They say, that the “illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”. In this regard, a private law school recently conducted the First National Conference on Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in Law at its campus in Lahore. The Conference being the first of its kind in Pakistan is a commendable step towards progress and development of the legal profession in Pakistan and such initiatives should be encouraged throughout Pakistan.

CPD refers to the professional education of lawyers that takes place after their admission to the bar and in many jurisdictions, the requirement of completing a certain number of CPD hours is mandatory for lawyers in order for them to maintain their licenses to practice law. It is therefore an established international legal trend missing from Pakistan which, if brought home, would allow a Pakistani lawyer the level playing field he needs to practice law in the globalised world of today.

This Conference introduced the concept of CPD as part of legal education and practice in Pakistan so as to bring the Pakistani legal profession at par with the rest of the rest of the world. The Conference focused on six core areas related to the notion on CPD including (i) the importance of CPD, (ii) CPD as a missing link from legal education in Pakistan,

 (iii) types and forms of CPD and a review of CPD regimes (i.e. voluntary or mandatory), (iv) the legal framework to inculcate CPD in Pakistan, (v) the role of Law Societies and Bar Councils in regulating CPD and last but not the least, (vi) the common CPD which are a must-have for a Pakistani lawyer in order to compete internationally.

A number of participants from all over Pakistan were brought together, including Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore and Islamabad. The panel of speakers was itself very diverse and included prominent lawyers from home and abroad. Ms. Maira Sheikh, research fellow at Research Society of International Law, Pakistan, for instance herself being a US national, did a comparative analysis of the CPD regime in the US as a model for Pakistan. Mr. Jawad Sarwana of Abrahim and Sarwana in Karachi was particularly convincing in discussing the competency cycle theory developed by Mr. Peter Adler to lay stress on the importance of continuing learning while Mr. Ahmed Warraich, a professor of law highlighted the legal framework needed to inculcate CPD as a requirement in law and made several notable recommendations in this regard. On the other hand, Barrister Usman G. Rashid raised important questions regarding the ability of the average lawyer in Pakistan. He narrated the “mushroom growth” of law colleges and the lack of these institutes to scholastic development of students. He stressed the importance of acquiring legal skills and knowledge and drew comparisons from various jurisdictions regarding CPD.

In this quest, it would not be wrong to suggest as Ms. Tina Russell, the membership development manager of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development does, that as professionals we have a duty to keep our skills and knowledge up-to-date. It has further been stated that, “those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new skills and better forms of knowledge would undoubtedly be the movers and shakers of our society for the indefinite future”. CPD is a means to acquire those skills and that knowledge. It is a trend that should be enshrined in the legal and academic system of Pakistan.

There is a dire need for defining the future of legal education in Pakistan by promulgating a Resolution on Continuing Professional Development in Law. In highly competitive market economies, no progress could be made without developing resource capacities to withstand the increased competition. Investment in the ‘self’ is a pre-requisite to excellence as well as employability in the increased globalised and inter-dependent world of today. Hence the significance of supporting and strengthening the concept of CPD in Pakistan by conducting regular seminars and workshops and by contributing policy papers towards building academic legal scholarship in Pakistan.

For effective realization of the cause of CPD the legislators should pass the requisite amendments in law and the bar councils to develop effective policies to regulate and manage the CPD regime in Pakistan. Focus needs to be put on the legal education providers to introduce CPD courses for practicing lawyers and on the employers to encourage their employees to attend them.

A collective and comprehensive effort is therefore, required on all fronts to inculcate CPD in Pakistan and to develop a conducive environment to foster, learning, debate and dialogue on all important recent social and legal developments that would benefit the legal profession, the lawyers and ultimately the general public in Pakistan.

The writer holds LLB (Hons) LLM (Law and Development) from University of London. She is working as an Investment Law consultant in Lahore.