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Practice and Skills Management – How a Lawyer Practises

Understanding how a legal practice works – from managing risk, to quality control, to the operation of trusts and billing – are all key competencies for new lawyers. All of this comes with demands to understand the technological tools used in today’s legal environment while keeping an eye on the trends that will shape that environment in the years ahead.

The CPLED Competency Framework is built to help students understand how a practice works, and how their work within a practice contributes to their success. From time management and project management, to managing relationships and files in a professional manner, students will learn how to be lawyers who are effective and efficient in their practice. A focus on self-awareness, empathy and resilience will help students balance their personal life with their workload.

The CPLED Competency Framework helps students learn to practice law the right way – for the public, for their firm and for themselves.

2.1 Practice management – Understand risk, manage trusts and accounting and grasp the technological tools and trends to practice law effectively in today’s marketplace. Practice risk

  1. Demonstrates the ability to identify, evaluate and measure the probability and severity of risks to their practice.
  2. Demonstrates the ability to proactively determine what actions to take to address risks and takes appropriate action to address those risks. Quality control

  1. Comprehends the value of a system for quality control.
  2. Takes personal responsibility for the quality of all work produced directly or through delegation.
  3. Comprehends the value of regularly reviewing and evaluating the efficacy of office systems and procedures, so as to identify problems, correct deficiencies and continually improve procedures. Retainer and trusts

  1. Comprehends the importance of retainers to support a law practice and its role in managing firm cash flow and mitigating non-collection of fees.
  2. Understands how to deal with money received from or on behalf of a client as required by accounting standards, professional conduct rules and good practice.
  3. Understands how to maintain a trust account in accordance with specific statutory and accounting requirements, and requirements relating to trust account deposits.
  4. Creates accurate records of all communications, attendances and disbursements with details of dates, times and amounts, to facilitate the billing and collection processes. Billing clients

  1. Demonstrates knowledge of the procedural, accounting and ethical rules and standards applicable to billing and collections.
  2. Understands the importance of rendering and delivering timely revenue billings, in accordance with the law and any agreement between the lawyer and client relating to the basis for calculating the lawyer’s fees
  3. Understanding the importance of recording and billing all outlays made by the firm for which the client is responsible accurately and completely.
  4. Understanding the importance of rendering and delivering timely cost billings in accordance with the law, good practice and consistent with the agreement between the lawyer and client.
  5. Understanding the importance of issuing receipts to clients as required by law and good practice. Office accounting

  1. Understanding of the purposes and processes associated with the accounting function in a law office (e.g., recording transactions and generating reports, reconciliations for proving accuracy, maintenance of files for invoices, vouchers, other financial documents, internal supervisory procedures and approval levels and authority). Technology skills for practicing lawyers Standard office applications

  1. Demonstrates proficient use or word processing software to draft legal and non-legal documents and correspondence.
  2. Demonstrates proficient use of spreadsheet software for applications such as tracking time, billings, preparing budgets, etc.
  3. Demonstrates proficient use of presentation software in applications such as presenting to new or existing clients, speaking engagements, seminars, etc.
  4. Demonstrates proficient generation and use of portable document format (pdf) for legal documents and other practice applications.
  5. Demonstrates proficient use of communication technologies for email generation, filing and other applications. Law practice applications

  1. Demonstrates proficiency using legal research tools.
  2. Demonstrates proficiency using systems supporting management of potential client conflicts.
  3. Demonstrates proficiency using systems supporting the management of timelines and limitation periods.
  4. Demonstrates proficiency using systems supporting management of client records and files.
  5. Demonstrates proficiency using systems supporting legal accounting and time billing systems
  6. Demonstrates proficiency using systems supporting docketing.
  7. Understands the importance of considering new and evolving technologies that add value to clients and improve the client experience. Security and privacy risks pertaining to data and Information technology

  1. Understands and explains the mounting risks associated with privacy breaches that law firms face in an increasingly regulated environment.
  2. Understands the importance of implementing a privacy and security program in a law firm and for assigning responsibility for data security and personally adhering to security protocols.
  3. Demonstrates ability to identify the policies and procedures that should be considered to increase data security and reduce breaches (e.g., policies surrounding portable devices, employee access to data, encryption, social media use, financial data, cloud computing, etc.) Technology trends and potential impact on the practice and business of law

  1. Understands the importance of keeping apprised of emerging technologies and how they could impact the practice of law in the future.
  2. Understands the risks and opportunities that artificial intelligence and machine learning will have on legal services.
  3. Understands the risks and opportunities that virtual courtroom and online platforms will have on dispute resolution.
  4. Understands the risks and opportunities that social media will have on privacy laws, practice standards, security and the practice of law.
  5. Understands the risks and opportunities that mobile applications and cloud computing will have on the practice of law.
  6. Understands how data analytics can support the work of the lawyer.

 2.2 Practice organization – Manage your time and your projects without cutting corners or exposing you or your firm to risk. Time management

  1. Manages time in order to make informed judgments when preparing for a matter.
  2. Demonstrates ability to prioritize, considering availability of all resources and plan workload in order to make and meet time commitments.
  3. Consistently and effectively monitors the status of ongoing work and avoids taking on more work than can be accomplished competently.
  4. Demonstrates the ability to use a diary, tickler or other system to record time limits or deadlines, and to assist in planning work.
  5. Demonstrates ability to use own time effectively, to the benefit of the clients, employer and the lawyer.
  6. Monitors and keeps relevant others informed of progress and availability.
  7. Demonstrates the ability to identify conflicting priorities as they arise and manages the conflict effectively.
  8. Deals effectively with unplanned circumstances and re-prioritizes as necessary.
  9. Delivers on time estimates, resource requirements and budgets. Project management

  1. Determines the steps necessary to complete a project.
  2. Develops a schedule for the completion of each step in the project.
  3. Demonstrates the ability to adjust to changing circumstances.
  4. Delegates project tasks where appropriate.
  5. Monitors delegated tasks and takes responsibility for the quality of the outcome of each step in the project. File management

  1. Demonstrates ability to identify when compiling and keeping records and files is their responsibility.
  2. Prepares and compiles appropriate records during or as soon as possible after the events that they are recording.
  3. Ensures records are clear, accurate and legible and contain sufficient detail for their purpose.
  4. Organizes records so that they are retrievable by themselves and other authorized persons as appropriate.
  5. Demonstrates the ability to use a file management system, electronic or another method, to ensure that all documents generated in the course of practice are stored for simple retrieval.
  6. Ensures client documents are stored in an orderly and secure manner.
  7. Establishes and uses a system to alert the lawyer to the need to follow up on a matter or give it other attention.
  8. Understands the importance of scheduling and monitoring the destruction of documents, as required by law and good practice.
  9. Demonstrates effective use of practice checklists, both procedure and drafting, and applying professional judgment in their use, recognizing that checklists are an effective tool but not a replacement for legal knowledge and professional judgment.
  10. Understands the importance of maintaining accurate financial, expense and time recording records and files in electronic or hard copy. Client conflict management and mitigation

  1. Understands the principles and consequences of conflicts of interest, and the relevant professional ethical standards.
  2. Recognizes and solves any conflict of interest problems.
  3. Understands the importance of using a client conflict management system allowing identification and tracking of potential conflicts of interest (legal, personal, and business conflicts).
  4. Takes appropriate steps to address the conflict of interest, including appropriate communication of the conflict to the client.


2.3 Managing relationships – Work collaboratively and professionally with your team while building trust and confidence with your client.

  1. Demonstrates the ability to work collaboratively with colleagues and staff, respecting their skills and contributions.
  2. Demonstrates ability to work effectively as part of a team.
  3. Understands and respects the division of responsibilities within the team.
  4. Understands the importance of delegating, supervising and mentoring others in the practice of law.
  5. Demonstrates skills to establish and maintain effective professional relations with others. Client communications

  1. Understands the importance of managing client relationships, including establishing and maintaining client confidence and managing expectations.
  2. Demonstrates evidence of preparation for meetings with clients.
  3. Demonstrates a courteous and professional attitude towards clients, establishing rapport and maintaining open communication.
  4. Exhibits sensitivity to clients’ circumstances, special needs and intellectual capacity (e.g., diversity, language, illiteracy, socioeconomic status, disability, health).
  5. Effectively deals with difficult clients.
  6. Confirms with client goals their goals, objectives and instructions.
  7. Clearly and honestly manages client expectations by addressing timeframes, fees, risks and possible outcomes.
  8. Considers and communicates to the client the costs and consequences of various courses of action and demonstrates respect for the client’s timelines and budget.
  9. Implements timely and informative reporting to clients.
  10. Understands the importance and demonstrates the ability to maintain the confidentiality and security of client information and ensures clients are aware of the risk of communicating the details of the case by means of electronic media.
  11. Informs the client fully of all important developments in the matter, in a way the client can easily understand.
  12. Demonstrates confidence when speaking with the client.
  13. Understands the importance of communicating unpleasant news to the client, as soon as possible.
  14. Understands the importance of establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries in a professional relationship with the client. Client instruction documentation

  1. Demonstrates the ability to respond on a timely basis to client requests for information and honouring commitments to the client.
  2. Demonstrates the ability to document all instructions from the client and advice given to the client.
  3. Demonstrates the ability to adjust the legal strategy in response to any changes in the client’s needs and objectives. Cross-cultural communication

  1. Demonstrates awareness of communication difficulties attributable to cultural differences and their potential effect on a client’s dealings with lawyers, the police, courts, government and legal agencies.
  2. Demonstrates the ability to identify and appropriately deals with verbal and non-verbal aspects of cross-cultural communication.
  3. Demonstrates effective listening skills. Diversity and discrimination: Laws and bias

  1. Understands and actively observes and upholds the law on equality, diversity and discrimination.
  2. Demonstrates non-discriminatory behaviour in dealings with other lawyers, staff, clients and members of the public and is alert for unconscious bias.
  3. Demonstrates the ability to deal with people fairly and inclusively and shows respect to others.
  4. Ability to identify situations where there is a risk of breach of the law on equality and diversity.
  5. Understands the importance of promoting diversity in the workplace and where appropriate challenges others if their behaviour does not comply with the spirit of the law relating to equality, diversity and discrimination.


2.4 Self-Management – Remain resilient and self-aware through the challenges of the profession, understanding the value of balance and empathy for yourself and others.

  1. Displays an understanding of the nature of emotional intelligence (as outlined in b-f below) and its importance in the practice of law.
  2. Self-awareness: Recognizes how ones own emotions, moods and drives impact others, and can receive and learn from criticism from peers and clients.
  3. Self-regulation: Demonstrates the ability to exercise restraint by controlling emotions and anticipating consequences prior to acting. Demonstrates the ability to remain calm and exhibit control in difficult situations.
  4. Motivation: Demonstrates resilience and remains optimistic when encountering disappointment or setbacks. Uses emotions to achieve goals and strengths to continually learn.
  5. Empathy: Demonstrates understanding and compassion towards others. Ability to sense the emotions of others and respond to clients and others in light of this understanding.
  6. Social Skills: Builds rapport and able to work well with others.
  7. Asks for and makes effective use of feedback, guidance, advice and support.

  1. Recognizes the importance of maintaining balance between professional obligations and personal life.
  2. Awareness of resources available to lawyers in order to maintain that balance (e.g., Lawyers’ Assistance Program).
  3. Implements a plan to achieve work and personal life balance.
  4. Demonstrates the ability to identify and seeks help or treatment for personal problems that might interfere with the lawyer’s ability to serve clients.