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Supporting career-long competence

Supporting career-long competence

By: Chair | August 23, 2021

By: Bencher Sidney Troister, Chair of the Competence Task Force

Bencher Sidney Troister, Chair of the Competence Task Force

Professional competence is an integral part of the Law Society’s mandate to regulate in the public interest. It is essential that we continually enhance opportunities and develop new ones to support lawyers and paralegals in strengthening their skills and knowledge base in order to best serve Ontarians.

It has been 20 years since the Law Society engaged in a comprehensive review of its approach to regulating competence. In that time, so much has changed in the practice of law — the number of lawyers has grown almost exponentially, the Bar Admission course was eliminated, mediation has become the “go to” in litigation practice management, mandatory CPD was introduced, technology has become matter-of-fact, real estate searching and transactions are done electronically, COVID-19 has limited interpersonal training and mentoring, and so on.

Additionally, the public’s and the professions’ expectations of competence for lawyers and paralegals may also have changed. Recognizing this, the Law Society established the Competence Task Force, to take a fresh look at lawyer and paralegal competence and to consider how best to regulate the competence of the professions in the public interest.

In late June, the Competence Task Force’s Report: Renewing the Law Society’s Continuing Competence Framework was released and a Call for Comment was launched. The Call for Comment will be open until November 30. This is an opportunity to inject some fresh ideas into a key aspect of how our professions are regulated.

The objective of the Task Force is to recommend an effective, proportionate and balanced regulatory framework addressing career-long competence in a manner that protects the public interest and is responsive to the public’s legal needs.

The Task Force’s first priority was to examine the Law Society’s current competence programs in order to get a clear snapshot of how they are being used and by whom. We also explored how other legal and professional regulators address post-licensure competence.

Through our conversations and research, we identified key themes that may help to shape some new approaches to competence programs. Our research amplified the fact that we need to hear from our fellow licensees and stakeholders to understand their assessments of the current programs we offer, what works for them, what their ongoing needs are to remain competent and their suggestions on what we will need for the next 10 years.  

This is a true consultation. Nothing is predetermined. Nothing is a given, no existing program is cast in stone.  Too much has changed for that.  We want and need to hear from the professions – organizations, firms, individual lawyers and paralegals – and members of the public in order to help shape our recommendation.

My hope, as Chair, is for thoughtful and frank input from many licensees and organizations of all shapes and sizes who practice in diverse areas of law. Then we will be able to confidently provide a recommendation to the Board. The door is open. Please share your thoughts by November 30.

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