Attention all lawyers and legal professionals! Are you feeling overwhelmed by the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements? If so, fear not! We’re here to simplify things for you with our FAQs about CLEs.
Get ready to stay ahead of the game as we dive into the ins and outs of eligibility, CLE programs, compliance periods, and more. Say goodbye to confusion and hello to complete knowledge on credit hours.
Let’s get started!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means we make a small commission when a purchase is made after clicking through a link. This comes at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
What Counts as CLE Credit Hours?
Typically, lawyers have several options to earn the required hours of CLE for their state, such as:
- Live Events, Live Webcasts, and Live Webinars
- Online Courses or On-Demand Courses
- In-house Programs
- Out-of-State or Distance Learning
As long as your state or jurisdiction approves the method to complete your CLE requirements, you can add the hours to your reporting year. Of course, it’s important to check with your state to see if the program you want to sign up for will be counted toward the mandatory CLEs you’re required to earn to keep your license to practice law.
What’s the Reporting Period?
There’s no uniform nationwide requirement for US lawyers, so the reporting period varies depending on your jurisdiction.
For instance, New York CLE requirements say the reporting deadlines are 30 days after the lawyer’s birthday, and the compliance deadline is the lawyer’s birthday. On the other hand, North Carolina State Bar’s annual compliance deadline is every December 31st, while the yearly reporting deadline is every February 28th.
Are CLE Courses Taken Outside of the State Still Counted?
The answer to this question also depends on state regulations. Some states may allow CLE reciprocity with neighboring states, while others have a list of approved courses and accredited providers. Of course, it’s important to always check your state’s rules for CLE compliance to make sure your hours count towards your requirements.
Additionally, an attorney licensed to practice in a state who’s geographically working in another state may still need to comply with each state’s requirements. In short, there are different rules regarding the allowed MCLE program that you can add to your compliance report depending on your state.
As an example, new lawyers admitted in Delaware must complete the Fundamentals requirements, which is only provided by the Delaware State Bar Association. Other Fundamental courses taken in other states won’t be counted for attorneys in Delaware.
So, if you plan to take an out-of-state or international CLE, make sure your state permits it.
Luckily, Destination CLEs offers live CLE programs in gorgeous places around the world and they take the guesswork out of state regulations! Each trip they offer clearly outlines which states have already approved their courses for MCLE accreditation, including their upcoming trips to St. Croix, Dublin, Alaska, and Santa Fe.
When you book an Eduvacation℠ getaway with Destination CLEs, you’ll get to take an incredible vacation while developing yourself professionally. We specialize in curating vacation packages for lawyers who want to complete their required CLE hours while spending time with their families, friends, or colleagues.
If you have any questions about which CLE Eduvacation℠ conferences qualify for your state, get in touch with us today.
What are the CLE Rules for Inactive Lawyers?
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), attorneys who are retired or have inactive status may be exempt from taking MCLE courses. However, it’s crucial to check if you need to apply for a request for an inactive status from your State Bar before deciding to not complete your MCLE credits.
Conversely, lawyers may need to request a status change from their practicing state to become active attorneys from inactive status. Also, there are some cases where only licensed attorneys who voluntarily changed their status from “Active” to “Inactive” may switch back to “Active Status.” It’s also important to note that those who have had their license suspended may need to be reinstated altogether.
Moreover, lawyers who are unable to fulfill their MCLE requirements in time may be tagged as inactive.
What CLE Activities Count as Self-Study?
ABA defines self-study as activities that include the following:
- Informal Learning: gaining expertise by interacting with other attorneys and discussing legal developments.
- Non-Moderated Programming Without Interactivity: watching CLE programs that have been recorded but lack built-in interactivity.
- Text: reading or learning material such as journals, periodicals, blogs, newsletters, casebooks, statutes, and textbooks, among others.
- Sponsor: the person in charge of ensuring that the CLE Program complies with the standards for program content set by the jurisdiction’s MCLE laws and regulations. A sponsor could be a business, bar association, CLE provider, law office, corporate CLE legal department, or government legal department.
- Technology Programming: program that offers services tailored to lawyers training on how to use technology in the legal profession safely and efficiently, including managing a law office and legal department, conducting research, and ensuring cybersecurity.
Again, it’s essential to check with your state bar on how they define “self-study,” as there are some instances where “self-study” activities may not qualify as MCLE credits in your state.
Related: 35+ Best Books for Lawyers
How Many Hours Are Allowed for Self-study Courses?
Not surprisingly, the answer to this question varies from state to state, as some allow self-study courses while others do not.
For instance, Texas mandates 15 hours of CLE annually with a requirement of three hours in legal ethics, of which one hour can be self-study. Out of the total 15 hours, only five hours can be self-study and they must be through approved courses.
Always check with your state’s regulations for specific information on self-study hours.
How Long Is the Grace Period for CLE Requirements?
Again, this answer varies depending on your state.
According to the State Bar Association of North Dakota, lawyers may be granted a grace period or extension if they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances that prevented them from attending seminars throughout the reporting period.
Exceptional circumstances are based on “undue hardship” or “extenuating circumstances,” which includes situations like prolonged sickness, health and safety concerns, and others.
Are Excess CLE Hours Carried Over to the Next Reporting Period?
Of course, it depends on the state. For example, the California State Bar doesn’t allow it, but states like Wyoming and Vermont do.
It’s crucial to check your state’s regulations to find out the maximum number of credits that can be carried over to the next reporting period. Always keep yourself informed and compliant with MCLE requirements in order to protect the license you’ve already worked so hard to earn and maintain.
What’s the MCLE Requirement for New Lawyers?
Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules when it comes to defining a “newly-admitted” lawyer for MCLE requirements. Generally, the first year after being admitted to the bar is considered the period where they don’t need to complete MCLE hours, though some states may extend it up to two or three years.
As a new lawyer, it’s essential to complete the basic course materials required by your state.
Keep in mind that some jurisdictions may exempt attorneys already admitted in another state from meeting the standards set for newly admitted lawyers. Again, it’s important to stay informed so you can stay ahead of the game.
What Other Activities Earn MCLE Credit?
Other than participating in CLE programs, speaking at or even developing an approved course can also bring you credit hours in some states. Additionally, serving as a moderator or panel member at conferences or events can also boost your compliance, depending on the state. Even teaching or attending a law school class in states like California can be counted as participatory credit.
Also, don’t forget to keep your credit hours from going to waste by requesting a Certificate of Attendance after each activity.
And last but certainly not least, we recommend using a day planner like this one on Amazon to help you stay on track to reach your CLE goals.
We hope you found these answers helpful and we also hope they’ve started to quell some of the CLE-related anxiety you may have been feeling.
Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education and Comments from American Bar Association
CLE Frequently Asked Questions from State Bar Association of North Dakota
- Earn Your CLE Credits Abroad with Destination CLEs!
- 35+ Best Books for Lawyers
- The Best Continuing Legal Education for Lawyers