What Is The CLE?
For those of you who don’t know, most Illinois attorneys have to take thirty hours’ worth of continuing legal education courses every two years to keep their law license active. Six of those thirty hours have to be focused on professional responsibility, i.e., diversity, mental wellness, civility, ethics or professionalism. Illinois divides the reporting requirement into halves of the alphabet, with the first half of the alphabet reporting this year, the second half of the alphabet reporting next year, and so on. If I see an email or caller ID from a person with the last name of Aaron through Myers, I can take an educated guess what they’re calling about.
Unfortunately, given the stressors in the daily lives of attorneys – work, family, finances, among others – many attorneys wait until the end of the reporting cycle to complete their professional responsibility obligations. That means that from mid-May to the end of June, I receive multiple daily phone calls from attorneys, legal secretaries, and providers all trying to cram, report and approve two years’ worth of course credit into six short weeks.
Of course, I don’t mind in the least. The centerpiece of the Commission’s work is performing outreach to and on behalf of attorneys. However in an attempt to make the lives of Naabs through Zolofskys much easier in 2015, here are some ways to get professional responsibility credit of which you may not have been aware:
- Take a professional responsibility course anywhere in Illinois. Illinois does not have an ethics requirement. I repeat, Illinois does not have an ethics requirement. Instead, we have a professional responsibility requirement. That means that to fill your six hours of required professional responsibility, you could take an ethics course, or you could take a course on, say, Outlook Basics for Lawyers (professionalism), Generational Diversity in the Workplace (diversity), Civil Discourse in Litigation (civility) or even the Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s annual volunteer training (mental health). Over 10,000 courses on professional responsibility were offered for credit in Illinois last year. I guarantee you that you will find 6 hours of worthwhile professional responsibility education in several of them. And the MCLE Board makes finding publicly offered courses quite easy.
- Take a professional responsibility course anywhere in the country. If you take a professional responsibility course for credit outside of Illinois, you can get that credit for that course inside Illinois as well. Apply with the MCLE Board, and once you get your approval, apply with us here.
- Join a bar association and get professional responsibility courses included. Several bar associations, including the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association, provide their members with free CLE credit. I had the privilege of serving as co-chair of the Professional Responsibility Committee for the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers’ Division. We presented a different professional responsibility course every month on ethics, diversity, civility and professionalism in a variety of practice areas. Find a bar association whose work and whose membership you want to be involved with, and get your CLE through them.
- Prepare and facilitate a professional responsibility course. Many attorneys tell me that they can’t find any interesting professional responsibility courses. I often respond, “Have you considered teaching your own course?” Not only do you receive credit for presentation time, you also receive credit for preparation time (six times the presentation time). Facilitate an hour-long professional responsibility course and you’ll have all six hours of professional responsibility completed.
- Write a professional responsibility article for publication. Writing an article allows you to express your own opinions in your own voice. It also gives you great marketing material for clients. Write a professional responsibility article and receive up to three hours of CLE credit for your writing when the article is published in a legal journal or other legal source.
- Go back to law school. Take a law school course, teach a law school course, judge a law school moot court, any of the above can qualify you for professional responsibility credit.
- Be a mentor; become a mentee. Six hours, one year, all done. Not to mention, you’ll be doing an immeasurable service to the past, present and future of our Illinois bar. So go ahead. Join the movement.
There are several other ways to obtain professional responsibility CLE credit. I encourage you to browse through our website, and the MCLE Board’s, to learn about them. The deadline cometh, now, next year, and every year after that. Let’s take it on, together.