In order to be eligible to practice law in the state, attorneys in Virginia have to complete 12 credit hours of continuing legal education (CLE) each year. But if you’ve recently passed the bar, it can be confusing to know what passes for a CLE credit and what you’ll need to do to file the pertinent information with the Virginia State Bar.
For many, Virginia CLE courses represent an easy way to meet the state’s CLE requirements, though you’ll still have to complete the requisite number of credits in different buckets to meet the state’s guidelines. In fact, of the 12 total hours needed, two credit hours of legal ethics are required, as is a minimum of four credit hours from live programs, or so-called participatory credits. On the other hand, pre-recorded courses are capped at eight hours per compliance year.
Participatory and Self-Study Credits
There are two main categories for Virginia CLE credits, which are commonly known as participatory and self-study credits.
Participatory credits apply when the course, event, or conference are live and interactive, requiring sign-in, attendance, and participation during the course. This doesn’t necessarily mean an in-person event, though many do fit the bill. Instead, it attempts to make a distinction between continuing education that’s done live in a group setting versus self-study where those enrolled are commonly viewing materials on their own time with no live interaction or discussion.
Compared to participatory credits that require attendees to be present at a certain time (online) or place (in person), self-study refers to CLE credits that are mainly comprised of pre-recorded materials that are reviewed individually. In the state of Virginia, up to two-thirds of the total CLE credit hours per year (8) can be earned via pre-recorded courses, with the remaining four earmarked for live, interactive courses.
In general, any course that is in-person or online where attendees have an opportunity to interact with the instructor is considered a “live” course. All other types of courses are considered self-study or on-demand. To ensure that the course you are taking is a live or participatory course, it can help to consult your course provider. Most courses that qualify for Virginia CLE credit will be clearly indicated on the course materials, but if you don’t see anything, just ask.
Types of CLE Courses
The Virginia CLE requirements stipulate that all attorneys complete 12 credit hours of instruction during the calendar year where no more than eight are of the pre-recorded variety.
Pre-recorded CLE courses are typically live presentations that have been recorded and prepared for viewing individually. This includes on-demand CLE courses, as well as videotapes, DVDs, CD-ROMs, audiotapes, and pre-recorded webcasts and seminars.
Live CLE courses are characterized by live, simultaneous interaction between instructors and students and include in-person courses and live, interactive webcasts, and other online broadcasts where everyone is present at the same time and interaction is encouraged.
The Importance of Filing and Deadlines
The CLE filing deadline for all attorneys in the state of Virginia is October 31. By that time, all active lawyers will need to have completed the required 12 hours of Virginia CLE, with at least two of those hours going towards ethics/professionalism and four hours for live, interactive programs.
But not only can you lose the ability to practice law if you neglect to take continuing education courses if you don’t file at all you could owe hundreds of dollars in non-compliance and late fees. Missing the October 31 deadline for filing comes with a $100 fee, but if you still haven’t filed by December 15, that’s another $100, as is the February 1 deadline, which tacks on another $100 late filing fee.
Keep in mind that CLE is separate from your state dues, which are due on July 31 each year.
For newly admitted attorneys, Virginia CLE filing requirements carry over into the following year, meaning that if you become licensed before October 31 of the current year, your first filing period starts on November 1 and carries over until October 31 of the following year. Once your filing year begins, you’ll then be responsible for the 12 total CLE credit hours with two hours in ethics, four hours live and the remainder in whatever you’d like, which often falls into self-study or on-demand content.
That said, if you want to complete your hours with extra live or participatory credits beyond the mandated minimum, you can certainly do so.
Another requirement for new attorneys in the state of Virginia is that they must take the Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Course provided by the bar within 12 months of becoming a lawyer. It’s not exactly a Virginia CLE requirement, but you’ll earn CLE credit, which can be applied to your year’s requirement, sometimes via a carryover since if your reporting period doesn’t start until after October 31.
Alternative Ways To Earn CLE Credit
Sometimes, an attorney may be engaged in various activities that may help them earn CLE credits without having to register for a course.
For those that are scheduled to speak or teach an accredited CLE program, one CLE credit hour will be awarded for every 60 minutes of presentation or instruction. Additionally, attorneys can earn up to four CLE credit hours for preparation time taken for the course. Attorneys that are attending law classes may also be able to earn additional CLE credits for their enrollment.
If a course is not accredited by the Virginia State Bar, attorneys can apply for CLE course approval using Form 4. You’ll have to share all the details of the course and your participation, as well as giving the board 90 days to make a determination. For this reason, it’s important to file the form well before the October 31 deadline in case it’s not approved and you need to line up another course.
Making Virginia CLE Easy
If you’d like to avoid all the second-guessing and challenges with fulfilling your Virginia CLE requirements, TRTCLE is here for you. We’re a nationally accredited CLE course provider, and we can help you meet your state’s CLE requirements with just a few clicks. Simply browse the courses approved for Virginia, segment by credit type and practice area, and add the courses that you’re interested into your cart. Each course is clearly defined by the number of credits and credit type, which makes it easy to meet your CLE needs.
Get started today by browsing our Virginia CLE courses.