New Zealand Law Society - Guidelines for the use of the CPD rules

Guidelines for the use of the CPD rules

Aims and objectives

The objective of the CPD Rules is to build on the culture of lifelong learning which exists within the New Zealand legal profession. Its aim and anticipated outcome is to contribute to the increased competency of New Zealand lawyers.

The continuing professional development (CPD) requirements

The CPD Rules apply to all lawyers. The Rules require you to take responsibility for developing and implementing your own CPD plan. This includes undertaking, recording, documenting and reflecting on a minimum of 10 hours of CPD activities each CPD year, including any mandatory component required by the Law Society. 

The Rules apply to all lawyers and: 

  • are learner-centred  
  • focus on outcomes 
  • are flexible enough to allow all lawyers to complete the requirements regardless of their areas of practice, location and experience, and to enable them to take account of their preferred learning styles 
  • are intended to be cost-effective and affordable for both individual lawyers and for the Law Society to apply 
  • provide a transparent accountability mechanism.

The continuing professional development plan and record (CPDPR)

All lawyers (whether or not providing regulated services) must have a CPDPR. 

Note: “regulated services” are defined in section 6 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and means in relation to a lawyer, legal services, conveyancing services and services a lawyer provides by undertaking the work of a real estate agent. Under the CPD Rules providing regulated services includes holding yourself out as being willing or available to do so. 

Planning CPD is an ongoing process which begins when you first start practice. There are no start/stop dates. You may review your learning objectives and amend them at any time. If you are new to practice you should prepare your CPDPR as soon as practicable. 

Your CPDPR is specific to you and should include: 

Your learning needs

To identify your current learning needs you should consider: 

  • your reflections on any CPD activities you have undertaken previously 
  • your strengths and weaknesses 
  • new law and procedures 
  • your career goals 
  • pending changes in your roles, responsibilities and practice areas 

Your proposed actions

  • the specific outcomes you will aim to achieve in the coming year 
  • what activities would best suit your practice and learning style 

Details of the activities you undertake


  • title 
  • provider/facilitator
  • type of activity 
  • aims and objectives 
  • dates/place 
  • number of CPD hours you completed 

Your reflections on each of these activities

  • the outcomes – what did you learn/what you will do differently as a result 
  • how the outcomes relate to your learning needs 
  • did you fulfil your current learning needs? 
  • do you have any further learning needs as a result of this activity? 

Also, you: 

  • may keep your CPDPR in either hard-copy or electronic format or a combination of both. 
  • must keep your CPDPR for three years. 

Minimum hours of activities

If you provide no regulated services during a yearly period you are not required to complete any hours of activities. You are still required to have a CPDPR and to file declarations of compliance. Your CPDPR should state that no activities or related records and documentation are required. 

You may, however, choose to complete activities, including any mandatory component, and record those activities in your CPDPR. 

If you provide any regulated services you must complete a minimum of ten hours of activities including any mandatory requirement whether you work in a part-time or full-time capacity. The minimum hours requirement is only reduced if you take a break from practice of three months or more. In these cases you are entitled to a pro rata reduction in the minimum hours as set out in Schedule One of the Rules. For example, if you take a break from practice (due to illness, parental leave, sabbatical etc) for seven months then you are required to complete five hours of activities. If you work part time during your break from practice the reductions do not apply. If you have a pro rata requirement under Schedule One, you may choose to complete the mandatory component as part of your CPD activities, but it is not required. 

If you complete more than the minimum number of hours of activities during a CPD year then you can choose to carry forward up to five of those excess hours into the next year. 

If you complete the previous or an earlier year’s hours of activities in a subsequent yearly period for any reason then those hours are additional to the required hours for that yearly period – there is to be no double counting of hours. 

Schedule One also applies if you hold a practising certificate for less than a full year. 


Activities either provide you with an opportunity for interaction and feedback and are verifiable, or not. But you must use your professional judgement to decide if an activity appears to align with your CPDPR and delivers worthwhile outcomes for you. The Law Society will not accredit activities as “one size” does not necessarily fit all. What is relevant and worthwhile for one lawyer may not be for another. However, the Law Society may require that you complete a mandatory component. 

There is no limit to the number of hours you can count for taking part in any one activity. 

You are responsible for verifying your attendance at CPD activities. There are a number of ways you may do this depending on the type of activity. Suggestions as to how you may verify your CPD activities are listed below. 

You may count CPD activities required by: 

  • the Law Society’s regulations/rules including those related to CPD, e.g. requirements for practice on own account, or by a standards committee, and any mandatory requirement 
  • other professional bodies or regulated bodies both in New Zealand and overseas 

 towards your CPD requirements provided they comply with the definition of activities in the Rules. 

Depending on your individual learning needs, preferred learning style, experience and the various activities available to you, you may choose to complete the required hours in a number of ways, for instance:  

Distance learning programmes

You may count distance learning programmes you complete online or through a variety of media, including written material, providing they include an interactive/feedback component, for instance through: 

  • completing quizzes or an assessment component at the end of the course or at intervals throughout 
  • the ability to email and/or telephone a designated person to ask questions and to receive a timely response. 

You may verify you undertook a distance learning programme through a certificate of completion or an equivalent which may be issued automatically online or sent by the organiser. 


This could include (but is not confined to) writing law books, articles or papers intended for publication or to be included in course materials for: 

  • students at tertiary level, both law students and others 
  • lawyers and legal executives 
  • other professions 

As with teachers, writers learn from the research they do and from the insights and ideas they develop as they reflect on their subject matter. If a writing activity does not require this sort of engagement it would not qualify. You will need to use your professional judgement about this. 

Writing offers an opportunity for interaction and evaluation in many ways, for instance through comments from editors, colleagues, reviewers and your targeted readers, either orally or in writing. 

You might verify your writing activities through: 

  • published tables of content and date of publication 
  • copies of published articles and date of publication
  • letters or emails from publishers, editors, course organisers 

These should be accompanied by a record of the time you spent. 

You should not count writing which is part of your regular employment as a lawyer. 

Law reform

You may count preparing as a lead or major drafter and presenting submissions on proposed reforms of the law or of legal processes and procedures on behalf of the Law Society, a legal association or similar in an objective manner. You could verify law reform activities by: 

  • a copy of your individual written contribution to the formal law reform submissions and an acknowledgement of receipt 
  • a notice/memo relating to oral submissions 

The above records should be accompanied by a record of the time you spent. 

You should not count preparing and presenting formal submissions 

  • as part of your regular employment 
  • on behalf of a client or a firm or employer or an interested party whether or not it is part of your paid employment or a pro bono activity. 

Mandatory CPD

In any given year, the Law Society may require that you complete a mandatory CPD component. You will be notified if there is to be a mandatory component.


You can count any topic which you can relate to your learning needs as set out in your CPD plan and which would assist you to carry out your work as a lawyer, including: 

  • knowledge of the law 
  • knowledge of other relevant disciplines
  • knowledge of the law and procedures in other countries
  • legal skills
  • personal skills including, but not confined to: 
    • stress management 
    • time management
    • leadership skills
    • communication including voice production 
  • practice management skills including, but not confined to:
    • financial and accounting skills
    • marketing skills
    • supervision skills
    • planning skills 
    • risk management skills 
    • operation management skills 
    • IT management skills 
    • ethics, professionalism and client care 

The following do not fall within the definition of activities: 

  • private study, eg 
  • reading textbooks, journals, articles, course materials, LawTalk, digests and law reports 
  • listening to non-interactive audio broadcasts or recordings in whatever format 
  • viewing non-interactive audio visual materials in whatever format 
  • attending meetings 
  • being a member of a committee, including standards committees 
  • assisting at community law centres and taking part in pro-bono activities

Private study is, however, an essential means of keeping up to date. All lawyers are encouraged to complete a minimum of 50 hours of self-study each CPD year. You could choose to record your self-study in your CPD plan but you are not required to.

Declarations of compliance

At the end of each CPD year a lawyer must file a declaration. 

In order to file a declaration of compliance you need to have completed the applicable CPD requirements (including any mandatory requirement) for the relevant CPD year whether as set out in the CPD Rules or as modified by a deferment. 

The CPD year runs from 1 April until 31 March of the following year. You must file your declaration with the Law Society within five working days of the close of the CPD year. If you fulfil all of your CPD requirements and your CPDPR is up to date and covers the rest of the year, you may file your declaration earlier than 31 March. 

Late declarations

If you file your declaration later than five days after the end of the year it will be categorised as a late declaration of compliance. A late declaration of compliance signals to the Law Society that you, for some reason, have not managed to complete your CPD requirements during the CPD year. The Law Society will contact you to ensure you understand the CPD requirements and can, in the future, complete the requirements on time. 

A failure to complete the CPD requirements may be referred to a standards committee for consideration under the Act. 

Ceasing and returning to practice

If you hand back your practicing certificate (eg, to travel overseas) part way through a yearly period and you do not intend to return before the end of that year, you are encouraged to file a CPD declaration. If you do resume practice before the end of that yearly period you may need to withdraw your declaration. You will be able to do this easily online. 

Likewise, if you complete the year and do not intend to renew your practicing certificate immediately, but may do so some time in the future, you should file a CPD declaration. 

If you have outstanding CPD requirements when you cease practising they will still be there when you resume practice. This includes any mandatory requirement. It may be possible to get the CPD requirements deferred but you will still have to complete them. 

Deferment of CPD requirements

The CPD requirements cannot be waived. However, you may apply to the Law Society for a deferment of some or all of the CPD requirements where exceptional circumstances have prevented you from completing the requirements in the CPD year. The Law Society may defer either all or part of your requirements, including any mandatory component, into a subsequent CPD year. 

If you obtain a deferment you must still file a declaration of compliance with the Law Society for the applicable year. 

If the Law Society does not grant you the deferment in the terms you sought, you will need to complete all applicable CPD requirements and file a declaration of compliance as required by the CPD Rules. 

A failure to complete the CPD requirements may be referred to a standards committee for consideration under the Act.

Auditing for compliance

You do not provide your CPDPR when you make your CPD declaration but it may be required 

  • as part of an audit process
  • if you have applied for a deferment
  • by a Standards Committee considering non-compliance with the CPD Rules. 

Each year the Law Society will examine a sample of lawyers’ CPD plans and documentation to verify they are meeting the CPD requirements. If you do not file a declaration of compliance on time and no late declaration is forthcoming you are likely to be audited. The result of the audit may be a referral to a Standards Committee. The audit process is intended to be supportive and educative in the first instance. If you appear to have misunderstood the CPD Rules you will be offered assistance and education to correct these misunderstandings. However, if there are indications that you have knowingly made a false declaration of compliance then the Law Society will refer you to a Standards Committee for inquiry under the Act.

Self-auditing organisations

Self-audit status means that an organisation of lawyers takes responsibility for ensuring compliance with the CPD Rules. Individual lawyers employed by or who are part of a self-auditing organisation would not be audited by the Law Society although the organisation itself may be audited from time to time. 

If you are employed by or are part of a self- auditing organisation you remain personally responsible for making your own CPD declarations of compliance. 

Many organisations already include planning and reflecting on a lawyer’s CPD activities and identifying their ongoing learning needs in their performance review processes. This is useful as it enables the lawyer and the organisation to work together to decide what CPD would be most beneficial and the best way of carrying it out. Self-audit would encourage this approach. 

If an organisation wishes to be self-auditing it is likely it would need to have in place comprehensive performance review processes and systems which could be used to review lawyers CPDPRs. 

Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Ongoing Legal Education—Continuing Professional Development) Amendment Rules 2021

Changes to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Ongoing Legal Education – Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2013 allow for the implementation of a mandatory CPD component. Amendments have been made at rule 3 (interpretation), rule 4 (continuing professional development requirements) and rule 6 (minimum hours of activities).  

The interpretation of ‘activities’ in rule 3 has been extended and now includes any mandatory component required by the Law Society.  

At rule 4, the continuing professional development requirements have been amended to include any mandatory component required by the Law Society. Lawyers must develop and maintain a written CPDPR in accordance with rule 5 and undertake the required hours of CPD activities specified in rule 6, including, where necessary, any mandatory component required by the Law Society. 

Rule 6.1(a) requires that a lawyer providing regulated services, in either a full-time or part-time capacity, completes a minimum of ten hours of activities each yearly period including any mandatory component required by the Law Society.Only lawyers who engage in regulated services for ten months or more of the CPD year will be required to complete the mandatory component. Those with a pro rata requirement under Schedule 1 may choose to complete the mandatory component as part of their CPD activities, but it is not required. 

When a lawyer completes their CPD declaration each year they will be confirming that they have completed their requirements, including any mandatory component required by the Law Society.  

If a lawyer is granted a deferment of their CPD requirements into a subsequent CPD year, the mandatory requirement will also be deferred and must be completed as part of the deferment.  

From 2022, audits completed under rule 8 will check that plans and records include reference to any mandatory learning component.  

The Law Society will notify the profession if there is a mandatory requirement. A failure to complete any mandatory component required by the Law Society is a matter that may be referred to the Lawyers Complaints Service.  

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