Maintaining Competence: The Education Must Continue

maintaining competence

As the legal profession continues to evolve, lawyers are tasked with staying ahead of the curve. According to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers must adhere to a certain standard of competence. This requires the knowledge, skills, and necessary preparation to properly represent clients.

At the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, we work to ensure legal professionals are informed of major changes in the practice of law, on a national and statewide basis. Through our recurring 2Civility Blog and News blurbs and our in-person and online CLE programming, we assist lawyers in maintaining this standard of competence.

This July, Illinois lawyers saw major changes that will greatly impact their practices. More than 70 Illinois Supreme Court Rules were amended to comply with the statewide e-filing initiative. In addition to this, the state’s Professional Responsibility CLE requirements now require Illinois lawyers to take one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE during each two-year reporting period. Will competency-based CLE be next?

This obligation to remain abreast of the changes and advancements in the law, however, doesn’t begin once you receive your license. It starts the moment you enter law school to begin your journey to the legal profession.

In 2014, the American Bar Association changed the accreditation standards for law schools requiring accredited programs to develop and assess learning outcomes that include competency in knowledge of the law, legal analysis, legal research, problem-solving, effective communication, and the exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities.

In Illinois, we find this competency-based education includes issues of legal technology. All nine of its law schools have incorporated technology competence into the curriculum in some form or another. For example, take IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. The school’s Center for Access to Justice & Technology (CAJT) allows students to conduct research, build software, and develop projects geared toward closing the justice gap through the use of technology.

As these and other law schools across the country lay the groundwork, preparing future lawyers for the profession, the education must continue. In fact, it must never end, as competency is not just a goal, it is a commitment.

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