Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : January 2011

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When Maryland attorneys receive their annual mailing from the Court of Appeals later this month, along with their annual pro bono reporting and IOLTA reporting forms, they get a bonus. The Court, in conjunction with MSBA, is conducting an electronic CLE survey to measure the current level of voluntary CLE activity engaged in by Maryland lawyers. Every attorney in the state is requested to go to www.msba.org/mclesurvey and complete this brief online survey. This will be the information the Court uses to gauge the necessity of the proposed MCLE Rule currently under consideration by the Court of Appeals.

With MSBA's assistance, the Court is conducting this survey to ascertain how Maryland lawyers now engage in CLE. MSBA recommended the CLE survey as a viable alternative to the Court's proposed MCLE Rule, which proposes 10 hours of required continuing legal education per year for every attorney licensed in the state. On behalf of its members, MSBA wants to document the current level of attorneys' CLE activity and determine their preferred CLE sources.

MSBA urges all lawyers to participate in this electronic survey at www.msba.org/mclesurvey and believes its findings will demonstrate the quantity of Maryland lawyers' CLE activity and underscore their commitment to enhancing their professional competence through CLE. Survey results are vital in documenting lawyers' voluntary CLE compliance in the state, so the response of all Maryland lawyers is essential. Ultimately, the results of the survey may negate the need for a MCLE requirement.

The CLE survey was proposed by MSBA President Thomas D. Murphy in his installation speech last June, during MSBA's Annual Meeting. Murphy proposed a CLE survey to measure "the number of CLE hours that Maryland lawyers have taken and the CLE-type activities that they have engaged in." Using the data from this CLE tool, Murphy stated, "We can learn whether lawyers are maintaining their competency, and perhaps we can connect the dots between our Professionalism course and the drop in the imposition of discipline on Maryland lawyers with the bridge of continuing legal education."

When MSBA conducted an MCLE membership poll in the fall of 2009, findings disclosed 70 percent of MSBA's members opposed MCLE. Echoing the views of more than two-thirds of its members, MSBA's Board of Governors subsequently voted last December to oppose the proposed MCLE measure. However, another clear message resonated from this membership survey – a vast majority of MSBA members strongly support and participate in CLE.

The survey notice is being mailed with the annual attorney pro bono reporting form and the annual IOLTA reporting form, so all Maryland attorneys, regardless of whether they are MSBA members, will receive this important notice. "We hope that publicizing this survey and its importance, will lead to a large participation from lawyers in Maryland," emphasizes Murphy. "I strongly encourage each of you to participate in this brief CLE survey at www.msba.org/mclesurvey to enable us to accurately measure the current volume of CLE of Maryland lawyers."

In Maryland, all attorneys are required to file an annual pro bono report, which must be submitted to the Court of Appeals by February 15, 2011. The form documents the number of hours of pro bono service the attorney rendered in the previous year. In this manner, the Court has tracked attorney pro bono volunteerism in Maryland since 2002, publishing the results in the Current Status of Pro Bono Service Among Maryland Lawyers Report. The latest Report indicates Maryland lawyers donated close to 2 million volunteer hours in pro bono service in 2008 and contributed over $3.2 million in financial support.

Additionally, all Maryland-admitted attorneys are required to report their IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts) compliance with the Court by February 15, 2011. All lawyers in private practice in the state are required to place all eligible client trust funds into IOLTA accounts. In 2002, the Court of Appeals adopted Rule 16-608 to strengthen uniform compliance with the mandatory IOLTA program enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 1989.

Accompanying these two important Court reporting documents is the CLE survey – www.msba.org/mclesurvey. Attorneys may electronically execute this electronic document in a few minutes. The results of this survey will show attorneys' voluntary CLE activities and will be weighed against the Court's proposed MCLE rule.

Proposed MCLE Rule

Now the Court of Appeals is considering an MCLE proposal hailing from the Court's Professionalism Commission headed by the Honorable Lynne A. Battaglia. As proposed, the MCLE rule mandates10 hours of continuing legal education for every Maryland attorney every year, with two of those 10 hours devoted to professionalism. It also establishes accreditation and reporting standards, carves out exemptions and creates a Commission on Mandatory Continuing Legal Education to implement, regulate and oversee MCLE in Maryland.

Every attorney would be required to complete an affidavit and attest, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has complied with the MCLE requirement unless he or she is exempt. Any Maryland attorney failing to complete the MCLE requirement would have his or her right to practice law suspended by the Court of Appeals of Maryland. The proposed Rule calls for the Commission to be funded by an assessment paid by all practicing Maryland attorneys and accreditation fees paid by CLE providers.

The Court's oversight Commission will accredit all CLE providers, approve all courses for MCLE credit (with 50 minutes constituting one hour) and assess all professionalism courses. A carry-over clause will allow attorneys completing more than 10 hours of MCLE in one year to carry up to eight hours forward into the next MCLE requirement year, although it does not apply to the two professionalism hours.

Exemptions are spelled out in the proposed rule: all judges, attorneys on active duty military service and attorneys holding an elected public office, certifying via affidavit they do not practice law. Attorneys unable to complete Maryland's MCLE requirement due to disability or undue hardship would be able to apply for an extension or waiver of the MCLE requirement. The entire package of proposed Rules may be found at http://mdcourts.gov/professionalism/pdfs/proposedrules-mcle.pdf.

"MSBA appreciates that the Court of Appeals has listened to our request to find out how Maryland lawyers participate in continuing their professional competence," concludes Murphy. "It reflects well on our bench-bar relationship."

All Maryland lawyers are encouraged to go to www.msba.org/mclesurvey and complete the CLE survey NOW.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: January 2011

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