KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 ― After three unsuccessful attempts, the Bar Council is pushing this year to make continuing professional development (CPD) mandatory for lawyers by proposing fines of up to RM500.
Unlike previous proposals in 2008, 2012 and 2014 that covered all lawyers in the training programme, the Bar Council’s CPD latest proposal would start on July 1 with a selected group ― about 6,000 lawyers who have been in practice for five years or less, as well as pupils in chambers.
“CPD reaffirms the Bar’s commitment to excellence in the delivery of legal services and to assure the public that members of the Bar are committed to continually improving their skills, as well as enhancing their knowledge of the law,” Bar Council Professional Standards and Development Committee chairman Richard Wee told Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.
He also said the Bar Council decided to start with this group of lawyers as they represented “the future of the Bar”.
According to the motion proposed by Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru for the annual general meeting (AGM) this Saturday, those who fail to obtain the required points in any CPD cycle will be given an automatic six-month extension to do so. A further extension of not more than three months may be granted if the required CPD points are still not obtained within that six-month period.
Should lawyers fail to comply upon the expiry of the extensions, they will be fined RM100 if they only have nine to 15 CPD points, RM200 if they have one to eight CPD points, and RM500 if they have zero CPD points.
“In this regard, the Bar Council shall be authorised to take any and all action that it deems appropriate or necessary to implement D(2) above, including through the making of Rules or Rulings, or through amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976,” said the Bar Council motion sighted by Malay Mail Online, referring to the penalties.
The Bar Council motion proposed that the CPD scheme take effect for a 24-month cycle from July 1 this year till June 30, 2018, applying to lawyers who were issued their first practising certificate on or after July 1, 2011, as well as pupils who begin their pupillage on or after this July 1.
Lawyers are required to obtain at least 16 CPD points per 24-month CPD cycle, while pupils must get a total of eight CPD points.
Wee acknwledged that young lawyers may not be able to afford CPD courses, especially those outside the Klang Valley, compared to their senior counterparts. As such, the group of 6,000 lawyers would be able to enjoy subsidised fees for CPD courses under the scheme.
“Many of the young lawyers have very tight budgets, and we need to support them as much as possible in enhancing their legal and professional knowledge and skills.
“We have not ‘targeted’ this particular group of lawyers. Our decision is based on the available financial resources to invest in the scheme. Far from being discriminatory, it will benefit this group of lawyers in a meaningful way,” said Wee.
He also said the CPD scheme proposed this year would not involve an increase to Malaysian Bar members’ current RM920 annual subscription fee.
According to the Bar Council’s motion, the CPD scheme may apply to all other Malaysian Bar members or a selected group of lawyers, depending on the decision of members at the AGM in 2018.
Wee told Malay Mail Online that lawyers may obtain CPD points by participating in various activities, including courses on areas of law and professional development. These include access to largely free online training videos.
The Bar Council is also planning to organise CPD camps both within and outside Kuala Lumpur that will enable lawyers to collect a greater number of CPD points in one go, he said.
Wee said the Bar Council will launch a smartphone app during the AGM this Saturday that will allow lawyers to book and pay for CPD courses, much like buying a movie ticket through an app.
He pointed out that currently, CPD is mandatory for several professions in Malaysia including engineers, accountants, architects and pharmacists, as well as for lawyers in Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the Philippines.
“We are proud that about 40 per cent of members are already actively participating in the current voluntary CPD scheme,” Wee said. “That's not bad, but we should want more”.