Assist - Your Partner in Lawyer Well-Being Competencies - Part 2
***Correction*** This blog, as it was originally published, contained an error regarding the current CPD period. For clarification, please see Rule 67.2 (1)
This is Part Two of our series on resources to help you find activities for the well-being competency in your CPD plan. If you missed Part One, you can access it here. It has now been more than a week since the CPD tool launched on the Law Society’s website. I hope that everyone who has had a chance to log in through the portal has found it accessible.
We all have different views about continuing learning. Many of us hoped that there would come a time when we knew everything we needed to know to practice law to the best of our ability. It has been almost 36 years since I was called to the Bar, and I am still waiting for that time to arrive!
My perspective about CPD may be skewed by my early childhood experiences. My father was an airline pilot, holding a commercial pilot’s license. Pilots don’t have CPD per se (or they didn’t back in those days), but they had to complete a flight simulator assessment (just called simulator for ease of reference) twice per year. And they had to surrender their licence to the examiner before entering the simulator. Their licenses were returned if they passed.
The simulator was essentially a mocked-up cockpit, and pilots were given challenging scenarios (e.g., the right engine is on fire!) and they had to fly their way out and land safely. If they “crashed and burned” or otherwise erred, they had to do remedial work and requalify to get their licenses back, which meant that they couldn’t work. Talk about pressure!
I remember when my dad was studying for simulator—he had materials spread all over the dining room table and we were told not to bother him. Can you imagine if lawyers had to do a moot court appearance twice per year to keep our licenses? Or if we had to surrender our licenses before proving that we should get to keep them?
So, in comparison, I find our new CPD program to be accessible and non-threatening. You determine your own learning objectives, prepare a plan that covers at least two objectives, and you can edit your plan as you go. And you don’t surrender your license in advance.
Yes, the plans are subject to review by the Law Society’s education team, but lawyers will be notified in advance if they are selected at random for review and they will be given the chance to edit or modify their plan before the review. Much safer than disaster simulations, in my humble opinion.
Last week, I provided a sample list of Well-Being objectives along with Assist programs and activities that could be used to fulfill each objective. I did this to counter the intimidation that learning a new program can create.
This week, I want to talk more specifically about the types of activities lawyers can use to populate their plans using the drop-down activities menu contained in the plan.
As far as I can tell, all objectives are supported by the same list of activities:
- Attend a conference in-person/Attend a conference– online
- Attend organization or association meetings or events
- Be a mentor or mentee
- Create and publish/share a resource
- Implement a new process to improve your practice
- Implement a new routine or habit (practice or personal)
- Join an online forum
- Learn on the job
- Listen to a Podcast
- Plan and host a learning event for your firm or organization
- Read a book
- Review a written resource
- Take a course or seminar – in person
- Take a course or seminar – online
- Teach a conference, course or seminar
- Watch a Video
This list is broad, and it allows individualized learning activities outside of the list: if you select Other, you can enter the type of activity you will do which doesn’t fall within the list, so the world may be your oyster.
For example, one way that you may choose to expand your well-being competency may be by pursuing counselling either for self-awareness or to address a concern. You can do this by clicking on Other and then specifying something like “personal growth counselling” or “proactive well-being counselling” or whatever terminology you are comfortable with. I do not see anything in the description of the CPD plan or the review process which would require you to do anything more than confirm you had taken this step on the copy of the plan that the Law Society sees, and I do not believe that they can probe further about the type of counselling, how many sessions you attended, or the types of issues you pursued. But if lawyers are concerned that this somehow opens the door to issues about your mental health, I would be happy to seek assurances for the Assist community and report back.
Alberta lawyers will be filing their CPD plans covering the year ending September 30, 2024 (i.e., the period from October 1, 2023 through September 30, 2024). During the CPD filing hiatus, lawyers were to continue their CPD activities. Lawyers will be planning their next year of CPD activities, but some may also be completing their current year’s CPD plan, in whatever form they designed it. This blog will cover activities currently going on as well as activities for the CPD year going forward.
Attend a conference– online
It may be difficult to squeeze in a conference between now and September 30th for anyone who is still looking for current year activities, but we will all start receiving conference emails soon. Attending conferences may be a learning activity that you will want to put in your 2023-2024 CPD Plan when more options are available.
Attend organization or association meetings or events
Similarly, organizations like CBA-Alberta and other professional associations may not be meeting or holding events over the summer. But there will be many opportunities in the fall, including the CBA Well-Being Conference in November—watch for more details as they are released.
Assist is pleased to be speaking to the South Asian Bar Association in August, which may align with some lawyers’ CPD plans. It isn’t too late to request a presentation for a group you belong to.
Assist’s Red Mug Coffee Circles are weekly events where lawyers across the spectrum of experience meet to chat about legal community issues and career issues. Senior lawyer peer support volunteers can provide suggestions, but we also learn from our newcomers. Most of all, it is about community! Please join us if you are looking for a new way to interact with lawyers across the province in a no-stress, free and supportive environment!
Be a mentor or mentee
The window for registering as a mentor through the Law Society’s Mentor Express program is currently open, but I understand that mentoring sessions will be scheduled between October and March. The Law Society also operates a longer-term mentorship program called Mentor Connect.
However, you can be a mentor, or you can learn as a mentee less formally. If you are looking for informal mentorship, what about inviting a more senior lawyer out to lunch to discuss areas where you are seeking to build skills?
The Canadian Corporate Counsel Association operates a mentorship program:, as does Canadian Bar Association—Alberta whose mentorship program involves lawyers mentoring law students.
This is not a definitive list of mentorship program (nor is this blog a definitive list for anything)—just a few that I am aware of.
Create and publish/share a resource
Creating a resource could be a good project if your practice (and family life) is less busy during the summer months.
I have been writing this blog for more than three years and can only reflect my own experiences. There is no shortage of topics (even if this one is a bit dry) so please consider writing a blog post for the Assist newsletter which we can then share in an upcoming newsletter, especially if you have a perspective that is different from mine! We will do our best to keep editing minimal so that your voice comes through, but we do have to ensure that blog posts are consistent with our mission, vision and program offerings.
Implement a new process to improve your practice/ Implement a new routine or habit (practice or personal)
Processes to improve your (legal) practice as new routines and habits can include well-being activities! Please consider attending Assist’s 15-minute mindfulness break on Tuesdays at noon or Assist’s yoga on Wednesdays at noon. Both programs are wholly online during July, and we will be on hiatus for the month of August, but we look forward to resuming in-person yoga at Knox United Church, Calgary, in the fall as well as both online programs.
Join an online forum
Assist does not operate any online forums and I am not aware of any Canadian lawyer well-being forums. But SoloNet, the Law Society’s online forum for sole practitioners and small firm lawyers, may have well-being content at times. There is also a Canadian Legal Ethics listserv as well-being issues can overlap with ethic issues.
Learn on the job
Learning on the job may not be an obvious fit for the Well-Being competency as much as it is for competencies like practice management or client relations. However, if there is a lawyer at your firm who invests in their well-being, perhaps you could meet with the lawyer about how they incorporate well-being activities into their legal practice. Or, if you encounter a lawyer or student who is struggling, you could learn how to provide support by meeting with one of our counsellors.
Listen to a Podcast/ Watch a Video
I am a visual learner and my mind wanders during podcasts if I am not taking notes. But my auditory learner son loves podcasts—we can all find resources that work for us!
If you google “lawyer well-being podcasts,” you will find a plethora of podcast links—like anything else, some will be fantastic and some will be less so. If you prefer Canadian content from an organization that you know or trust, please consider CBA’s Well-Being Hour video (better perhaps for us visual learners but I will probably be taking notes anyway.
The Institute of Well-Being in Law, the American not-for-profit organization that arose out of the American Bar Association Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, hosts The Path to Well-Being podcast series.
Plan and host a learning event for your firm or organization
Assist provides educational presentations from fifteen minute coffee parties through our Coffee for a Cause donation campaign and one hour presentations about well-being issues. Click here for details.
September is filling up with Coffee for a Cause presentations, so please do not leave this to the last minute!
Read a book
At our last Red Mug Coffee Circle, we discussed summer reading. It was primarily social, but research shows that reading fiction can help us attain closure, among other benefits.
We talked about the fact that many of us had loved reading before law school but lost that love due to the sheer volume of our reading assignments, but everyone suggested books that have meaning for them. We are going to list the suggested books in the blog next week, and it can be up to you to determine if any would support your well-being competency.
And, of course, you can read law-related books. In our session, though, there was a lot of support for John Grisham, but also for Bryan Stephenson’s Just Mercy and Justice Denied—the law versus Donald Marshall.
Review a written resource
This category is quite amorphous—what is a written resource? Please check out Assist’s four online courses, covering how to help someone, compassion fatigue, addictions, and coping with trauma.
I would like to hear what you think of these resources, so please send me a thoughtful review.
Take a course or seminar – in person/Take a course or seminar – online
In person course offerings may be limited during the summer, but online options are plentiful and easily accommodate your schedule. Please consider the CBA’s Mental Health And Wellness In The Legal Profession online course—it has Albertan as well as Canadian content.
Teach a conference, course or seminar
Assist is planning fall and winter webinars covering topics of interest to our community , including dementia, neurodiversity and domestic violence (since lawyers are not exempt, and people of all genders and in all types of relationships can experience abuse). We will be confirming dates and topics soon!
If you have expertise with a well-being issue and strategies consistent with Assist’s mission, vision and program offerings, and our determination of interest in a topic.
Performing acts of kindness benefits both the recipient and the giver, and volunteering is an act of kindness. You can enhance your well-being while helping someone else. The options are almost limitless.
There are many structured programs in which lawyers can volunteer, like Pro Bono Law Alberta, but please also consider if you are interested in training to become a peer support volunteer. We will be holding training this fall in Calgary and then in Edmonton in the spring. Watch for more information.
Building your well-being competency does not have to be scary or intensive. I hope the blog last week and this week has helped you identify accessible activities so that you can complete your CPD plan by October 1, 2023. The new program is new, and change is often intimidating, but I will take this any day over simulating ditching an aircraft safely to keep my license!