Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.
Illinois is one of the states coming late to the Continuing Legal Education requirement, Part C. MINIMUM CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION of the Supreme Court Rules having been adopted Sept. 29, 2005, with a couple of amendments since then.
But now all of us who are Illinois licensed attorneys have to fulfill this requirement. The purpose of the Rule is for attorneys to: “remain current regarding the requisite knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill the professional responsibilities and obligations of their respective practices and thereby improve the standards of the profession in general.” You can find the entire rule at: http://www.state.il.us/court/SupremeCourt/Rules/Art_VII/ArtVII.htm#c
The deadline for completion of CLE classes, for the group that I fall into is July 1. Many of us are somewhat frantically trying to find appropriate courses and planning how to meet the deadline. I am required to take classes to fulfill the minimum requirement of 24 hours of CLE activity, as most of you are also. Four of the hours have to be on Professional Responsibility. Some are offered at reduced cost, but as we all know the majority require a significant expense. Some of the free courses have the additional requirement that you join (and pay several hundred dollars in dues, of course) one of the professional lawyers’ associations.
I have tried, over the past three years, to accumulate the hours I needed prior to this last minute rush, but in my defense, moving between states and having a busy personal and professional life, it has been difficult to take the necessary classes early on in the current licensing period. I now find myself somewhat short of the needed hours, at what feels like the 11th hour. This is a dilemma that many in our profession face due to time constraints and financial considerations.
Many of us help one another with tips on free or low cost courses that we can work into our daily lives that will still permit us to meet the CLE requirement. So, as always, as professionals who are completely inured to the necessity of meeting dates, mostly for serious court matters, we will meet the deadline.
But I don’t feel good about meeting this deadline. I would like to see a rule that requires you to take CLE courses that will truly help you in whatever area of law you practice and truly help you to remain current by improving your knowledge and skills in that area. I know that is what the rule says, but ultimately, it can be a scramble to just meet the requirements and the courses you take are not necessarily the best ones for your practice. And no one, as far as I know, is monitoring that the “right” courses are taken. And, being lawyers, we could probably argue our way into being allowed to take Indonesian basket weaving as having something to do with improving our skills in our practice.
The current system places the emphasis on the individual attorney to select courses that will best add to a skill set for their chosen specialty. If we are not able to do so, collectively, MCLE may make the requirements even more stringent in the future, probably not a bad thing. Whatever… I know that to do the above would require a much more complex structure and would make it even more difficult for us to conform with CLEs, but I think it would make us all better lawyers, which ultimately is the goal for all of us.
You can find information on the CLE system at http://www.mcleboard.org/rules.htm