Becoming a business or corporate law attorney is no small feat. But after years of undergrad and an additional few years of law school as you study and prepare for passing your state bar, assuming that you’re done with your legal education could be a mistake. After all, almost all states require continuing legal education — also known as CLE — to retain your ability to practice law.
Historically, CLE credits were earned via in-person classes and conferences that satisfy the CLE requirements in each state under which they were held. Unfortunately, this also presents a significant burden to attorneys that may be responsible for as many as a dozen credit hours in a given year, all while staying on top of their business or corporate law practice or a position in a larger law firm.
The good news is that there’s some flexibility in how you can earn CLE credits. Today, CLE credits can be earned via teleconference, remote learning and pre-recorded materials and coursework that can be done from the convenience of home or the office. Some CLE credits can even be earned via asynchronously study, meaning that it may not be necessary to be present at a certain time to receive valid CLE credits online.
The Impact of COVID-19 on CLE
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more states are allowing CLE credits to be earned online, either in part or in whole, even if they were only offered via in-person instruction traditionally. That can be ideal for business and corporate law attorneys that may find it difficult to get away during a busy year of casework and other legal obligations.
If your state hasn’t lifted the lid on earning continuing legal education credits online — at least in part, if not wholly — it may still be the case that certain legal CLE requirements have changed in your state due to COVID-19, potentially giving you more time or providing helpful resources in an effort to satisfy your CLE needs.
How CLE Credits Differ by State
Just like how the case law and bar requirements differ by state, CLE credits are also considered on a state by state basis.
For example, in California, attorneys are required to complete 25 CLE credit hours every three years, whereas four hours must be in legal ethics, one hour in competence issues and one hour in recognition and elimination of bias in the legal profession and society. Up to half of the CLE credits earned — 12.5 hours — can be self-study or via pre-recorded materials; the rest must be in online or in-person courses with live instruction and a question and answer session.
In Texas, practicing and newly admitted attorneys must complete 15 hours of CLE credits per year with three of those hours in legal ethics. Online options are available, and up to three hours can be under self-study. Additionally, attorneys must complete their CLE credits on the last day of the month preceding their birth month and report their CLE by the last day of their birth month.
In Florida, attorneys are required to complete 33 CLE credit hours every three years, or about 11 hours each year. Four of the hours must be in legal ethics, bias elimination, substance abuse or mental illness awareness programming. Furthermore, one hour in professionalism and three hours in technology are also required.
In New York, 24 CLE credit hours are required every two years, though four hours must be in ethics and professionalism and one hour of diversity, inclusion and elimination of bias. Specific requirements vary depending on if you’re a newly admitted attorney or if you’re an experienced attorney. Unfortunately, New York is one of the states where self-study is not an acceptable form of CLE without permission from the CLE Board, meaning that only coursework or guided instruction is accepted. Compliance deadlines are by the attorney’s birthdate with reporting deadlines of 30 days after an attorney’s birthdate.
In Pennsylvania, attorneys are required to complete 12 CLE credit hours each year, including two hours of substance abuse programming or legal ethics. Up to six hours of remote or online study is allowed, which is also the limit for self-study. That said, during the coronavirus pandemic, the state of Pennsylvania is waiving the six-hour limit on remote or online CLE credits.
In Illinois, 30 hours of CLE credits must be completed every two years, of which four hours must be in professional responsibility, one hour in diversity and inclusion and one hour in mental health and substance abuse. Self-study and online study is permitted, and the compliance deadline is June 30 with a reporting deadline of July 31.
In Ohio, a lawyer must complete 24 CLE credit hours every two years with 2.5 hours of the total in the professional conduct field of study. Up to half of the hours — 12 — can be completed online, which is also the self-study hour limit. Both the compliance and reporting deadlines are December 31. Note that during the coronavirus pandemic, Ohio attorneys are allowed to complete all their CLE credits via approved self-study courses.
In Georgia, attorneys are required to complete 12 CLE credit hours each year with one hour of legal ethics and one hour of professionalism. Six of those 12 hours can be completed under self-study or online, though during the COVID-19 pandemic there is no cap on remote or online CLE programs.
In North Carolina, lawyers must complete 12 hours of CLE each year, which also includes two hours of legal ethics and one hour of technology. Furthermore, attorneys must also complete one hour of substance abuse programming every three years. Note that no self-study is allowed in the state of North Carolina, though the cap of six hours of online study has been lifted due to COVID-19.
However, if you’re an attorney in Michigan — or the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts or South Dakota — you’re in luck! Those states and territories don’t require continuing legal education at all, though you are still encouraged to keep up on CLE and other educational opportunities to stay abreast of changes in your field.
Stay Up to Date With TRTCLE
Here at TRTCLE, we make meeting your CLE credit requirements easy. Simply lookup your state, pick a credit type and practice area and we’ll show you all the qualifying CLE credits that you can earn without having to make the trek in person. Better yet, our convenient bundles allow you to package all your CLE requirements into one convenient offering, making it a cinch to meet the requirements of your state and preferred fields of study. Get your CLE credits online today!