The following guidelines apply to providers who wish to apply for professional responsibility (PR) CLE credit in the areas of professionalism, civility, ethics, mental health and substance abuse (MH&SA), or diversity and inclusion (D&I).
Important Rules to Consider
All courses requesting PR CLE credit must comply with the general CLE course requirements of Rule 795(a). These requirements include:
- The course or activity must have significant intellectual, educational, or practical content, and its primary objective must be to increase each participant’s professional competence as an attorney. [Rule 795(a)(1)]
- The course or activity must deal primarily with matters related to the practice of law. [Rule 795(a)(2)]
- The course must be offered by a provider having substantial, recent experience in offering CLE or demonstrated ability to organize and effectively present CLE. “Demonstrated ability” arises partly from the extent to which individuals with legal training or educational experience are involved in the planning, instruction, and supervision of the activity. [Rule 795(a)(3)]
- The course must be conducted by an individual or group qualified by practical or academic experience. [Rule 795(a)(4)]
For a CLE course to be eligible for PR CLE accreditation, it must:
- Address one of the PR CLE areas (professionalism, civility, legal ethics, D&I, or MH&SA) identified in Rule 794(d)(1)
- Focus on how the content impacts the legal profession and those interacting with it; this can include but is not limited to lawyers, paralegals, clients, judges, and court employees
- Meet the requirements governing written materials, physical setting conducive to learning, approved method of delivery, record keeping, and certificate of attendance, and be not less than one-half hour (See Rule 795(a)(5) through 795(a)(9) for details)
Additional guidance can be found in the MCLE Board Provider FAQs.
“Knowledge and skill topics not traditionally defined as black letter law or lawyering skills often directly increase an attorney’s professional competence as a lawyer.
The common focus of these expanded CLE courses is that their overall primary objective is to increase the attorney participant’s professional competence as an attorney.
Likewise, expanded CLE topics must deal primarily with matters related to the practice of law. When faculty presents the course topic in a way that relates to attorneys, their practice, or the legal profession in general, this satisfies Rule 795(a)(2).”
Examples of additional topics that may qualify for PR CLE under the rules:
- How firms can audit their recruitment processes in order to better attract employees from diverse communities
- PTSD – managing clients with trauma
- Promoting a culture of professionalism in the workplace – developing everyone in your firm
- Pipeline programs – how legal professionals can support the next generation
- How can access to justice issues be addressed in rural communities?
- From mailroom to boardroom – creating nontraditional pathways for staff
Developing a Course
Providers looking to offer approved PR CLE courses should, where possible, consult with an appropriate expert in the topic during the course design process. Experts can provide perspective on the efficacy and validity of any content or research cited, recommendations offered, or practice steps outlined.
It is recommended that providers use instructional design methodology or a specialist in instructional design when developing the course structure and resources. The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism recognizes the learning outcomes of participants can be significantly improved by applying good course design to topic content.
It is strongly encouraged that providers use the required “high quality, readable, and carefully prepared written materials” as an opportunity to include additional resources, articles, and takeaways. A simple facsimile of the presentation slides with a timed agenda is minimum for course materials, and not considered a best practice for effective CLE, especially in recorded technology CLE with little or no opportunity for interaction.
Facilitators and Speakers
The Commission on Professionalism recognizes that PR topics can be sensitive areas for discussion.
We consider it essential that facilitators and speakers manage the topic and the audience with empathy and understanding, while also providing educated expertise on what may be complex conversations.
In addition, speakers and facilitators should be prepared to address difficult questions with appropriate terminology and recommendations that address the unique demands of the legal profession and be able to facilitate discussion thoughtfully, considering the perspectives and life experiences of all participants.
For some of the PR topics, such as MH&SA, this may best be achieved by having a co-presenting team.
The facilitator should have first-hand knowledge of a range of resources and organizations that provide support to members of the legal profession. If the facilitator cannot answer a question, he or she should offer to follow up privately with the participant(s) in a timely manner, if appropriate.
While it is not required that a lawyer be part of the faculty, it is strongly recommended that someone with experience in the legal profession is available to answer questions on the topic as it pertains to legal professionals.
Experts in PR CLE topic areas who advise or participate in CLEs may have a financial or business interest in related products or services. Soliciting business from CLE participants, whether directly or implied, is not permitted. Courses submitted for CLE approval that have evidence of solicitation will be denied credit.
The delivery of PR CLE is entirely for the benefit of the participants and cannot be used as an opportunity for solicitation by the facilitator or other interested parties.