Posted: August 23, 2017
Rules Governing the State Bar – Comment Period Closed October 7, 2017
USB14-0409 Self-study categories of accredited MCLE defined. Proposed changes to the rule allow up to six (6) hours of self-study CLE credit during a compliance period for lawyers who lecture on legal topics in community outreach programs and for lawyers who serve on constitutionally or statutorily created public policy making bodies.
USB14-0413 MCLE credit for qualified audio and visual presentations, webcasts, computer interactive telephonic programs, writing, lecturing’ teaching, public service, pro bono service, live attendance. Proposed changes to the rule state the hours and types of credit that are allowed for lawyers who lecture on legal topics in community outreach programs and for lawyers who serve on constitutionally or statutorily created public policy making bodies.
USB14-0418 MCLE Credit for Pro Bono Legal Services. Proposed new rule that allows lawyers to earn up to six (6) hours of self-study CLE credits during a compliance period for providing pro bono legal services in a case referred by a court or for an approved legal services organization as defined in Rule 14-803.
I provide pro bono advice and counseling and answering general legal question at a senior center each month. I serve there at the pleasure of the Bar. Would my time there qualify for Rule USB14-418 credits?
Would serving as a judge pro tem in small claims court count as pro bono service qualifying for MCLE credit? I serve as a judge pro tem, and I think small claims courts would attract more and higher qualified pro tem candidates if MCLE credit is possible. I know my experience serving in this capacity a few hours per month has taught me more than most CLE seminars. I think offering MCLE credit for pro tem judges would, over time, increase the quality of the experience for all in small claims courts accross the state. Currently there is no incentive to attract pro tem candidates.
Regarding this rule, I would hope that other valuable pro bono service that is coordinated by the Bar or the Utah Supreme Court be also included under this rule revision. In particular, appointment and service as a judge pro tempore should be included on a similar basis–five hours of service equals one hour CLE. That would be reasonable.
As much as I like the idea of expanding ways by which CLE credit can be obtained and providing incentive to lawyers to provide pro bono services, I do not see a rational, intellectually honest way to give lawyers CLE credit for pro bono service without also giving them credit for the services they provide for remuneration.
Unless the Bar intends to conflate the practice of law with the study of law, proposed rule USB 14-418 may be well-intentioned, but is patently wrong-headed. Giving CLE credit for practicing law in the service of the poor makes no more sense than giving CLE credit for practicing law in the service of anyone else. Giving CLE credit to lawyers who provide pro bono service does not necessarily encourage attorneys to continue their legal education (e.g., if a lawyer focuses his practice on evicting tenants, the lawyer could simply offer his loyal paying clients free services and thus get CLE credit. This would game the CLE system AND encourage clients to extort free legal services from their lawyers, thus decreasing an honest, hard-working lawyer’s profitability. This proposed rule is a bad idea.
I also serve as a pro tem judge and would request that the rule be expanded to include this service for CLE credits. As a pro tem judge I often find myself required to learn more than I do at some more traditional CLE courses.
Providing CLE credit for Pro Bono service seems a little misplaced. Though pro bono work may require services outside one’s normal course of experience, attorneys regularly learn new subjects and familiarize themselves with changes in the law. Such professional development is not acknowledged as CLE. Additionally, not all pro bono work is assigned through the courts or an approved legal services organization. Therefore, practitioners who provide pro bono services in a variety of other circumstances are excluded from receiving credit for providing similar services. Though it is unlikely that individuals will undertake pro bono work merely to obtain CLE credit, at some level the rule may encourage less voluntary pro bono service as it would be more advantageous to have the service assigned or approved rather than undertaken voluntarily. Over time, it seems the rule change would become less about professional development and more about encouraging/rewarding pro bono service.
Credit should be available for teaching law to non-lawyers. For instance, I teach a boundary law class at Utah Valley University. The students are usually majors in geomatics (land surveying). Preparing for and lecturing for the class requires the same effort as if the audience was primarily lawyers.