Continuing Professional Development in Law comes to Pakistan
The year 2013 proved to be a game changer for the legal profession in Pakistan as it set the tone for the course of future development of lawyers in the country by introducing and embracing the widely trumpeted international legal trend known as Continuing Professional Development or CPD that focuses on the academic and practical development of lawyers post their formal education and ensures that they are not only up to date with recent trends but also able to polish their practical legal skills such as drafting or negotiation etc. The idea is to continue to learn and develop, to continue to pool resources in knowledge and to continue to invest in human capital so that a more informed pool of professionals is churned out. In this way CPD ensures that otherwise busy lawyers take the time out to reflect on their capacity and their knowledge and spend the hours to work on self development and not just always on yet another case.
CPD comes in various forms and models to suit the needs and demands of different jurisdictions. It may largely be left to be a voluntary regime whereby law firms and lawyers are simply encouraged by passive means to adhere to it or the regulatory bodies may deem it to be a mandatory exercise upon which the renewal of practice license may be contingent upon. Either way, a CPD regime comes with a lot of diversity and flexibility and Pakistan has the best opportunity to figure out what may work best for its legal fraternity keeping the global values and benchmarks in mind.
This is because Pakistan has been newly awakened to the concept and idea of CPD in law. The game changer as mentioned earlier was the year 2013 when a newly established School of Law (SOL) in Lahore conducted the 1st ever national conference on CPD in law on 31st August 2013. The School of Law was launched in 2012 with a philosophy and a vision in which it sought to be the market leader by ‘defining the future of legal education’. This was achieved by means of introducing the concept of CPD in law to Pakistan. There were 5 core themes around which the Conference was based, namely, (i) the importance of CPD, (ii) CPD as a missing link from Legal Education in Pakistan, (iii) Types and Forms of CPD, (iv) the Legal Framework to inculcate CPD in Pakistan and (v) the Role of Law Societies and Bar Councils. In this way, the Conference captured the essence of the CPD concept in its entirety and gave an opportunity to the speakers as well as the audience to fully engage and embrace the notion.
The Conference concluded with the signing of the ‘SOL Resolution on CPD’, in which SOL not only reiterated its commitment to work on and for CPD but also encouraged other stakeholders including the bar councils, the law firms, CPD providers and educational institutions to embrace and work for the same. The Conference proved to be a roaring success as it laid the foundation for future work and development in this area.
SOL remained true to its commitment to CPD as it conducted several other CPD workshops, seminars and conferences ever since including but not limited to a full day training in international commercial arbitration, a roundtable discussion on ‘qisas’ and ‘diyat’ law within the criminal justice system, a seminar on Article 10-A of the Constitution and Suo-Moto Jurisdiction etc.
These efforts were followed by with a Second National Conference on CPD in law which the School of Law held on 23rd August 2014 with the aim of operationalizing CPD in Pakistan. It focused on the following thematic areas, (i) The State of Legal Education in Pakistan necessitating CPD, (ii) Case-Studies from other Jurisdictions (i.e. Comparison with other jurisdictions as to how they have accommodated and adopted the practice of CPD in their legal systems), (iii) Developments in other developed/neighbouring countries as regards CPD, (iv) Role and Responsibilities of CPD providers (such as institutions and employers), (v) Faculty Management and Curriculum Development, (vi) Quality Assurance Mechanism (i.e. how and who will/should ensure quality), (vii) Operationalizing CPD for Lawyers in Pakistan.
These efforts paved the way for work on ‘draft CPD Bill’ to be undertaken by School of Law and the same is gaining support from members of the bar councils with every passing day. It is hoped that by the time of the third national conference on CPD in law scheduled to be held on 30th November 2015 at School of Law, the draft would materialize into a more potent amendment to the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973 without which CPD cannot officially be a requirement for our lawyers in Pakistan.
After the Second National Conference on CPD in Lahore, the School of Law was invited to develop and provide its technical expertise in conducting the ‘National Conference on Continuing Legal Education’ in Islamabad that was hosted by Continuing Legal Education Institute of Pakistan (CLEIP) in association with Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), through United States Department of Commerce, Commercial Law Development Programme (CLDP). This development proved to be another milestone in bringing CPD to Pakistan as this Conference had a wider influence and audience. More than 650 participants attended the same from all provinces of the country and many notable members of the fraternity lent their support and voice for this initiative including Mr. Tassaduq Hussain Jillani. A lot of educational institutions including the School of International Law (SIL) in Islamabad and University College Lahore (UCL) were also present and have started to develop their own CPD programmes after this.
Just recently, the Pakistan College of Law (PCL) has also announced its ‘Legal Practice and Procedure Course’ for law students which focuses on training the candidates in the basic laws of Pakistan including but not limited to the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, the Qanun e Shahadat 1984, the Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes, Contract Act 1972 and the like. It would seem that this has specifically been designed for the benefit of foreign law graduates so as to acclimatize them with local laws before they begin their law practice.
The most notable and most encouraging development came from the participation of the members of the legal ethics and education committee of Lahore Bar Association and particularly that of Mr. Haseeb Ullah Khan the then chairman of the same. They have now regularly started conducting workshops and seminars in Punjab Bar Council and other forums such as Lahore Tax Bar Association etc and are endeavouring to support and promote CPD within the sphere of their influence on a regular basis.
All these developments are very encouraging and it appears to be a very exciting time for the legal profession in Pakistan that is taking on this new trend with right state of mind. The only challenge now appears to be the curbing of ad hocism and it seems it is crucially important for a direction to be carved out for the path towards embracing CPD in Pakistan. It is I believe very important for the efforts towards CPD to be channelized in a proper and coherent fashion so that a comprehensive and constructive system can be put in place for the proper management of the same. In this regard, it is very important for the bar councils to play their role as regulators of the profession and for the legislators to enact the framework of laws to introduce the nature and scope of CPD in Pakistan. This would all require a consistent effort and homework done on part of the concerned authorities and key players so that temptation of ad hocism can be resisted and a proper framework can be laid down. A framework in which course development and assessment is carefully crafted so that there is a benchmark to measure the progress. There is a need for proper certification and for all the groundwork and standards to be made and then maintained, it is necessary that this exercise of bringing CPD to Pakistan be taken up in a comprehensive and systematic manner.