Last June, the Bar Bulletin reported on a proposed MCLE Rule requiring 10 hours of continuing legal education per year for every attorney practicing law in Maryland that was under consideration by the Court of Appeals of Maryland. As proposed, this measure’s effective date would have been January 1, 2011, although the Court has yet to hold a hearing. Now, the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) is offering a viable alternative which seems to be gaining traction with the Court of Appeals and the Judiciary’s Professionalism Commission, the architect of MCLE. MSBA has suggested that a survey of all Maryland lawyers first be conducted to see how lawyers are now engaging in CLE across the state.
When MSBA conducted a MCLE membership poll last fall, findings disclosed 70 percent of MSBA’s members opposed MCLE. Echoing the views of two-thirds of its members, MSBA’s Board of Governors subsequently voted to oppose the proposed MCLE measure. However, another clear message resonated from this membership survey – a vast majority of MSBA members strongly support and participate in CLE.
To document this support and demonstrate the quantity of CLE engaged in by Maryland lawyers, MSBA is proposing a CLE poll before the Court of Appeals deliberates the MCLE Rule. The survey would assess the current level of CLE activity of all lawyers in the state and gauge their preferred CLE venues. Ultimately, its findings may negate the need for a MCLE requirement.
The recommendation for this survey actually stems from MSBA President Thomas D. Murphy’s installation speech last June. Murphy proposed that a CLE survey be utilized to measure “the number of CLE hours that Maryland lawyers have taken and the CLE-type activities that they have engaged in.”
“In this manner,” he continued in his speech, “we can learn whether lawyers are maintaining their competency, and perhaps we can connect the dots between our Professionalism course and the drop in the imposition of discipline on Maryland lawyers with the bridge of continuing legal education.”
Proposed MCLE Rule
The proposed MCLE rule, hailing from the Court’s Professionalism Commission, mandates 10 hours of continuing legal education for every Maryland attorney every year, with two of those 10 hours devoted to professionalism. It also 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.
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. Any Maryland attorney failing 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.
The Court’s 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.
Exemptions are spelled out in the proposed rule: all judges, attorneys on active duty military service and attorneys holding an elected public office, certifying via affidavit they do not practice law. 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 online at http://mdcourts.gov/professionalism/pdfs/proposedrules-mcle.pdf.