IL MCLE Update

Illinois Supreme Court issued two orders amending court rules as a part of an ongoing effort to enhance the level of professionalism practiced by Illinois attorneys. The rule changes were recommended by the Commission on Professionalism.

The first rule change, announced on October 1, 2010, amends Illinois Supreme Court Rule 794(d)(1) to raise the professional responsibility CLE credit requirement to six credit-hours beginning with attorney reporting periods ending on June 30 of 2012 or 2013. This amendment does not change the total number of CLE credit-hours required to be reported for compliance, only the proportion of which must be devoted to areas related to professional responsibility. As you are aware, professional responsibility courses include not only professionalism, but also issues related to diversity, mental illness and addiction, civility, or legal ethics.

The court also amended Illinois Supreme Court Rule 795 to add “lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring” as an approved activity that may satisfy the professional responsibility CLE credit requirement. The rule change, effective October 12, 2010, states that “Lawyers completing a comprehensive year-long structured mentoring program, as either a mentor or mentee, may earn credit equal to the minimum professional responsibility credit during the two-year reporting period of completion, provided that the mentoring plan is preapproved by the Commission on Professionalism, the completion is attested to by both mentor and mentee, and completion occurs during the first three years of the mentee’s practice in Illinois.” The rule allows attorneys to earn up to the maximum number of professional responsibility credits required by engaging in this activity.

The amendment of Rule 795 was prompted in part on experience gained from a collaboration between the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and the IL Seventeenth Judicial Circuit to develop the first circuit-wide professionalism programs that could serve as models to be shared across the state. A principal focus of the collaboration was to establish a mentoring program for all newly admitted attorneys, and in January 2009, the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit implemented the State of Illinois’ inaugural circuit-wide lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program. This mentoring program is designed to pair trained and experienced attorneys with the newest members of the bar in order to provide a resource and framework for new attorneys to gain experience, seek advice, and to obtain information about the law and law-related interests, as well as to become more knowledgeable and involved in the community. Participants in the mentoring program are provided with a detailed mentoring guidebook developed by the Commission on Professionalism and develop an individualized mentoring plan that they work to complete within the period of one year.

With the enactment of the new Rule 795(d)(12), the Commission on Professionalism will begin developing guidelines for implementation of the rule, including creation of standards for approval of structured mentoring programs. Once developed, these guidelines will be available on the Commission’s website. In the meantime, information about mentoring may be found in the Commission’s Mentoring Guide, available at: http://www.ilsccp.org/pdfs/ilsccp_lawyer_to_lawyer_mentoring.pdf