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The Maryland Judiciary has released a report recommending that Maryland adopt a minimum continuing legal education requirement for Maryland barred attorneys (MCLE).  The recommendations are the product of a workgroup commissioned by the Supreme Court of Maryland in November 2022.  The workgroup, chaired by the Honorable Stuart R. Berger of the Appellate Court of Maryland, consisted of 27 attorneys, judges, and legal academics from diverse backgrounds and locations throughout the state.  Consistent with any significant measures that would impact the profession, the MSBA had the honor of appointing two of the representatives on the workgroup and were asked to consider appointing members from solo and small firm attorneys and diverse geographies.

The recommendations are that Maryland should adopt MCLE to align with the 46 other jurisdictions currently requiring MCLE.  More specifically, the report recommends:  

  • A minimum of 12 CLE hours per year, including one hour in each of the following subjects:  Ethics & Professionalism, Diversity Equity & Inclusion, and Health & Wellness;
  • A reporting period that aligns with the calendar year or aligns with other reporting requirements for Maryland attorneys (e.g pro bono reporting);
  • The ability for attorneys to “carry over” up to 100% of excess CLE from one reporting period to the next;
  • Providing an exemption for attorneys that are registered as “inactive” or are within their first year of admission to the Maryland bar;
  • The accreditation process should be as inclusive and flexible as possible, and align with neighboring MCLE jurisdictions.

With the release of the report, the Supreme Court of Maryland is soliciting feedback on the recommendations through November 10, 2023.    You can find the link to the full report, a summary of its recommendations, and the directions for offering commentary here

MSBA’s EVOLVING ROLE IN MCLE

As the report notes, the MSBA has had a mixed history with MCLE.  In the early 90’s, the MSBA proposed a rule to adopt MCLE in Maryland.  The proposal came at a time when the American Bar Association was strongly advocating for universal adoption of MCLE and nearly 38 states had recently implemented MCLE.  The MSBA’s proposal ultimately failed, and since that time the MSBA has shifted its focus to monitor MCLE developments and convene member feedback on the issue.

With the release of this report, the MSBA is committed to providing regular updates to members on any developments relating to MCLE in Maryland.  To support this effort, the MSBA will develop a dedicated webpage containing the latest information and timely circulate updates via its blog, eWeekly newsletter or social media channels.

In addition, MSBA President, Jason DeLoach, is poised to form a task force that will be charged with gathering member feedback and drafting comments on behalf of the MSBA for submission to the Supreme Court of Maryland during the open comment period.  MSBA will also request the opportunity to provide oral feedback at any live hearings on the issue.  

MSBA IS PREPARED TO SUPPORT ATTORNEYS IN AN MCLE ENVIRONMENT

To the extent that MCLE becomes reality in Maryland, the MSBA is prepared to serve its members and support attorneys through the process.  Since 2018, the MSBA has more than doubled the number of its annual CLE programs with nearly 200 1-hour programs a year, heavily diversified its CLE library to include more practice areas, and improved access to CLE by hosting both virtual and in-person programs.  In addition, the MSBA has a large number of programs that would fulfill the specified subject areas of Ethics & Professionalism, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and Health & Wellness.  Finally, the MSBA is committed to ensuring CLE remains affordable by continuing to include unlimited digital CLE of 90-minutes or less with membership. 

NEXT STEPS

In the coming weeks, the MSBA will publish the microsite for MCLE updates, send further details on the task force, and provide information on how members can submit feedback to the task force.  In addition, the MSBA Board of Governors will discuss the report at its upcoming meeting on September 20, 2023, and any action taken by the Board will be conveyed to membership through the MCLE microsite and through the MSBA eWeekly newsletter.  

In the meantime, and as always, MSBA members are welcome to provide feedback via email to feedback@msba.org.