the CPD scheme should, for now, be restricted to qualified lawyers?



B.2.    Exemptions from the CPD scheme

B.2.1. It is proposed that no qualified lawyer should be exempted as of right from the CPD
       scheme. Rather, persons seeking to be excluded from compliance with CPD requirements
       can apply to a Waivers Committee established under the SILE, chaired by the Dean of the
       SILE or such other director of the SILE that the Board of the SILE (“the Board”) may
       appoint, for a waiver, reduction and/or a carry-over of CPD points. Such an approach is
       preferred to one where certain classes of qualified lawyers are granted exemptions by default,
       as the latter may be open to criticisms of arbitrariness. A similar approach is taken by the
       CPD scheme in other jurisdictions. For solicitors in the United Kingdom (who are regulated
       by the Solicitors Regulation Authority), for instance, there are no exemptions from the CPD

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       scheme itself, although waivers and suspension of specific requirements may be granted,
       such as attending the compulsory management course or particular modules of the
       professional skills course (see, also, paragraph C.2.1. below).

B.2.2. It is proposed that applications can be made to the Waivers Committee of the SILE for
       exemptions from CPD requirements, in full or in part, in the event of illness, maternity
       leave, sabbatical and any other extenuating circumstances. The Waivers Committee of the
       SILE will have the discretion and power to exclude a qualified lawyer in full, in part, and/or
       on such terms as it deems fit. Part time qualified lawyers may also apply for exemptions on
       an ad hoc basis. For lawyers above the age of 65, one possibility would be to allow them to
       apply for exemptions if they declare that they have kept abreast of the latest developments in
       their respective areas of practice. Such an exemption, however, ought to be granted sparingly
       at the discretion of the Waivers Committee of the SILE. One other option would be to
       follow the Hong Kong approach, which is to allow experienced lawyers above the age of 65
       to be exempt from CPD requirements where the following criteria are met: (a) the lawyer has
       been in practice for a period of 40 yrs or more, or is over 70 yrs old; (b) the lawyer gives an
       undertaking that he is not in active practice; and (c) the lawyer undertakes to notify the Law
       Society of Hong Kong immediately if circumstances in the second criteria change.

B.2.3. Waivers and exemptions are further elaborated upon at Section E.4. below.



B.2.   Summary of Proposals

B.2.1. No qualified lawyer should be exempted as of right from complying with the requirements in
       the CPD scheme.

B.2.2. A Waivers Committee should be established to consider exemptions on a case-by-case basis.



B.2.   Questions for Consultation:

Q.2.   Is the proposed approach of seeking exemptions from CPD requirements reasonable?

Q.3.   Should lawyers above the age of 65 be exempt from CPD requirements?

Q.4.   Are there any other stakeholders who should be exempt?

Q.5.   In what circumstances should a qualified lawyer be exempt from CPD requirements?

Q.6.   Do you agree with the constitution of the Waivers Committee?


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C.     CATERING TO THE NEEDS OF THE BAR

C.1.   Different CPD requirements based on seniority

C.1.1. The specific CPD requirements for qualified lawyers should vary according to seniority. In
       this regard, qualified lawyers with less than five years of experience (“young lawyers”) should
       be subject to more stringent CPD requirements as compared to experienced qualified
       lawyers with more than five years of experience (“experienced lawyers”) (see, further, the
       proposal at paragraph D.1.2. below). Parenthetically, it should be noted that the traditional
       classification of lawyers into junior, middle and senior has not been used as that
       categorisation serves an entirely different purpose and is not appropriate for the purposes of
       the CPD scheme.

C.1.2. It is proposed that core courses be prescribed for young lawyers (see, further, Section C.2.
       below). These courses should be structured to continue and build upon the Part B course
       and examinations as well as the Training Contract programme – these being the pre-
       requisites for admission to the Singapore Bar. This will ensure a seamless connection from
       graduation to qualification to continuing education for young lawyers who can be properly
       guided as they enter the practice arena. It is proposed that all qualified lawyers be required to
       attend certain core courses, including updates in contract and/or commercial law (see,
       further, paragraph C.3.2. below).

C.1.3. Experienced lawyers should be allowed, and in fact should be encouraged, to fulfil their
       CPD requirements by lecturing or conducting seminars and courses (see, further, paragraph
       E.3.2. below). This will, among other things, allow for the sharing of practical experience
       and the fostering of community spirit.



C.1.   Summary of Proposals

C.1.1. Lawyers with less than five years of experience (i.e., young lawyers) should be subject to
       more stringent CPD requirements.

C.1.2. Competent lawyers with more than five years of experience (i.e., experienced lawyers) can
       fulfil their CPD obligations by lecturing or conducting seminars and courses where they can
       share their knowledge and practical experiences.




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C.1.   Questions for Consultation:

Q.7.   Is it appropriate to have varied programmes for young lawyers as opposed to experienced
       lawyers?

Q.8.   Is the five year mark an adequate differentiating cut-off between young lawyers and
       experienced lawyers?




C.2.   Scope and content of core courses

C.2.1. It is proposed that certain core courses be prescribed as mandatory for young lawyers in
       their first five years of practice. In determining the core courses and their contents, guidance
       must be derived from the syllabus of the Part B course and areas covered in the Training
       Contract programme. The main objective of the core courses should be to ensure that young
       lawyers are thoroughly familiar with the fundamental aspects of the practice of law. By way
       of comparison, under the CPD scheme for solicitors in the United Kingdom, solicitors are
       required to undertake a compulsory management course during the first three years
       following admission (although exemptions can be obtained). The course, which is conducted
       over 7 hours, can be counted towards the CPD requirements.

C.2.2. The core courses and their contents should be determined by the SILE in conjunction with
       the service providers.


C.2.   Summary of Proposals

C.2.1. Young lawyers should undergo core compulsory courses.



C.2.   Questions for Consultation

Q.9.   Should the courses for young lawyers continue on and draw from and seek to cover gaps in
       the Part B Course and the Training Contract programme?




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C.3.   Differing needs met by different types of courses

C.3.1. Courses should within defined limits attempt to cater to the diversity and the different needs
       of qualified lawyers. Advocates, for instance, have different needs from solicitors. Lawyers
       from large firms may have different needs from lawyers practising in smaller firms. Even
       among smaller firms, there are differences in the methods and modes of practice. A study of
       various jurisdictions that currently have a CPD scheme indicate that a myriad of courses are
       available and that there is a recognised need for a mix and balance. There should, therefore,
       be a wide range of courses available for CPD, including courses that provide updates on
       legal developments, courses that comprehensively cover areas of substantive law, courses
       that are skills-based, courses that relate to management and finance, and non-legal courses
       that are industry-related. Courses that deal with specialised areas of law can also be provided.
       In this connection, a scheme for specialist accreditation may be considered in the future.
       That said, all courses that are available for CDP should be “economically useful”.

C.3.2. It is also suggested that attendance of courses in certain areas of the law be prescribed as
       compulsory. It should be compulsory for every qualified lawyer (and not just young lawyers)
       to attend at least one course in certain important areas every year (such as contract law,
       ethics, professional conduct and court etiquette courses). Refreshers in these areas of the law
       are a “must have” that all qualified lawyers simply cannot do without. However, the exact
       areas will have to be subject to further discussion. Ethics and professional conduct would be
       one uncontroversial choice. Criminal/civil procedure courses might also be made
       compulsory for litigators.


C.3.   Summary of Proposals

C.3.1. CPD courses must cater to the widely differing needs of the legal profession.

C.3.2. Certain courses should be made compulsory for every qualified lawyer.



C.3.   Questions for Consultation

Q.10. Should attendance of courses in basic core subjects comprising areas such as contract, ethics
      and professional conduct be made compulsory for all lawyers?

Q.11. What areas of law should be determined as “core areas of law” warranting compulsory
      course attendance?




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D.     CPD REQUIREMENTS

D.1.   CPD requirements in general

D.1.1. It is proposed that a points system be used. In general, one point will be equivalent to one
       hour of CPD activity. A prescribed number of points will have to be obtained by qualified
       lawyers each CPD year. A “CPD year” should start on 1 April and end on 31 March of the
       following year (this follows the cycle for renewal of practising certificates).

D.1.2. A requirement of 16 points per CPD year for each young lawyer and 12 points per CPD year
       for each experienced lawyer is proposed. The differential in the numbers of points required
       for young lawyers and experienced lawyers is justified by the seniority and corresponding
       experience of the experienced lawyers. In arriving at the proposed requirements, a
       conservative approach has been taken as qualified lawyers may not be able fulfil the
       requirements if the bar is set too high. Overly stringent requirements may also result in a
       shortage of courses of sufficient quality. As such, the proposal is to start with a set of lower
       requirements as stated and review the situation over time, and, if necessary, increase the
       number of points required in the future.

D.1.3. By way of comparison, under the CPD scheme for solicitors in the United Kingdom, all
       solicitors must complete 16 hours of CPD training in their first year, as well as in subsequent
       years. There is no differentiation between young and experienced lawyers in this regard. In
       New South Wales and Victoria, barristers and solicitors have to complete 10 CPD units per
       year, which would translate, in general, to 10 hours of CPD activities per year. Again, there is
       no differentiation between young and experienced lawyers.

D.1.4. Qualified lawyers can be provided with guidelines containing a general description of what
       would constitute CPD activities which is similar to that found in several jurisdictions with
       CPD schemes, including Victoria and New South Wales (see, further, Section E.2. below).

D.1.5 Newly qualified lawyers who obtain their practising certificates on a date other than 1 April
      should be required to complete obtain one CPD point for each complete month worked
      from the date of admission until 31 March. Newly qualified lawyers who are admitted on 1
      April should immediately enter their first CPD year.




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D.1.   Summary of Proposals

D.1.1. The CPD requirements should be based on a points system.

D.1.2. Young lawyers should obtain 16 CPD points, while experienced lawyers should obtain 12
       CPD points. Newly qualified lawyers should obtain one CPD point per month worked.



D.1.   Questions for Consultation

Q.12. Should the CPD scheme be points or hours based?

Q.13. How many points should young lawyers and experienced lawyers be expected to fulfil?



D.2.   Private and public points

D.2.1. It is proposed that each qualified lawyer would have to obtain a prescribed number of
       “public” and “private” points. The difference between public and private points is as
       follows:

       (a)     Public points would essentially consist of points accrued from attending accredited
               CPD activities such as CPD-accredited seminars, conferences and community
               gatherings with a learning and development focus or purpose.

       (b)     Private points would be accrued from unaccredited CPD activities, such as
               attendance at unaccredited seminars and workshops, self-study (including online
               courses), writing and publication of articles (not necessarily refereed). Evidence of all
               such activities must be maintained and made available if requested for by the Dean
               of the SILE.

       As would be apparent, requiring qualified lawyers to undertake a certain amount of public
       points each year will facilitate the building of the community spirit. Tentatively, at least ¾ of
       the total points obtained by a qualified lawyer should be public points (i.e. based on a 16
       point requirement, for example, 4 points are to be satisfied by private/public points and 12
       points are to be satisfied by public points only), bearing in mind that one of the aims of CPD
       is the building of the community spirit.

D.2.2. To encourage law firms to open up their in-house (and otherwise unaccredited) courses to
       other qualified lawyers, courses which are made available to all qualified lawyers may be
       accredited. The courses that are not open to all qualified lawyers will not be accredited, but
       attendance can count towards the accumulation of private points. Similarly, small firms that

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       jointly organise their own seminars should not gain accreditation for those seminars, unless
       such courses are open to other qualified lawyers to attend. To allow for all courses
       conducted by law firms to be accredited, whether such courses are made open to other
       qualified lawyers or not, will go against the aim of building a collegiate spirit within the
       profession.



D.2.   Summary of Proposals

D.2.1. Each qualified lawyer would have to obtain a prescribed number of “public” and “private”
points.



D.2.   Questions for Consultation

Q.14. Should there be a distinction between “public” and “private” points?

Q.15. Of the total number of points that a qualified lawyer is required to obtain, what proportion
      of this should, as a minimum, consist of public points?




E.     ACCREDITATION AND AWARD OF CPD POINTS

E.1.   Setting up an Accreditation Committee

E.1.1. The SILE will consider accrediting as many service providers as possible to allow for
       variations in programmes and themes as well as specialist instruction. Services providers
       could be accredited on an annual basis or on a biennial basis. Additionally, apart from
       accrediting service providers, specific programmes could also be accredited on an ad hoc
       basis. Further, individuals could also be accredited to provide specific courses. However,
       there has to be a consistent and stringent criteria introduced in the accreditation process to
       maintain quality.

E.1.2. An Accreditation Committee, that will be chaired by the Dean of the SILE or such other
       director of the SILE that the Board may appoint, must be set up under the purview of the
       SILE to manage the process of identifying appropriate criteria for accreditating and
       reviewing these service providers from time to time. It is proposed that the Accreditation
       Committee should include representatives from the Law Society, the Singapore Academy of
       Law (“the SAL”), the National University of Singapore Law Faculty (“NUS”), the Singapore


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       Management University Law School (“SMU”), and the Secretariat of the SILE. This would
       ensure transparency and objectivity as it is envisaged that the SILE itself will also take on the
       role of a service provider.

E.1.3. It is proposed that upon the commencement of the CPD scheme, the initial accredited
       providers should be the SILE, the SAL, the Law Society, the Singapore Legal Service
       (including the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, the Intellectual Property
       Office of Singapore, the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office, and AGC), NUS and SMU.
       The law departments of Nanyang Techonological University and Temasek Polytechnic could
       also be considered as accredited providers.


E.1.   Summary of Proposals

E.1.1. An Accreditation Committee should be established to accredit service providers and/or
       specific courses.

E.1.2. Both service providers and ad hoc programmes should be accredited.



E.1.   Questions for Consultation

Q.16. Do you agree with the proposed constitution of the Accreditation Committee?

Q.17. Do you agree that both service providers and ad hoc programmes should be accredited?

Q.18. Do you agree with the preliminary list of accredited service providers?




E.2.   Establishing clear guidelines

E.2.1. It is proposed that clear guidelines in the form of a table of tariffs, similar to that found in
       the United Kingdom, Victoria and New South Wales’ rules for CPD be made available. Such
       guidelines must allow qualified lawyers and service providers to determine with ease whether
       CPD points will be awarded for any particular activity. The guidelines should also identify
       activities that will allow for public points to be awarded.

E.2.2. The table of tariffs should be published and maintained by the SILE.




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E.2.   Summary of Proposals

E.2.1. A table of tariffs should be established by SILE for practitioners to determine the number of
       points earned for a particular activity.




E.3.   Allocation of points

E.3.1. Whilst the precise details about the allocation of points ought to be left to the proposed
       Accreditation Committee, a points-based system that is, in general, directly proportionate to
       the number of hours dedicated to CPD activities is suggested (see, also, Section D.1. above).
       As one of the aims of the CPD scheme is to foster a community spirit amongst qualified
       lawyers, time spent at lunch and or tea breaks at CPD activities should not be disregarded in
       the calculation of the number of hours spent at each activity.

E.3.2. It is proposed that the CPD points to be awarded to each participant at an accredited
       seminar or course should depend on the role he or she plays at that seminar or course. A
       person conducting an accredited seminar or course should be awarded double or triple the
       number of points as compared to a person attending the same seminar or course.

E.3.3. Private points should be awarded for the publication of academic articles, having regard to
       the key aim of building a community spirit, but the number of points to be awarded and the
       basis upon which such points are awarded should be left to the proposed Accreditation
       Committee. Likewise, it is proposed that private points should be awarded for online
       courses, having regard to the key aim of building a community spirit.


E.3.   Summary of Proposals

E.3.1. The number of points awarded to each participant at a course or seminar should depend on
       the role of the participant.



E.3.   Questions for Consultation

Q.19. Should more points be awarded for those who conduct seminars and courses?




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E.4.    Compliance with CPD requirements

E.4.1. One of the issues that should be considered is the introduction of a system to take
       attendance at seminars. One approach would be to take the attendance of participants at the
       start and end of each seminar. It could be made a condition for accreditation that a service
       provider ensures that there is a proper system of taking attendance at every seminar.

E.4.3. It is proposed that an online centralised database system for record-keeping be created and
       maintained by the SILE. In this way, service providers can easily enter the details of
       attendances. Additionally, a qualified lawyer can then keep track of his attendance at
       seminars by logging into the centralised database system. A qualified lawyer can also enter,
       into the online centralised database system, the private hours that he or she has fulfilled.
       Such a database could eventually also allow for all seminar materials to be uploaded and
       made accessible to other qualified lawyers as well, who could use these materials for the
       purposes of self-study and to fulfill the private points requirement.

E.4.4. Qualified lawyers should be allowed to apply to the Waivers Committee of the SILE for
       waivers or exemptions that will be given with conditions attached or on an undertaking
       being provided by the qualified lawyer to fulfill the requirements in the next practice year
       and/or make up for the deficit in the current year. There ought to be no automatic points-
       deficit coverage. The Waivers Committee may decide on the sanction to be imposed for a
       failure to fulfill CPD requirements on an ad hoc basis. On the other hand, qualified lawyers
       who obtain more CPD points than required should be allowed to carry over their points to
       cover their requirements for the next year. The limit in this connection should be set at 50%
       of the (combined public and private) points that they need to accumulate in each practice
       year.

E.4.5. In order to ensure that the CPD requirements prescribed are complied with, it is proposed
       that the renewal of a qualified lawyer’s practising certificate be tied to his or her fulfilment of
       CPD requirements. However, it is recognised that from time to time, qualified lawyers may
       face extenuating circumstances or may just be too busy to comply with the requirements. As
       such, some leeway and flexibility should be built into the scheme. It is proposed that
       qualified lawyers be allowed to make up for the shortfall from one year in the following year
       without being subject to any penalty.

E.4.6. However, if the qualified lawyer cannot make up the deficit in the following year, he should
       either not be allowed to renew his or her practising certificate, or such renewal should be
       made conditional upon his or her completion of CPD requirements within a stipulated
       timeframe.



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E.4.7. It is proposed that the process of renewing the practising certificate be tweaked to
       incorporate a statutory declaration by the qualified lawyer to the effect that he or she has
       complied with CPD requirements. In this instance, whether the centralised database and or
       the pure honour-based system is adopted for tracking, the onus should nevertheless remain
       on the qualified lawyer to keep track and show evidence, if necessary, of fulfilment of his or
       her CPD requirements.

E.4.8. It is suggested that all law firms (including foreign law firms with practices in Singapore) in
       which all legal practitioners have fulfilled CPD requirements (including those not required to
       do so) be allowed to describe themselves as “CPD compliant firms”. This would be very
       good branding for firms, and smaller firms, in fact, would be able to achieve the necessary
       requirement(s) more easily than larger firms.


E.4.   Summary of Proposals

E.4.1. The issue of taking of attendance should be carefully considered.

E.4.2. An online central database should be created and maintained by the SILE.

E.4.3. Carrying over of points should be allowed.

E.4.4. Any deficit in fulfilling CPD requirements can be made up in the following year.

E.4.5. Law firms which have fulfilled CPD requirements should be branded as “CPD compliant
       firms”.



E.4.   Questions for Consultation

Q.20. Should a centralised record-keeping system be adopted?

Q.21. Do you agree with the scheme to carry over points/allow for the making up of deficits in the
      following year?

Q.22. Is the concept of the “CPD compliant firm” useful?




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F.     INTRODUCING THE CPD SCHEME TO THE PROFESSION

F.1.   Publicity and timelines

F.1.1. It is stressed that publicity will have to be generated for the CPD scheme.

F.1.2. The CPD scheme will be introduced as a trial phase with effect from mid-2011, and will
       come into force with effect from the commencement of the practising year April 2012.


F.1.   Summary of Proposals

F.1.1. Publicity must be generated for the CPD scheme.

F.1.2. The CPD scheme should be mandatory from April 2012.



F.1.   Questions for Consultation

Q.23. Do you agree with the approach and timelines for the introduction of CPD requirements to
      all qualified lawyers and law firms?




F.2.   Costs

F.2.1. Accreditation fees will be fixed on a reasonable basis. Fees may be proportionate to the
       number of points the seminar or course will allow participants to obtain. Institutions such as
       the SAL and the Law Society may enjoy lower accreditation fees if less auditing is required of
       these bodies. Further, high accreditation fees may be a disincentive to service providers, and
       may lead to higher course fees being charged.

F.2.2. It is proposed that all courses conducted for qualified lawyers by essential service providers
       be priced at a fair and reasonable sum, which will be affordable to all qualified lawyers.
       Whilst it may not be possible to demand that all service providers provide courses on a
       costs-recovery basis, this should be strongly encouraged as far as possible. The aim would be
       to make CPD seminars and courses affordable for all.

F.2.3. It is proposed that a welfare fund be set up to cater to extreme cases where the qualified
       lawyer is unable to afford to undertake CPD activities. This will probably comprise a very

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       small minority, but some qualified lawyers (especially from smaller firms) may conceivably
       encounter severe financial difficulties from time to time. This could make the CPD scheme
       more inclusive and palatable for the smaller firms.


F.2.   Summary of Proposals

F.2.1. Accreditation fees should be levied on a costs-recovery basis.

F.2.2. A welfare fund should be set up to cater for qualified lawyers who are unable to afford
       course fees.



F.2.   Questions for Consultation

Q.24. What would be a reasonable range of fees for a two-hour CPD course?

Q.25. Do you agree that accreditation fees should be on levied on a costs-recovery basis?




G.     CONCLUSION

G.1    The SILE invites members of the legal community and all other interested parties to provide
       feedback on the questions raised above, as well as any other views in relation to the CPD
       scheme.




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