New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 09/10/08
CONTACT:Barbara S. Straczynski
Director of Communications
732-937-7524

State Bar Recommends Self-Reporting for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education in New Jersey

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-The New Jersey State Bar Association submitted comments today on the draft report of the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Continuing Legal Education highlighting its chief recommendation that New Jersey should follow the successful self-reporting and self-monitoring model used by New York State for attorneys in connection with compliance.

“If MCLE is implemented here, the NJSBA would like to see a system that is fair, flexible, reasonable and time and money conscious. The overriding concern with the Supreme Court Committee’s proposal was that it would establish a costly MCLE program that would ultimately be borne by New Jersey attorneys,” said NJSBA President Peggy Sheahan Knee. “Our committee felt that a centralized database to track MCLE compliance could prove costly to establish and maintain, and that the Court should at least start with a self-reporting system.”

Under the New York model, attorneys submit a certification within a designated time period indicating they have completed the requisite numbers of credit hours. Random audits are then conducted to ensure compliance.

“If the random audits show further monitoring is necessary, then consideration can be give to a more detailed tracking system,” said Ms. Knee.

“The NJSBA would like to thank the Supreme Court Committee for allowing the Bar Association to play a role in this process that will affect all New Jersey lawyers,” she said.

Other recommendations included that credit for teaching be awarded on a 3:1 basis rather than the Supreme Court Committee recommendation of 2:1. It was also recommended that two ethics credits be required rather than four to permit better opportunities for integration of ethics into substantive programs.

The NJSBA also urged credit be awarded for service on District Ethics and Fee Arbitration Committees, participation in Inns of Court as well as participation and preparation for mock trial or moot court. Pro bono activity could be encouraged in conjunction with meeting educational goals noted the NJSBA, by providing free CLE credits for the training courses offered by pro bono providers only if attendees subsequently handle a pro bono case for the provider.

The NJSBA provided comments regarding the regulation of Approved Service Providers and Individual Course Providers and faculty implementation. It also recommended that Skills and Methods be replaced with “101 Series Programs” for newly admitted attorneys.

The NJSBA comments were based upon recommendations of its MCLE Review Committee. The committee members contacted the Pennsylvania and New York CLE programs regarding their experience. They reviewed prior comments submitted to the Supreme Court Committee by the NJSBA, and a previous report on the current Skills and Methods Program. In addition, many committee members are licensed in either Pennsylvania or New York and so drew upon their own experiences. The executive director of the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education was also interviewed as part of the process.

President Knee appointed an MCLE Review Committee in June 2008 consisting of NJSBA Trustee John R. DeBartolo as chair and including E. Michael Angulo, Craig M. Aronow, Robert J. Brass, Donna duBeth Gardiner, Bonnie Blume Goldsamt, Rosemary S. Gousman, Glenn A. Henkel, Nancy J. Johnson, Shanna McCann, Thomas Hoff Prol and Mary Ellen Tully as members. The committee submitted its recommendations at the Sept. 5 board of trustees meeting where it received the approval of the board.

“The Board is extremely pleased with the time and effort put into this process, and the results developed by the members of our MCLE Review Committee,” said Ms. Knee. “Mandatory continuing legal education will be a reality in New Jersey, and the work of our committee to study the requirements, applications, service providers and compliance put forth in the Supreme Court Committee’s Report, and then to complete this extensive report for our Board, will help to ensure that the attorneys of New Jersey are better served with the most efficient and cost-effective MCLE program possible.”

Click Here for the complete comments.

Click Here for a summary of the comments.

The New Jersey State Bar Association incorporated in 1899 is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming and improving the legal system, to encouraging participation in voluntary pro bono activities and to aiding in the administration of justice. Visit the Association’s website at www.njsba.com.

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