Here’s a pop quiz: How long has Continuing Legal Education been mandatory in North Carolina?
(a) 50 years
(b) 30 years
If you answered (b), congratulations. You are hereby exempt from all CLE requirements for the next 30 years.
Although you might find it surprising to learn that up until 1988 continuing education for North Carolina lawyers was completely voluntary. Once you graduated from law school and passed the bar, you could do as much – or as little – self-study as you wished.
That changed in the mid-1980s, when the State Bar Council began debating a move to mandatory CLE. By that time, a dozen or so other states – including Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia – had already done so.
Mandatory CLE in 1988
The decision was finalized in 1988, when the Council – with a little help from Plato and Francis Bacon (see below) – approved a resolution establishing a Continuing Legal Education program. Here are excerpts from the January 1988 meeting in which the Council explained the rationale for its decision:
“Our society is constantly changing and new rights and procedures are recognized and adopted by the legislature and the courts each year. Word processors and research computers are accelerating the pace of the change…. There are new frontiers in the law, but they are not in the distance. Arbitration, mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution are not on the horizon, but are in our midst. These are relatively new and, perhaps, unfamiliar concepts and procedures for many lawyers.
There would seem to be no debate about the fact that continued training and education is critical to the successful and competent practice of law. The concerns with ethics in the practice, including problems of conflicts of interest, require continued diligence and thought by lawyers. The increased work by the Grievance Committee of The North Carolina State Bar and the Disciplinary Hearing Commission further evidence the need to continue to school lawyers in the area of professional responsibility.
Other professions have not been reluctant to require continuing education of their members. School teachers , doctors and accountants are just several of the professions that require some form of continuing education in order to maintain certification or good standing. What is the purpose and result of education? Plato said: ‘If you ask what is the good of education, the answer is easy. . . that education makes good men, and that good men act nobly because they are good.’ Bacon declared that men should enter upon learning in order ‘to give a true account of their gift of reason, the benefit and use of men.’
The legal profession can no longer maintain the fiction that lawyers know and forever will know all of the law after they have passed the bar examination. Lawyers must keep current.
Two hundred years ago, the United States Constitution guaranteed basic rights to the citizens of this country. Through a rigorous education process involving diligent and long study, lawyers are granted a license, a privilege, which, in effect, makes them the guardians of the rights of our citizens. If lawyers have become too busy in their day-to-day practice to attend programs to refresh and increase their knowledge and understanding of the law and their professional responsibilities, then they have indeed become too busy to properly and competently service their clients’ needs.”
Lawyers Mutual 2018-2019 CLE Schedule
Lawyers Mutual kicks off its 2018-2019 CLE series on October 30 in Asheville. Titled “The Accidental Lawyer – Terms of Engagement,” the seminar features a live, interactive workshop with ReelTime CLE designed to raise awareness of practice risks and sharpen practice skills.
The three-hour program runs from 9 AM to 12:30 PM and has been approved for two hours of ethics/professionalism credit and one hour of substance abuse/mental health awareness credit.
Future programs will be held in Greensboro, Clemmons, Concord, Raleigh, New Bern, Greenville and Wrightsville Beach.