The International Judicial Conference 2013 was recently held in Islamabad with the objective of involving all stakeholders in the dispensation of justice and to share their experiences, knowledge and perceptions on critical issues being faced by the judicial system. It was based on nine thematic groups, each one focusing on a specialised area of significance, including:

1)  The role of judiciary in the developing world,

2)  The rule of law and international peace,

3)  Terrorism and money laundering,

4)  Public interest litigation,

5)  The role of judiciary in consumer protection,

6)  Legal and judicial education,

7)  Alternative dispute resolution,

8)  Parental child abduction and transnational jurisdiction, and

9)  Cyber crimes.

The conference’s success, undoubtedly, lies in the fact that it was attended by a large number of national and international representatives of some 21 countries, including India, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Britain. It is, however, important to mention that while these conferences are a step in the right direction that the legal profession in Pakistan needs to take, there is a ‘missing link’ that should be recognised and addressed in all future endeavours of such kind so as to bring our legal profession at par with that of the rest of the world.

The missing link forms part of the thematic group number six that relates to the legal and judicial education. Under this group, the stress on research and capacity building of the judges for better dispensation of justice was rightly laid down. This implies that no grassroots level progress can be made if stress is not laid down on the notion of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) through Continuing Legal Education (CLE), which is an established practice of the legal profession in all developed countries of the world, such as the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and, more importantly, India.

The CLE refers to the professional education of lawyers that takes place after their initial admission to the bar and in many jurisdictions, for example the US, a certain number of minimum CPD hours’ requirement is mandatory for the lawyers to maintain their licences to practice law.  The CLE credits usually have a set class-hour requirement for a period of years, sometimes with specific hour requirements for special topics.

The CLE may include, but is not limited to continuing professional development courses, for instance, legal and professional ethics, professional skills such as courses on negotiation, drafting or Alternative Methods of Dispute Resolution (ADR); besides substantive courses on recent developments or fields of study like the developments in international legal sphere or newer fields, cyber laws and other transnational issues.

The idea is to stay abreast of recent updates in laws and policies on the national and international level, and to inculcate the value and practice of capacity building, training and investment in human capital, even though formal legal education has ended.

This can be achieved through organising various seminars, workshops and academic conferences, both nationally and internationally, so that a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas is provided to the people.

The other way that this is achieved is through the bar associations of different states, which regulate and formulate policies on CPD and CLE of lawyers. In England and Wales, for example, all solicitors and legal executives, who are in legal practice or employment, or who work 32 hours or more per week, are required to complete a minimum of 16 hours of CPD (= 16 CPD points) per year.

In Scotland, all solicitors, who are in full-time employment and wish to retain their Practicing Certificate, are required to undertake a minimum of 20 hours of CPD per year.

In India, there is practice of CPD through  CLE platforms organised and conducted by the Bar Council of India through state bar councils, national law schools, universities, bar associations, tax bar associations and at other various professional levels to enhance the professional knowledge, skill, acumen, analytical ability and accountability, legal ethics, professional management and business skill.

In Queensland, Australia, each legal practitioner is required to undertake 10 hours of CPD each year to acquire 10 CPD points. Within each year, the practitioner must include one point for each of the three core areas: professional skills, practical legal ethics, and practice management and business skills.

The CPD requirement may either be compulsory for lawyers to maintain their licence to practice law or it may be recommendatory in nature for them to adopt the CPD and CLE requirements on a voluntary basis.

The better approach, however, is to make it a mandatory requirement and delegating the responsibility to develop proper CPD courses and qualifications to different colleges, universities and other academic organisations, which the lawyers in Pakistan should need to comply with in order to maintain their licences to practice law after  certain periods of time.

The inclusion of this requirement in the legal profession will place Pakistani lawyers at par with the practicing lawyers in other jurisdictions of the world. It is unfortunate that most of our lawyers will not meet the CPD criteria of most countries where it is a normal trade practice. In this way, they may be at a professional disadvantage in the globalised and highly integrated world of today.

It is, therefore, stressed that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Chaudhry Muhammad Iftikhar, take notice of the growing trend towards CPD through CLE in the world and adopt it as a policy guideline in the next judicial conference.

The writer holds an LL.B Hons and LL.M in Law and Development from the University of London.

    She is currently working as an associate/investment law consultant and is a member of the

    visiting faculty at the Pakistan College of Law.