What You Need to Know About the New Illinois CLE Requirement

cle requirementFor the past decade, the Illinois Supreme Court has encouraged attorneys to take diversity CLE courses and mental health and substance abuse CLE courses and activities to fulfill part of their professional responsibility requirement. Over that decade, the percentages of those courses offered and taken in Illinois has remained practically unchanged.

At the same time, the Court has recognized that the profession’s challenges in the diversity arena, and in the mental health and substance abuse arena, remain daunting. To attempt to reverse the trend, the Court adopted the recommendation of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism that Illinois attorneys take one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE during each two-year reporting period.

This adoption comes in light of national efforts, particularly by the American Bar Association, to encourage all states to require their lawyers to take courses in diversity and mental health and substance abuse.

Further background information is available in the Supreme Court’s press release and the Commission’s recommendation letter to the Court. What follows is some additional information for both attorneys and providers:

FAQs for Attorneys

1. What is the new diversity/inclusion and mental health/substance abuse CLE requirement?

Under the Amended Supreme Court Rule 794(d), Illinois attorneys will be required to take one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE as part of their six-hour professional responsibility requirement.  The amended Rule describes the substantive areas in slightly different language than used in current 794(d) and the new language will be referred to in these FAQs as “diversity/inclusion” and “mental health/substance abuse.”

2. What is the rationale for this new requirement?

In Supreme Court Rule 794(d), the Supreme Court requires Illinois lawyers to take six hours of professional responsibility CLE, which includes, as two of five optional areas, the topical issues of both diversity and mental illness and substance abuse. Data collected by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism shows that few attorneys take courses focused on either of those two areas. The new requirement will use education as a tool to encourage attorneys to seek more information and engagement on diversity and mental health and substance abuse issues. Please see the Commission on Professionalism’s recommendation letter to the Court for further discussion.

3. When does the new requirement go into effect?

The Rule’s effective date is July 1, 2017 and begins with the two-year reporting period ending June 30, 2019. No courses offered or activities taken prior to July 1, 2017 will be eligible for the new diversity/inclusion and mental health/substance abuse CLE requirement.

4. Who will administer the new requirement?

The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism will continue to administer the entire professional responsibility requirement.

5. Do newly-admitted attorneys have to fulfill this requirement?

No, this new requirement will not apply to newly-admitted attorneys. New attorneys will continue to have to complete their newly-admitted attorney requirement. Please see this MCLE Board FAQ for additional information on the newly-admitted attorney requirement.

6. Does completing the Supreme Court’s lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program meet the diversity and mental health and substance abuse CLE requirement?

Yes. Under Amended Rule 794(d)(2), completing the Court’s mentoring program as a mentor or mentee will fulfill the new CLE requirement. Attorneys can find out more information about the mentoring program on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s website.

7. What courses will qualify for diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit?

The provider offering the course will identify the course as offered to fulfill the diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit, in the same way that courses are currently identified for professional responsibility CLE credit. The Commission on Professionalism will continue to review and approve the content of such courses as fulfilling the professional responsibility CLE requirement. The Commission on Professionalism’s Professional Responsibility Education Guide explains that courses geared to promoting diversity, inclusion, and increased mental health and preventing substance abuse are approved by the Commission (and will continue to be approved) for professional responsibility CLE credit.  Our website will be revised to reflect the slightly different language used in the new Rule to describe these two substantive areas of professional responsibility CLE.   A revised version of this Guide will be promulgated by July 1, 2017 to offer more detailed guidance on courses that will be approved to fulfill the new diversity/inclusion and mental health/substance abuse requirement.

8. Do out-of-state courses qualify for diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit?

Yes. Under Rule 795(c)(5), attorneys can receive Illinois CLE credit for CLE courses taken outside of Illinois as long as the provider did not seek Illinois credit for the program. Attorneys seeking credit for a professional responsibility course must first complete an MCLE Board application. Once they receive approval from the Board, they must then complete a professional responsibility out-of-state CLE application with the Commission on Professionalism and request diversity and inclusion or mental health and substance abuse CLE credit. The new application forms will be available by July 1, 2017.

9. Do non-traditional courses qualify for diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit

Yes. Under Rule 795(d), attorneys can receive CLE credit by attending or participating in certain “non-traditional” courses or activities. To request diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit, attorneys must complete a professional responsibility non-traditional CLE application and request such CLE credit. The new application forms will be available by July 1, 2017.

10. How can attorneys locate courses offered for diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit?

Attorneys can locate courses through their customary providers, including the Lawyers Assistance Program and the Commission on Professionalism, or use the MCLE Board Course Search to search for courses that offer diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit. The search ability will be available by July 1, 2017.

11. Are there any free online diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE courses?

The Lawyers’ Assistance Program offers several one-hour mental health/substance abuse online courses. The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism will offer a one-hour diversity and inclusion online course in summer 2017.

FAQs for Providers

1. What is the new diversity/inclusion and mental health/and substance abuse CLE requirement?

Under the Amended Supreme Court Rule 794(d), Illinois attorneys will be required to take one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE as part of their six-hour professional responsibility requirement. The amended Rule describes the substantive areas in slightly different language than used in current 794(d), and the new language will be referred to in these FAQs as “diversity/inclusion” and “mental health/substance abuse.”

2. What is the rationale for this new requirement?

In Supreme Court Rule 794(d), the Supreme Court requires Illinois lawyers to take six hours of professional responsibility CLE, which includes, as two of five optional areas, the topical issues of both diversity and mental illness and substance abuse. Data collected by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism shows that few attorneys take courses focused on either of those two areas. The new requirement will use education as a tool to encourage attorneys to seek more information and engagement on diversity and mental health and substance abuse issues. Please see the Commission on Professionalism’s Recommendation to the Court for further discussion.

 3. When does the new requirement go into effect?

The Rule’s effective date is July 1, 2017 and begins with the two-year reporting period ending June 30, 2019. No courses offered or activities taken prior to July 1, 2017 will be eligible for the new diversity/inclusion and mental health/substance abuse CLE requirement.

4. Who will administer the new requirement?

The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism will continue to administer the entire professional responsibility requirement.

5. What courses will qualify for diversity/inclusion and mental health/substance abuse CLE credit?

The Commission on Professionalism will continue to review and approve the content of such courses as fulfilling the professional responsibility CLE requirement. The Commission on Professionalism’s Professional Responsibility Education Guide explains that courses geared to promoting diversity, inclusion, and increased mental health and preventing substance abuse are approved by the Commission (and will continue to be approved) for professional responsibility CLE credit.  Our website will be revised to reflect the slightly different language used in the new Rule to describe these two substantive areas of professional responsibility CLE.   A revised version of this Guide will be promulgated by July 1, 2017 to offer more detailed guidance on courses that will be approved to fulfill the new diversity/inclusion and mental health/substance abuse requirement.

6. How can a provider identify a course for diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit?

Providers will continue to use the same MCLE PCAM Professional Responsibility application that they have used in the past. Providers will select one of five professional responsibility areas for each professional responsibility segment of the program. The new system will be in place by July 1, 2017.

7. Do providers have to offer certificates of attendance and teaching stating that a course offered diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit?

Yes. Providers can offer certificates of attendance and teaching that state that the attorney earned a specified number of professional responsibility credit hours, including a specified number of diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit hours. Sample certificates will be available by July 1, 2017.

8. Can providers advertise a course as offering diversity/inclusion or mental health/substance abuse CLE credit?

Yes, providers can advertise in the same way they currently do for professional responsibility CLE credit.

If you have any further questions about the new requirement, please contact the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism at (312) 363-6210 or email Lindsay Shaw.

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2Civility is the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s communication channel. “2” because we are fostering transformation. “Civility” because it’s the moral code that binds us together as a society, and as the legal profession, encouraging a productive exchange of perspectives and rejecting disrespect for individuals or classes of people. We advance the highest standards of conduct among lawyers to better serve clients and society.
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