A proposed MCLE Rule requiring 10 hours of continuing legal education per year for every attorney practicing law in Maryland is currently before the Court of Appeals of Maryland. As proposed, this mandate requires two of the 10 MCLE hours to be devoted to professionalism, establishes accreditation and reporting standards, carves out exemptions and creates a Commission on Mandatory Continuing Legal Education to implement, regulate and oversee MCLE in Maryland.
If the Court approves this measure, all Maryland attorneys could be self-reporting their 10 hours of MCLE to the Commission starting January 1, 2011, and this would become an annual occurrence. Any attorney who fails to complete the MCLE requirement would have his or her right to practice law suspended by the Court of Appeals of Maryland. The proposed Rule calls for the Commission to be funded by an assessment paid by all practicing Maryland attorneys and accreditation fees paid by CLE providers.
As proposed, the oversight Commission will accredit all CLE providers, approve all courses for MCLE credit (with 50 minutes constituting one hour) and assess all professionalism courses. A carry-over clause will allow attorneys completing more than 10 hours of MCLE in one year to carry up to eight hours forward into the next MCLE requirement year, although it does not apply to the two professionalism hours. Every attorney will be required to complete an affidavit and attest, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has complied with the MCLE requirement unless he or she is exempt.
MSBA's 27 Sections, the Association's CLE Department is delivering cost-effective, high-quality live and electronic CLE programs, plus MSBA/MICPEL books and publications, to Maryland lawyers.
Essentially, all judges, attorneys on active duty military service and attorneys holding an elected public office, certifying via affidavit they do not practice law, would be exempt from the proposed MCLE Rule. Attorneys unable to complete Maryland's MCLE requirement due to disability or undue hardship would be able to apply for an extension or waiver of the MCLE requirement. The entire package of proposed Rules may be found at http://mdcourts.gov/professionalism/pdfs/proposedrules-mcle.pdf.
This proposed MCLE Rule hails from the Court's Professionalism Commission, led by the Honorable Lynne A. Battaglia, and awaits a hearing before the Court of Appeals. Battaglia, concerned about declining legal professionalism across the state, believes there is a connection between education and professionalism. Thus, "as legal professionalism decreases, legal education should increase," she states, "and it will increase through MCLE. Attorneys are not availing themselves of CLE opportunities in Maryland and no one is devoting any time to learning about professionalism."
For insight into the "Court's value judgment on professionalism," Battaglia refers attorneys to the new Ideals of Professionalism adopted by the Court of Appeals on March 8, 2010 (http://mdcourts.gov/professionalism/pdfs/ideals.pdf).
MSBA Opposes MCLE Proposal
MSBA opposes this measure. When MSBA polled its members on MCLE last fall, 70 percent opposed MCLE; 30 percent favored it. But, results of the survey did show that a vast majority of MSBA members strongly support CLE and actively participate in CLE activities. On November 17, echoing the views of two-thirds of its members, MSBA's Board of Governors voted to oppose the proposed MCLE requirement.
Last October, MSBA sent out an electronic member survey to garner member views on mandatory CLE. Of the 4,312 members responding, 70 percent clearly opposed a mandated CLE rule. One member expressed the sentiment of many, stating "I highly support CLE but do not believe it should be mandatory." But the most significant message resonating from this member tool was Maryland attorneys' support for CLE.
According to the responses, attorneys find CLE to be an effective way to sharpen their legal expertise, keep up-to-date on emerging new laws, polish their practical business skills and learn about new trends in ethics and conflicts of interest. They also consider CLE a valuable way to keep abreast of constant changes in their substantive legal fields, benefiting their daily practice of law.
MSBA's CLE Department
To facilitate members' continuing legal education needs and generally foster attorney CLE in the state sans MICPEL, MSBA launched a new CLE service in March. This new MSBA CLE entity has been offering targeted electronic and live CLE programs and an extensive catalog of MSBA/MICPEL publications to MSBA members for the last four months. Working with MSBA's 27 Sections, the Association's CLE Department is delivering cost-effective, high-quality live and electronic CLE programs, plus MSBA/MICPEL books and publications, to Maryland lawyers.
MSBA's CLE service is carrying forward the tradition of MICPEL's strong substantive law programs and valued books and publications. Under the leadership of CLE Program Attorney Andrea Terry and Publications Manager Joanne Daniels, this MSBA entity is actively presenting live and electronic CLE programs and updating its extensive catalog of MSBA/MICPEL books and publications. The Association will soon unveil its CLE website link, one dedicated to publications and one to programming, giving members online access for all of their CLE needs.
MSBA members interested in the list of upcoming MSBA CLE events should refer to page 13 of the Bar Bulletin every month and check out the listings at www.msba.org and contact Andrea Terry (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details. For a complete list of MSBA/MICPEL publications, check out page 13 of the Bulletin and the website and contact Joanne Daniels at email@example.com.