Policy statement: Changes to CPD requirements in light of COVID-19

Last updated: 17 November 2020
Valid for CPD undertaken to: 31 December 2020

We recognise that the unprecedented circumstances arising from COVID-19 might cause some Costs Lawyers concerns about being able to achieve sufficient CPD points in 2020. In particular, social distancing measures relating to COVID-19 are making it difficult to attend CPD events in person.

All Costs Lawyers are required to achieve at least 12 CPD points (equating to 12 CPD hours) each year. The CPD Rules cap the number of points that can be claimed for e-learning activities at a maximum of 6 (rule 4.1). This means that no more than 6 CPD points per year can be claimed for activities such as webinars, podcasts and online training. Under rule 4.1, e-learning activities must also relate specifically to costs law and practice or to another relevant legal subject matter.

Under no circumstances do we want practitioners to put themselves or their colleagues at risk by attending CPD events in person because they feel obliged by our Rules to do so. We have therefore decided to temporarily lift the restrictions on the CPD points that can be claimed for e-learning activities during the 2020 practising year.

This means that in 2020 we will not be enforcing:

  • The 6 point cap on e-learning activities – you will be able to attain all 12 of your required CPD points through participating in remote learning.
  • The restriction on the type of e-learning activities that qualify for CPD points – e-learning on any subject matter that is relevant to your practice will count toward CPD requirements.

What type of e-learning can I undertake?

There are many benefits of face-to-face learning. Some Costs Lawyers won’t have previously had any need to consider options for virtual or remote learning. Options that you might like to consider in the current environment include:

  • Webinars offered by legal services firms or chambers. These are often delivered live, enabling participants to ask questions and view slides in real time, and are often free of charge.
  • Online materials, such as training videos, offered by legal knowhow services to which many firms have existing subscriptions.
  • Seminars that were scheduled to be held in person but that have been transferred to a virtual platform in light of COVID-19.
  • Distance learning courses or modules.
  • Podcasts, e-books and other online commentary.

Is this a change to the CPD Rules?

No. This is a temporary waiver of the restrictions on claiming CPD points for e-learning activities, to enable Costs Lawyers to obtain all their CPD points from remote activities during 2020 if they want to. This policy will be implemented by changing the way we enforce the CPD Rules in 2020, rather than by changing the CPD Rules themselves.

Given that this is an interim response to unprecedented circumstances, the Legal Services Board has confirmed that this policy does not require formal approval under the statutory processes that would apply if we changed our rules.

Why aren’t you dispensing with CPD requirements altogether?

As set out in the CPD Rules, Costs Lawyers need to achieve a minimum of 12 CPD points per year. As for all legal practitioners, it is important for Costs Lawyer to continuously develop their knowledge and skills.

Whilst working patterns are changing considerably for some people in response to COVID-19, there is still a variety of options for carrying out CPD activities within the parameters of new working arrangements. These options include membership of the Association of Costs Lawyers, e-learning participated in from your home or office, or conferences booked for later in the year.

Waiving the restrictions on e-learning activities should ensure that Costs Lawyers can meet the overall requirement for 12 CPD points in 2020.

As reported in the July 2020 newsletter the Board confirmed at its July meeting that Costs Lawyers will still need to obtain the minimum 12 CPD points in 2020. The Board emphasised the vital importance of ongoing learning and development in maintaining professional competency, as well as noting the wide range of e-learning opportunities available.

Dispensations from 12 CPD points will be available on a case by case basis for Costs Lawyers who can evidence that they have been personally affected by coronavirus this year, including those who have been on long term sick leave. You also won’t need CPD points for any full months when you were not working, for example because you were furloughed full-time. For more details please see our CPD dispensation guidelines.

We will keep this policy statement under review throughout the year.

What is the impact on the CLSB’s new CPD Rules from 1 January 2021?

Earlier in the year we consulted on wider changes to our CPD requirements. The decision to waive the restrictions on claiming CPD points for e-learning activities in 2020 is consistent with the new CPD Rules from 2021. The new rules abolish all points caps and activity categories, in favour of a more flexible approach that allows Costs Lawyers to determine which learning activities best suit their individual needs.

As advised in our September newsletter the Legal Services Board has approved the changes. The new rules and supporting materials are available, and we will communicate further about the changes in the new year.