New CLE Requirement for New Lawyers
July 18, 2014 § 6 Comments
The MSSC yesterday published a new CLE requirement for new lawyers. The change takes effect July 1, 2015.
The change will mean that newly-admitted lawyers will be required to undergo a new-lawyer program to be created and administered by the Commision on Mandatory Legal Education. Currently, lawyers are exempt from CLE requirements in their first year of practice.
This is the new language:
Each attorney newly licensed to practice law in the State of Mississippi, from and after August 1, 2015, shall, by the conclusion of the second CLE year occurring after their date of admission to The Mississippi Bar, attend or complete a new-lawyer program approved by the Commission on Continuing Legal Education, which shall be comprised of a total of twelve (12) actual hours of CLE to include six (6) hours of basic skills training and six (6) hours of ethics/professionalism. Completion of the new-lawyer program shall satisfy the requirement of subsection (a) of this Rule for such newly licensed attorney for both the CLE year of admission and the next succeeding CLE year.
Attorneys newly licensed to practice law in the State of Mississippi, but previously admitted to the practice of law in another state, may be exempted from completing the six (6) hour basic skills training component of the new-lawyer program. To qualify for this exemption, within three (3) months of admission to The Mississippi Bar, the newly licensed attorney must submit an affidavit to the Commission on Continuing Legal Education, providing the date or dates of admission in every other state in which the attorney is admitted to practice and a declaration that the attorney has been actively engaged in the practice of law for five (5) or more years immediately prior to admission in this state. Upon submission of a timely affidavit, the newly licensed attorney shall be required to complete the six (6) hour ethics/professionalism component of the new-lawyer program within nine (9) months, after which time the attorney will be required to comply with the annual CLE requirement prescribed in Rule 3(a). Attorneys eligible for the exemption prescribed herein who fail to timely submit the required affidavit shall be required to complete the new-lawyer program in its entirety.
I give the concept an A+. Especially the ethics and professionalism component. I’ll withhold grading execution until I see the curriculum and the results.
But I hope new lawyers won’t think this few hours of classroom time will season them somehow into competence.
It takes a lot of hard work to develop a person into a lawyer. A law degree and admission to the bar are merely your permission to commence that process. And it takes help; you can only do it imperfectly on your own.
There’s a clear difference between a young lawyer who has had the benefit of mentoring and one who has not. The problem is that there are many young lawyers who never have the benefit of mentoring. Some are merely “thrown into the fire” by lawyers in their law firm because that’s how they themselves learned, or out of indifference, or in the mistaken belief that the youngster learned how to practice law in law school. Some are on their own and never seek out a mentor, and no one ever offers. Some think they know it all and do not need a guiding hand. All of those approaches are misguided and only render the young lawyer’s growth process either far more difficult or even doomed, because practicing law nowadays is far too complicated to figure out without help.
Can a few hours of lecture and a sheaf of forms substitute for wise, gray-haired advice and assistance? I insist not.
If you are a young lawyer feeling your way awkwardly along the foggy, snare-laden landscape of the law, I encourage you to seek out an experienced, ethical lawyer and make arrangements for him or her to give you advice and guidance on how to practice the law you learned about in law school. Offer to carry his or her briefcase to trial to see how it is done. Ask about what it takes to do a title opinion. Seek out that wise counselor to help you resolve ethical and practical questions that come up for which the answers are not immediately obvious to you.
Law school introduces you to how to think like a lawyer (analytical thinking), the basics of the law, and how to find the law. That’s about 10% of what is involved in the practice of law. The other 90% you will have to master through your own efforts and with help.
So I look at this new requirement as a positive step. But not a substitute for the strenuous process of becoming a lawyer.