The Ohio Supreme Court has adopted continuing legal education (CLE) changes that will double the number of online credit hours attorneys could earn; allow attorneys to earn a portion of their CLE hours by engaging in approved pro bono activities; and eliminate the requirement to file final reporting transcripts. The changes will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
According to Attorney Services Director Susan Christoff
, the changes to Gov. Bar R. X resulted from a year-long study by the Commission on Continuing Legal Education and incorporated feedback from a survey of the state’s judges and active attorneys about what changes they would like made to CLE requirements.
Under the rule changes, the self-study credit hours an attorney could earn each biennial period will increase from six to 12 hours.
As for pro bono credit, attorneys could receive one hour of CLE credit for every 6 hours of pro bono service up to a maximum of six credit hours for service performed during a biennial compliance period. To be eligible for such credit, the attorney’s pro bono service must be verified by a bar association or other organization recognized by the commission as providing pro bono programs and services in Ohio.
Attorneys still will be required to earn 24 hours every two years and be subject to monetary sanction and suspension for failing to meet the minimum hour requirement. However, attorneys no longer will be required to file a final reporting transcript.
Other CLE changes include the following.
- Awarding credit for presentations that occur concurrent with the consumption of a meal.
- Lowering the range of recommended sanction fines for noncompliant attorneys for hour deficiencies with the upper limit reduced from $500 to $300.
- “Unbundling” attorney “professional conduct” instruction (i.e. instruction on ethics, professionalism, and substance abuse) to allow attorneys more flexibility in choosing courses that most closely meet their professional and practice needs. Courses on mental health issues and access to justice and fairness in the courts also would quality for “professional conduct” credit.
- Moving up by almost a month the time deadline in which attorneys would need to cure their hour deficiencies.
As for judges, they will be required to obtain three hours of “judicial conduct” instruction through courses offered by the Ohio Judicial College. Judicial conduct includes instruction on judicial ethics, professionalism, access to justice and fairness in the courts, and/or alcoholism, substance abuse, or mental health issues. Judges will no longer be required to take two separate hours of instruction on access to justice and fairness in the courts but may include such instruction toward their three-hour judicial conduct requirement.