Can a course be accredited for topics other than law and lawyering skills?
Supreme Court Rule(s) cited in this FAQ: Rule 795
Yes, the Board regularly approves courses that focus on topics other than black letter law or lawyering skills, such as technology, medical, accounting, tax, sexual harassment prevention training, law practice management, business development, marketing, and social media. As with all CLE courses, however, these expanded CLE courses must:
(a) have significant intellectual, educational, or practical content,
(b) their primary objective must be to increase each participant’s professional competence as an attorney, and
(c) they must deal primarily with matters related to the practice of law.
Rule 795(a)(1) and (2).
The Board interprets these requirements broadly. Knowledge and skill topics not traditionally defined as black letter law or lawyering skills often directly increase an attorney’s professional competence as a lawyer. For example, learning how to recruit, supervise, and mentor nonlawyer staff can improve the overall quality of a lawyer’s representation of clients. Learning how to avoid ransomware intrusions into a corporate law office’s computer network helps the lawyer maintain client confidences. Learning how groundwater contamination leads to a personal injury helps a lawyer represent homeowners near a landfill who believe nearby pollution caused their illnesses. The common focus of these expanded CLE courses is that their overall primary objective is to increase the attorney participant’s professional competence as an attorney.
Likewise, expanded CLE topics must deal primarily with matters related to the practice of law. When faculty presents the course topic in a way that relates to attorneys, their practice, or the legal profession in general, this satisfies Rule 795(a)(2). For example, a course on recruiting, supervising, and mentoring employees can be related to the legal profession through scenarios or other factual examples featuring issues and concerns unique to the legal profession. These scenarios and examples might include legal assistants, paralegals, summer associates, or other staff typically hired by law firms, government offices, corporate legal departments or other legal employers. A course about ransomware should relate the danger to a law firm’s representation of clients, not only to business-related topics such as the financial cost to the law firm. If the speaker could deliver the course’s content to any audience, it generally does not qualify for CLE credit.
As with all CLE courses, the written materials for an expanded CLE course must show how the presenter relates the topic to the attorney, the practice of law, or the legal profession in general.
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