MCLE and Illinois’s New Requirements
MCLE stands for minimum continuing legal education. Most states requirement CLE so that attorneys maintain an up-to- date knowledge of the law. Typically, states require attorneys to take thirty credit hours every two years. Newly admitted attorneys must complete a total of 15 MCLE hours. The hours include 6 hours of basic skills course, which must be completed prior to being sworn into the bar and 9 hours of general or professional responsibility, which must be completed within 1 year after being sworn into the bar.
Newly Admitted Attorney MCLE Requirements
Every newly admitted attorney is required to complete 15-hour MCLE within their first year or so of admission to the Illinois bar.
An attorney can meet the requirement by attending:
- Basic Skills Course of 6 hours or more and an additional 9 hours of MCLE course of your choice
- A year-long Mentoring Program for 6 credit hours and an additional 9 hours of MCLE course of your choice
- A Basic Skills Course of 6 hours or more and participate in a year-long Mentoring Program for 6 credit hours and attend at lease 3 additional MCLE courses of your choice.
After the initial basic skills, attorneys in Illinois will have continuing legal education requirements. For every two-year reporting period, they must complete 30 total hours, including at least six hours of professional responsibility (PR).
For MCLE requirements, fees and deadlines, visit: https://www.mcleboard.org/files/AttorneyMCLERequirement.aspx?MenuType=Attorney&subMenuType=mclerequirement
However, new requirements have been added in Illinois for all attorneys.
New Illinois CLE Requirements
llinois Supreme Court had noticed that attorney’s face challenges in diversity, mental health and substance abuse. Although the Supreme Court have always encouraged attorneys to take the diversity CLE courses along with mental health and substance abuse courts, they never required the classes. Therefore, the percentage of those courses taken in Illinois has remained unchanged over the decade. So, the Supreme Court took actions to change that.
The Illinois Supreme Court has implemented a requirement of taking
- one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE and
- one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE
during the two-year reporting period as part of the 6 hours professional responsibility requirements.
The new requirements will not apply to the newly-admitted attorneys.
The rule change will go into effect on July 1, 2017 and begins with attorneys with the two-years reporting period ending June 30, 2019 according to the Illinois supreme court.
Why the Rule Changes?
The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism recommended the changes to the MCLE rules to the court.
Traditionally, there were 5 prongs to the professional responsibility requirement ethics which included:
- substance abuse/mental illness
After 10 years of observation, the courts perceived that the area of substance abuse and mental illness was far behind, compared to the other courses. The courses of ethics and professionalism, on the other hand, were continuously rising. Therefore, they wanted attorneys to focus on this growing concern in the legal community.
An increase in diversity and multiculturalism in the legal profession has occurred, but they felt the legal profession does not promote or retain its women and people of color the same as they come into the profession. The court decided that the legal profession should reflect the diversity of the people it seeks to govern. Therefore, the rule change will provide education to the lawyers, so they can serve the people and improve diversity in the legal profession.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Concerns
A 2016 research indicated a rising incident of self-reported alcohol abuse, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders in legal professionals. Anxiety manifesting early in law school rather than the legal profession, but continued to stay an issue as attorneys began their practice. The court decided to educate lawyers about managing stress in the legal profession and how to avoid it.
Additionally, lawyers would avoid taking courses in mental illness and substance abuse due to stigma. The court felt that if they created a requirement, the lawyers can take the courses without the fear of stigmatization.
Overall, the new rule for MCLE will benefit practicing attorneys. Not only would it help attorneys cope with personal issues such as anxiety disorders and substance abuse but it would also raise awareness of diversity and aid attorneys in how to deal with multicultural clients.