September 12, 2016David P. Atkins
As you know, effective January 1, 2017, every active Connecticut licensed attorney will be required to complete at least 12 credit hours of continuing legal education each year. Of the 12 hours, at least two of the hours must be devoted to the topic of "ethics/professionalism." The new mandatory CLE provisions are set forth in Connecticut Practice Book Sec. 2-27A ("Minimum Continuing Legal Education"). The text of the rule can be found at the following link: http://www.jud.ct.gov/Publications/PracticeBook/pblj_7802_071216.pdf.
A Connecticut attorney may satisfy his or her yearly 12 hour MCLE obligation by attending a variety of different types of course programs in a variety of settings, including programs presented remotely though webcasts or webinars.
Unlike the MCLE requirements in other states, the new Connecticut rule does not limit qualified CLE providers solely to those whose programs have specifically been approved or accredited in advance by the bar regulators. To the contrary, the rule's authors provide the following sponsors of CLE programs will qualify: (1) any court (in Connecticut or in any other U.S. jurisdiction); (2) "any local, state or special interest bar association [ ] recognized in this state" or in another U.S. jurisdiction; (3) "any organization whose program or course has been... approved by any bar association or organization" (in the state or out) in the business of reviewing CLE courses; (4) legal education providers (either non-profit or for-profit); (5) law schools; and - perhaps most conveniently - (6) "any... legal employer."
The rule contemplates that each covered attorney will keep track of yearly CLE attendance and credit hours and keep records of same of for seven years. The attorney will be required to certify on each yearly (January) online registration form filed with the Statewide Grievance Committee that in the last calendar year he or she has met the minimum credit 12 hour requirement.
The rule's administrators have indicated that a program or programs in "ethics/professionalism" that exceed the yearly two hour minimum, will nonetheless count toward the total yearly 12 hour aggregate minimum.
Connecticut law firms may want to consider one format to assist their attorneys to fulfill the yearly CLE obligation: sponsoring in-firm programs that qualify as a bona fide CLE event. To qualify, a program must: "(A) ...have significant intellectual or practical content designed to increase or maintain the attorney's professional competence and skills... "; (B) constitute an organized program of learning [on]... matters directly related to legal subjects and the legal profession; and (C) be conducted by an individual or group qualified by practical or academic experience."
For over 15 years bar associations and other special interest attorney groups, professional liability insurance companies, law schools and law firms have asked us to speak on topics relating to professional responsibility and law office management, including law firm risk management, attorney discipline, trust account (IOLTA) requirements, and the Rules of Professional Conduct. Additionally, CNA Insurance Company's Professional Liability claims managers regularly engage David to speak to CNA insured law firms on loss prevention topics.
Please contact either of us to help you or your firm design and present a MCLE qualified program for your attorneys.
David P. Atkins is a member of Pullman & Comley's Litigation Department and leads its Professional Liability Section. He practices in the areas of professional liability, commercial litigation, appeals and administrative proceedings.
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