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State Bar Calls for Fair and Flexible Requirements in the Event of the Adoption of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education in NJ
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ-The NJ State Bar Association (NJSBA) issued its report and made specific recommendations today regarding the possible implementation of mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) in New Jersey while acknowledging that the association has historically officially opposed MCLE. The Association submitted the recommendations in an, “attempt to carefully balance the goal of ensuring that well-informed, updated attorneys are serving the public against the concerns of attorneys that MCLE requirements will be overly burdensome or difficult to meet,” according to the State Bar’s report.
“The NJSBA ad hoc committee on MCLE worked through differing opinions on both sides of the issue, from steadfast opposition to a sense that the program is long overdue,” said NJSBA President Lynn Fontaine Newsome. “The message from the Supreme Court is that the adoption of mandatory continuing legal education is all but inevitable, and so the State Bar is making its recommendations so that MCLE programs in New Jersey, if adopted, will be fair, flexible, reasonable and time and money-conscious.”
The Association’s Committee carefully examined the mandatory continuing legal education programs of other states so that the suggested guidelines would be consistent with those already in place.
The NJSBA recommendations for Implementation of MCLE are summarized as follows:
Number of Credits - 30 credits should be required over a 3-year period, for an average of 10 credits per year.
What Receives Credit – As wide a spectrum of activities that can be related to the practice of law as possible should be accepted as credit-inducing activities, provided that each activity provider meets uniform, objective compliance standards established by the oversight MCLE Board.
What Constitutes Credit – Every 50 minutes of a seminar should be eligible for one credit of MCLE.
Enhanced Credit – Attorneys teaching seminars, participating on panels or moderating programs should receive triple credit the first time the program is presented in recognition of the time spent in preparing the materials, outline and presentations. Thereafter, the presenters, including moderators, should receive 1:1 credit.
Reporting Date – The Court should use an attorney’s birthday as the date from which a year is measured.
Who Needs to Comply – MCLE requirements should be applied uniformly to any individual with an active license to practice law in New Jersey, including judges, law professors, all private and public sector practitioners and all in-house and corporate counsel. The only exclusions should be for (1) newly admitted attorneys subject to the Skills and Methods requirements; (2) attorneys serving in the military out-of-state; and (3) attorneys who are either 70 years old or have been practicing law for 40 years or more cumulatively in any jurisdiction. Hardship waivers should be made available in appropriate situations, but on an ad hoc basis.
Methods of Delivery – As many methods of delivery as possible should be approved and utilized for attorneys to meet their MCLE requirements.
Reciprocity – New Jersey should extend reciprocity to qualified CLE courses taken in other states.
Special Requirements for Attorneys Facing Ethics Violations – MCLE requirements and ethics violation-related requirements should be kept separate.
Course Requirements – The Court should not set particular course requirements, but permit attorneys to choose which courses they would like to take on their own.
Impact on Certification Programs – While some courses may be credited toward both MCLE and meeting one’s certification requirements, the programs should be kept separate, with certification remaining available to those attorneys who wish to distinguish themselves in a particular practice area.
Non-Legal Courses – Certain non-legal courses should be approved for MCLE credit, provided that the courses meet objective criteria established for regular legal courses.
Program Monitoring – A self-monitoring model should be established, as is used in New York, where attorneys are responsible for submitting certifications outlining the courses taken and the credits obtained each year.
Funding – Any costs affiliated with administering the program should be funded first and foremost by uniform fees to providers who wish to offer CLE programs in New Jersey.
Minimum Criteria for Providers – Uniform, objective, minimum criteria should be established that every potential CLE provider must meet before being approved, including: proven ability to maintain adequate attendance verification records for at least five years; proven ability to provide the proposed services; and proven ability to deliver written materials, if appropriate.
Phase-In Providers for First Year of Implementation – As was done successfully in Pennsylvania, for the first year of MCLE implementation, only existing non-profit providers with a history of sustained CLE offerings and an ability to meet the other uniform, minimum criteria specified above should be permitted to offer courses for credit.
Oversight – An Oversight Committee, with NJSBA representation, should be established to oversee implementation and provide guidance for future adjustments to the program.
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 and to aiding in the administration of justice. Visit the Association’s website at www.njsba.com.
- NJSBA -