Continuing Legal Education for Lawyers

Graduation day is the starting point of your new career and not the end of your education. Professional values, knowledge of the law, and ethical behavior are needed skills that lawyers need to acquire during their careers path.

Purpose of continuing legal education and training

Graduation day is the starting point of your new career and not the end of your education. Professional values, knowledge of the law, and ethical behavior are needed skills that lawyers need to acquire during their careers path. Whether mandatory or non-mandatory, as defined in many jurisdictions, continuing legal education and training are indispensable for practicing lawyers, regardless of inside lawyer or outside lawyers.

Law firms are not able to recruit best talents without giving young lawyers commitments to properly train and pave the way for their practice of law. “Young lawyers worth their salt, whose interests are broader than how much they will be paid, want to work with and be trained by good lawyers on matters of significance to important clients. Law firms cannot attract the best clients or work unless they provide superior competence, knowledge, service, and client responsiveness, and a properly priced professional product”.[1]

For in-house lawyers to serve their own employer and integrate legal work with the services offered by outside law firms, in-house lawyers should acquire substantial legal skills, practical judgment, and professionalism and avoid becoming isolated from professional and community issues.

Development and the current status of continuing legal education in Vietnam

Along with the new requirements of the globalization, Vietnam’s renovation and international integration has made rapid and strong development steps with important events. Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) has created many opportunities and challenges, including building and improving the legal system in accordance with Vietnam’s commitment when joining WTO, which was one of the most important mission in this period. Accordingly, the Law on Lawyers 2006 has contributed to consolidate and enhance the lawyers’ position. This creates a legal ground to accelerate the process of generating professional lawyers which in lines with those in developed countries around the world. It can be said that the Law on Lawyers 2006 is a milestone marking a great development of lawyers in Vietnam, and thereby opening up lots of new perspectives for the legal profession. Although the Law on Lawyers 2006 made significant steps for organization, operation and development of lawyers’ associations, the quality of lawyers still faces many problems in meeting the needs of legal services in society. The quality of the lawyer is not standardized and comprehensive meanwhile there are 63 provincial bar associations with more than 13,000 lawyers across the country. Moreover, legal education for lawyers in Viet Nam at this time has received little attention until 2013.

On 1st July 2013, the Law on amending and supplementing a number of Articles of the Law on Lawyers prescribes some regulations related to rights and obligations of lawyers including a remarkable point which is “obligation of attendance in compulsory professional refresher courses”.  Due to the role of lawyers becoming more and more important in the fields of criminal law, civil law and economic procedures as well as legal consultancy, the required training program for lawyers is consequently essential. This is a progressive regulation, which demonstrates the concentration on the standards of lawyers including both professional and ethical responsibilities. It helps to professionalize the current association of lawyers.

Currently, the Ministry of Justice issued Circular No.10/2014/TT-BTP and No.02/2019/TT-BTP governing the obligation of lawyers to take part in continuing legal education and training, stipulating the participants, time, forms and contents of courses improving professional qualifications of lawyers. This contributes to facilitating the provision of reliable legal services to clients and enhancing the role of law profession in real life.

Common ground for designing effective CLE program

 Developing continuing education program should include the following features:[2]

  1. broad training for young lawyers in general;
  2. specialized programs for individuals who are more experienced or whose practices are more limited in scope;
  3. training for all lawyers on issues of professionalism, ethics, and public policy; and
  4. reinforcement of skills and techniques that permit efficiency and cost-effective rendering of legal services, basic business considerations for the practice of law, and an enhanced use of technology and its application to the practice of law.

Non-mandatory CLE

The following factors should find their way into the planning of most successful “in-house” programs: [3]

  1. Do Not Abuse the Audience
  2. The Content Must Be Tailored for the Group
  3. Written Materials and “Hand-Outs” Must Be Meaningful
  4. Lecture Formats Are Seldom the Best Approach
  5. Use Technology
  6. Use the Internet, Create a Library, Use Other Commonly Available Outside Sources
  7. Control Expense
  8. Measure Attendance and Keep Accurate Records
  9. Use Outside Speakers
  10. Ensure that Supervisors and Management Support the Program.

Mandatory CLE – Requirements imposed by the regulators

According to the Circular No. 02/2019/TT-BTP dated 15 March 2019, lawyers are responsible for participating adequately in the courses and selecting the training programs in accordance with their field of practice.

Regarding participation time, every Vietnamese lawyer must participate in a course at least 08 hours per year which is less than that of the old regulation, 16 working hours per year.

This circular also sets standard contents and materials of the training courses. Every course comprises one or some of the following contents:

  • The Lawyers regulation of ethics and professional conduct;
  • Update and improvement of law knowledge;
  • Training lawyers’ practicing skills and supporting skills in practice;
  • Law-practicing organization management skill.

The courses must ensure the following principles:

  • Ensure the precision and sufficiency of time, content and quality of the courses for lawyers;
  • Ensure the responsibility and quality of the fulfillment of training obligations.

Lawyers who fail to perform their obligation, depending on the nature and severity of their violations, shall be subject to one of the following disciplinary forms: (i) rebuke; (ii) warning; or (iii) temporarily suspension of the status as a member of a Bar Association from 6 to 24 months. Apart from incurring penalties, a lawyer must fulfill the training obligation of the year in the following year.

[1] Gene Cavallucci and Michael J. Weaver, Continuing Legal Education and Training

[2] Gene Cavallucci and Michael J. Weaver, Continuing Legal Education and Training

[3] Gene Cavallucci and Michael J. Weaver, Continuing Legal Education and Training

Bui Tien Long (Rudy)