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Illinois Supreme Court Amends Rule on Minimum Continuing Legal Education Requirement

On April 3, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court announced changes to a rule impacting the requirements for continuing legal education (CLE) in Illinois. The rule change will go into effect on July 1, 2017, and begins with attorneys with the two-year reporting period ending June 30, 2019.

Pursuant to Amended Supreme Court Rule 794(d), Illinois lawyers will be required to complete one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE as part of the Professional Responsibility CLE requirement. 

Studies show that the legal field falls short in the areas of diversity and wellness as compared to other fields. Promoting education on these issues helps address two of the profession's greatest challenges, and positions Illinois as one of the first states to require such programming. Illinois is one of seven states that allows diversity and inclusion to qualify for ethics/professionalism credit. With the amendment of Rule 794(d), it became the fourth state to require diversity-related CLE, and it is one of only three states that will require mental health and substance abuse education. As a result, Illinois is one of only two states that requires both diversity and inclusion and mental health and substance abuse education for continuing legal education. 

“The Court’s experience has shown that lawyers have not been seeking out or cannot find continuing legal education programs that might offer meaningful help in addressing their own substance abuse and mental health issues or those of their colleagues," said Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier. "We have also noted that as Illinois and the Illinois bar have become more diverse, there has been a marked lag in interest in educational programs addressed to facilitating diversity and inclusion generally and in the legal profession specifically."

The hope is that this amendment will foster a healthier profession that is better able to understand and address the needs of an increasingly multicultural society.

The total number of hours required to fulfill the professional responsibility requirement will remain at six, and the total number of CLE credits required in each two-year reporting period will remain at 30. Lawyers may alternatively continue to fulfill the required six hours of Professional Responsibility CLE by completing the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentoring Program as set forth in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 795(d)(11).

The language of the Amended Rule 794(d) and all of the Supreme Court Rules can be found on the Court’s website at http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/SupremeCourt/Rules/.

Posted on Apr 04, 2017 by Sara Anderson | Comments (4)
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Perhaps I am making this more complicated than it is, but.... Since my last name beings with “C,” my deadline is June, 2018 (even-numbered years for lawyers in my letter range). Must I have completed the inclusion / mental health for that deadline, or for the deadlines thereafter moving forward? This is more of a statement, and not a question. It appears that the mental health / inclusion is considered *part of* the required 6 hours of professionalism & civility. See 794(d)(2)(i) and (ii) – it’s not in addition to it. So of the 6 hours for professionalism & civility, 2 hours of that must be at least 1 hour, each, of these new subject areas. Thank you.
Until now, I have been exempt from reporting MCLE credit as an out-of-state lawyer practicing primarily in a state jurisdiction that requires comparable MCLE credit to Illinois MCLE requirements under Rule 791(a)(6) . I am certain that Indiana does not have MCLE requirements comparable to these new Illinois requirements, so must I now obtain MCLE credit under Rule 794(d)(2), notwithstanding my exemption from all other MCLE credit requirements?
The MCLE Board answered my question today as follows: Dear Mr. Hawkins, Supreme Court Rule 791(a)(6) requires only that the other state have "comparable" CLE requirements. Even though Indiana does not have the exact same requirements as detailed under the newly revised Rule 794(d)(2), we continue to consider Indiana's CLE requirements "comparable" for purposes of an exemption from your Illinois MCLE requirements under Rule 791(a)(6). Many other states which we consider to have comparable requirements for purposes of Rule 791(a)(6) similarly do not have the exact same requirements as Illinois. Given that we continue to consider Indiana's CLE requirement comparable for purposes of an exemption under Rule 791(a)(6), you will not have to obtain any additional credits in order to satisfy the new requirements under Rule 794(d)(2). Please remember that you will still need to report your exemption under Rule 791(a)(6) at the end of each reporting period, Your reporting periods end June 30 of even numbered years and your report for that reporting period must be received through the Board's online reporting system no later than July 31st of that even numbered year. Please feel free to let me know if you have any follow-up questions after you review the answer above. Best, Christina Pusemp, J.D., Manager - Attorney Compliance and Outreach MCLE Board of the Supreme Court of Illinois (312) 924-2420 This response is based on current MCLE Rules and requirements. The Supreme Court of Illinois or the Board may make changes so please visit our website for updates. This information is not legal advice.
Let us call this for what it really is: political indoctrination masking as "professional" legal education. Our Supreme Court goes a little too far in imposing these requirements. "Diversity" and "inclusion" are just new words supporting an old practice - affirmative action. It is a sad commentary when our High Court throws the goal of competence aside to curry favor with all manner of politically favored minority groups . Do our Supremes really think that by force feeding this ideology we will become "enlightened" and storm the barricades demanding more "diversity" in our profession? The one hour requirement for alcohol and substance abuse is just as insulting. I remember sitting through such a session when the MCLE requirement first came out. It was a waste of time and will be an even bigger waste of time now that it has to be taken every two year period. If we have a problem with people who are incapable of controlling their urges for alcohol, cocaine, pot, and other substances, the remedy is to remove them from practice when it is demonstrated that a client's interests have been compromised - not to inflict an endless series of lectures on the availability of the Lawyer's Assistance Program. Those who do not lower themselves to this level of conduct should not be forced to sit through such lectures. Finally, who stands to make the financial gain from these now mandatory presentations? Is the Illinois Supreme Court going to require that these hours be offered free...or are increased annual registration costs going to subsidize the handful of providers of these topics? The Illinois Supreme Court insults every member of the practicing bar with the clandestine and arbitrary manner in which these new requirements are imposed. A pig is a pig no matter how much lipstick you put on it. These requirements are nothing but a naked party line imposed in a manner that would warm the heart of any old bolshevik.

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