Minutes of recent task force meetings confirmed plans to propose a boot camp, but no MCLE. Specific questions about the proposal were referred to Superior Court Judge Elliot Solomon, the task force chair. He was unavailable for comment last week.
Last year, the Rules Committee tabled the latest of several proposals for MCLE brought by the Connecticut Bar Association. The decision to delay action was based on concerns by opponents that the cost of MCLE would be too onerous for young lawyers and those in small firms.
At the recommendation of the committee, Chief Justice Chase Rogers created the task force to study the feasibility of bringing MCLE to the state. The task force is comprised of 10 lawyers from various practice groups and experience levels. Solomon and Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis represent the bench.
Back in October, the task force found itself deeply divided. Solomon requested reports from those who supported and opposed MCLE. Representing those in favor was Deputy Chief State's Attorney John Russotto. His idea was to make MCLE more user-friendly by using an honor system of self-reporting. Under Russotto's proposal, no one would check to see if a lawyer had actually completed professional courses unlees a grievance complaint on another matter was filed against them.
On the other side, MCLE opponents on the task force cotinued to cite financial concerns, as CLE classes can cost up to $900 apiece. They also could find no studies showing that MCLE has improved the quality of the bar in other states.
After much discussion, the task force members compromised on the basic skills course for new lawyers and an annual "professional day" for all.
According to meeting minutes, the basic skills course would be offered to an estimated 700 new attorneys each year. Staff would have to be hired to design the curriculum and run the program. An online version of the course would also be developed. Estimates are that it would take at least a year to get the whole program running.
According to the task force recommendation for "professional day," breakout sessions would be held during which lawyers would discuss "hot topics" of interest to practitioners of civil, criminal, family and probate law. The groups would then meet to discuss major court rulings and practice book revisions for the year. Normal court operations would be suspended for the day, while the conferences would be held.
One detail that has not yet been determined is exactly who will administer the programs and how much they would cost to the Judicial Branch or bar groups. "It's not clear to me as to who will pay for this," Hawkins said. He referred to the professional day and basic skills course, as "MCLE light."
"I'm personally not changing my position," Hawkins said. "My position is advocating for Connecticut to follow the lead of 46 other states and have a requirement that all lawyers, with very few exceptions, be able to show that they have taken advanced training over a three-year period."