Pennsylvania’s Continuing Legal Education Board announced this week
that it has increased the annual ethics requirement for attorneys and that it will now allow more credits to be earned through so-called distance learning.
The board stated that it made rules and regulations changes in accordance with a recently adopted Supreme Court order.
As part of the changes, lawyers licensed to practice in the commonwealth will now have to undergo two, as opposed to one, credit hours relating to ethics education.
And attorneys may now earn six credits annually through alternate delivery methods, a change from the previous four credits.
The total number of CLE credits annually will remain 12 hours, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, which announced the board’s change.
Both of the changes are the result of what is said to have been considerable research and consideration by the Continuing Legal Education Board.
“These updates to the rules and regulations for CLE in Pennsylvania recognize the changing needs and realities of modern law practice,” CLE Board Chair Kenneth Argentieri said in a statement. “We hope that these changes will help lawyers to better serve their clients and the administration of justice in our Commonwealth.
“Ethics and professionalism is at the heart of what we do,” Argentieri continued. “Since accredited providers of CLE in Pennsylvania continue to do an excellent job of offering ample quality ethics and professionalism training, attorneys should easily be able to meet the new ethics requirement.”
The ethics credit increase represents the first significant modification to continuing legal education since 1996, a time when the total requirement expanded from nine to 12 credits.
As for the other change, the one concerning distance learning, the new provisions will give attorneys the option of completing up to half of their annual requirement through computer-based education.
Argentieri, the CLE board chair, said that the board has, since distance learning became an option in Pennsylvania back in 2003, received feedback from lawyers who have urged increasing the amount of distance learning credits that would apply.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to amend this rule responds to these requests and recognizes evolving comfort levels with the online delivery of professional education,” Argentieri stated.
The CLE board is tasked with administering the rules pertaining to continuing education for lawyers practicing in the commonwealth.
Its responsibility includes monitoring each lawyer’s compliance with the requirements, notifying attorneys of their continuing education status, and accrediting CLE providers and courses, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
The new amendments to the rules and regulations are scheduled to take effect with CLE compliance periods that begin in 2014 and have requirement deadlines in 2015, the AOPC stated.