General Guidelines for all Professional Responsibility CLE

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, or diversity and inclusion.

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 705(a)(4).

Other requirements of Rule 795(a) applicable for all Illinois CLE courses also apply: written materials, physical setting conducive to learning, approved method of delivery, not less than one-half hour, record keeping requirements, and certificate of attendance. See Rule 705(a)(5) through 705(a)(9).

For a PR CLE course to be eligible for accreditation, it must focus on the legal profession and attorneys in particular. A course may convey general information on a topic, but it must establish how that content connects to issues that arise in the legal profession and how attorneys can utilize the information to improve their understanding and develop professionally.

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 Commission 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 professional responsibility 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 professional responsibility topics, such as mental health and substance abuse, 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.

Solicitation

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.