A task force that was asked to examine whether Connecticut should adopt mandatory continuing legal education has decided the time is not right for MCLE.
The Rules Committee Task Force to Study Minimum Continuing Legal Education is expected to make a formal presentation to the full Rules Committee next week. According to state bar leaders and Judicial Branch records, task force members expressed concerns about the financial impact of an extensive MCLE program on the state's attorneys and the lack of empirical evidence indicating there is a higher quality of lawyering in states with mandatory programs.
Instead, Connecticut's task force is instead proposing a slow ease into MCLE, starting with a one-day "boot camp" course for new lawyers only. That means Connecticut will likely remain one of four states without mandatory, or minimum as it is now often called, continuing legal education.
Rhode Island recently created an MCLE program and Massachusetts is on the brink of enacting one there.
The task force proposal is a far cry from one that had been endorsed the Connecticut Bar Association. Under that concept, all lawyers would be required to annually certify in writing that they had taken 36 hours of CLE during the past three years. Some 21 of those hours would be self-study, and the remainder would involve more formal classes and seminars.
CBA President Barry Hawkins is not a member of the task force, but has been kept apprised of its progress. He said the task force proposal to not support a full MCLE program at this time was "likely to be adopted" by the Superior Court Rules Committee. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 26.
"It's my understanding that the task force is advocating for a mini-boot camp for newly admitted lawyers," Hawkins said. "And there would be an [annual] voluntary professional day in each of the courthouses, with the theme of the day devoted to professional development and increasing one's ethical awareness."
Hawkins and other CBA leaders repeated their view that it's time for Connecticut to join the rest of the country by requiring lawyers to keep up-to-date on standardized professional training. They say there is overwhelming support in CBA ranks for MCLE. But other attorneys beg to differ, noting that some regional bar associations have taken a stand against MCLE and many individual attorneys strongly oppose it.
As for the boot camp, "I'm not going to say it's a bad idea, but it doesn't sound like [the boot camp] is going to be up and running any time soon," said Brad Gallant, the immediate past president of the CBA an MCLE supporter. "And of course, it doesn't address the idea of lawyers developing their skills to meet the changing needs of their clients."
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