SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY BOARD ON CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the new requirement for mandatory CLE?
Unless otherwise exempt, every active New Jersey licensed attorney in good standing is required to complete 24 credit hours of continuing legal education every two years. Of those 24 credits, at least four must be in ethics and/or professionalism. BCLE Reg. 201:1

How are ethics and professional responsibility courses defined?
Ethics and/or professional responsibility courses or segments of courses are devoted to (1) the substance, underlying rationale, and the practical application of the Rules of Professional Conduct; (2) the professional obligations of the attorney to the client, the court, the public, and other lawyers; or (3) substance abuse and its effects on lawyers and the practice of law. BCLE Reg. 103:1(k)

How are courses on professionalism defined?
Professionalism courses are devoted to the examination or identification of principles of competence, civility, improvement of the justice system, advancement of the rule of law, and service to the community.

What is a credit hour?
A credit hour is 50 minutes of instruction time in Board-accredited continuing legal education courses. The minimum amount of time for any course to be granted credit is 50 minutes.  Segments considered not educational, such as introductory remarks, keynote speeches, breaks, meals, etc., will be excluded.  Any ethics/professionalism portion of a course most also be a minimum of 50 minutes in order to be accredited in New Jersey.  BCLE Reg. 103:1(j)

Who must comply with the continuing legal education requirement?
Any attorney with a plenary or limited license to the New Jersey bar who is in good standing is required to comply, regardless of whether the attorney is practicing in New Jersey. The program is mandatory for attorneys, judges, in-house corporate counsel, attorneys who work for government entities, and those not otherwise exempt.

Is anyone exempt from having to take CLE?
Only attorneys who have been admitted to practice law for 50 years or more in any jurisdiction, those who have reached age seventy-five regardless of length of tenure at the Bar, those on full-time active duty in the military, VISTA or Peace Corps, and those retired completely from the practice of law are exempted from the mandatory CLE requirement.  BCLE Reg. 202:1.

Do newly admitted attorneys have any special requirement?
Yes.  In their first full two-year compliance period, New Jersey attorneys admitted in 2009 or thereafter, must take 15 of the 24 credit hours in five of the following nine subject areas: NJ basic estate administration; NJ basic estate planning; NJ civil or criminal trial preparation; NJ family law practice; NJ real estate closing procedures; NJ trust and business accounting; NJ landlord/tenant practice; NJ municipal court practice; and NJ law office management. BCLE Reg. 201:2

What about Skills and Methods for newly admitted attorneys?
The Skills and Methods program is no longer available. Those attorneys admitted in 2009 and thereafter must comply with the newly-admitted attorney requirement.

Now that Skills and Methods no longer exists, what must attorneys who were admitted to practice in NJ prior to 2009 do if they never completed the Skills and Methods requirement?
No additional requirement exists, other than compliance with the mandatory legal education requirements for every New Jersey attorney.

Can attorneys (other than those newly admitted) meet the CLE requirement for NJ in another state?
New Jersey attorneys who are satisfying the CLE requirement of another mandatory CLE state or who take courses approved for CLE by another state will receive 1:1 credit for courses approved in that jurisdiction through reciprocity. However, attorneys should be aware that there are differences in requirements from state to state. Attorneys relying on reciprocity must ensure that they are also meeting the requirements of New Jersey's program. For example, New Jersey requires that four credits be taken in courses related to ethics, professionalism and/or professional responsibility.   In addition, half of the required credits must be earned from attendance at live courses with the instructor physically in the same room as the participants.  A course taken that has not been approved in a mandatory CLE jurisdiction will not have the benefit of reciprocity.

Can newly admitted attorneys meet their special requirement in another mandatory continuing legal education jurisdiction?
Fifteen of the 24-credit requirement must relate specifically to New Jersey practice as listed in BCLE Reg. 201:2.  Providers of continuing legal education given in other states would most likely not offer courses in the nine specific areas of basic New Jersey law.  If the out-of-state provider does offer those New Jersey based courses and they have been approved in either New Jersey or another mandatory CLE jurisdiction, then the New Jersey based new admit course would be sufficient for credit, even though taken outside of New Jersey.

What is an alternate verifiable learning format?
Alternate verifiable learning format courses are those courses presented on videotape, audiotape, remote-place viewing, on-line Internet computer presentations, webinars, webcasts, podcasts, satellite simulcasts, teleconferences, videoconferences, and Internet computer self-study. BCLE Reg. 103:1(b) Alternate verifiable learning format courses are limited to one-half of the total credit requirement in any compliance period. BCLE Reg. 201:4

Can attorneys take courses by tape, on-line, or through another form of technology?
Generally, yes. The courses must be approved for CLE course accreditation. Courses offered under an alternative verifiable learning format must have a reliable method of verifying and recording participation. Again, courses taken through alternative verifiable learning formats shall account for no more than one-half of the total credit hour requirement per compliance period. BCLE Reg. 201:8 and 301:9

What if I am both working and residing in a non-mandatory CLE jurisdiction, which may include a jurisdiction overseas?
An attorney neither living nor working in a mandatory CLE jurisdiction can obtain all of their required credits through alternative verifiable learning formats.  BCLE Reg. 201:8(b)

Is there a fee to transfer credits from another state?
No. There is no fee for reciprocity.

What about courses taken in 2009?
Upon request by a provider, the Board will grant accreditation for certain qualifying continuing legal education courses taken in 2009, pursuant to the Supreme Court's "look-back" notice of August 13, 2009. An attorney can use no more than 24 credits from courses taken in 2009 and these courses can only be used toward the credit requirement of the attorney’s first compliance period which ends either on December 31, 2010 for attorneys in Compliance Group 2 or December 31, 2011 for attorneys in Compliance Group 1.  BCLE Reg. 401:5

Can courses taken in excess of any requirement carry over into the next compliance period?
Up to 12 credit hours can be carried over to the next compliance period. BLCE Reg. 201:3

Do Inns of Court programs count for CLE credit?
Yes. Attorneys who participate as masters, barristers, or pupils will receive 1:1 credit for their participation in educational activities. BCLE Reg. 201:7

Do attorneys get additional credit for teaching?
Attorneys who teach an approved course are entitled to twice the credit for the amount of time spent teaching the course. The same is true for the amount of time spent as a panelist. Hour-for-hour credit will be granted for attendance at those portions of the course when neither teaching nor involved as a panelist.   Those teaching law to non-lawyers will not get teaching credit, but can get 1:1 attendance credit for an approved course.  In addition, attorneys teaching a course that is accredited in another mandatory CLE jurisdiction that allows for more credit for teaching than offered in NJ can only use the NJ calculation for teaching credit towards their compliance in NJ. 

Is credit available for teaching the same course more than once in a compliance period?
No. The 2:1 credit for teaching is available for the same course only once during a compliance period. However, attorneys can get 1:1 credit for attending the same course multiple times in that same compliance period. BCLE Reg. 201:6

What is the correct source to confirm that a program has CLE accreditation?
The CLE provider can confirm accreditation. In the near future, the courses accredited by the Board for CLE and the approved service provider list, can be viewed on New Jersey's judicial website.

How does an attorney obtain a Certificate of Attendance?
Upon completion of a course from a New Jersey-approved provider or of a course that has been approved in New Jersey, the provider must give the attorney a New Jersey Certificate of Attendance. For courses completed out of state through reciprocity, a completed copy of that state's Certificate of Attendance form will suffice as certification of attendance. BCLE Reg. 301:8

Are attorneys required to report to the Board as each course is completed?
No. The New Jersey program is self-reporting and the Board does not track an attorney’s credit-by-credit course work. Attorneys must maintain possession of their Certificates of Attendance for at least three years. In the event of an audit, attorneys will be asked to produce those records to verify compliance.  The attorney is responsible for keeping track of the courses he or she takes toward compliance with the NJ mandatory CLE requirement.  BCLE Reg. 401:1

Are attorneys required to certify compliance of the program's mandatory requirements?
Yes. Attorneys will certify compliance on the Annual Attorney Registration and Billing Statement and must postmark that certification of compliance by the initial deadline imposed for submitting that Annual Registration and Billing Statement.  BCLE Reg. 401:1. Every attorney is permanently assigned to one of two compliance groups, determined by their birthday. Compliance Group 1, those born from January 1 through June 30, will certify compliance in even-numbered years and Compliance Group 2, those born from July 1 though December 31, will certify compliance in odd-numbered years. BCLE Reg. 401:2.

How will compliance be monitored?
Random audits will be conducted by the Board. Every New Jersey attorney is subject to audit by the Board. BCLE Reg. 401:1

Will attorneys who are being audited be notified?
Yes. The Board will notify selected attorneys of an audit. Attorneys will be required to demonstrate compliance in writing within 30 days of receipt of a request by the Board for information, and produce proof of compliance. BCLE Reg. 401:1

Will extensions of time for compliance be granted?
An attorney may file an application for an extension of time by demonstrating good cause. The Board will review each request on a case-by-case basis and may extend the time of compliance for an attorney.  The application must be filed no less than 30 days prior to December 31 closing date of the compliance period.  BCLE Reg. 202:3

What if circumstances prevent an attorney from complying with the CLE requirement?
An attorney may file an application for a waiver of the requirement and must show by clear and convincing evidence either (a) undue hardship, or (b) circumstances beyond the control of the attorney that prevents compliance in any reasonable manner with the CLE requirement.  The application must be filed no less than 30 days prior to December 31 closing date of the compliance period.  BCLE Reg. 202:3  Depending on the circumstances, the Board may grant either a complete waiver of the CLE requirement for the compliance period or may grant another remedy, such as allowing the attorney to satisfy the requirements through 100% alternative verifiable learning format courses.   BCLE Reg. 202:2

Can attorneys get credit for a course when the provider did not apply for accreditation or if the course was not approved in another mandatory CLE jurisdiction?
An attorney can submit an Attorney Application for Individual Course accreditation no later than 30 days after the completion of the course.  Applications will be reviewed by the Board and decided on a case-by-case basis.  However, the presumption is for the provider to apply for CLE credit, not the attorney, especially if the course is primarily given to attorneys or is given in-house by law firms or corporations.

Can attorneys obtain credit for writing a legal article or book?
No.  The Board does not grant CLE credit for publishing.

Can attorneys get credit for a course if they arrive late or leave early?
The provider will determine if either partial or no credit will be granted, depending on the circumstances.

What happens to attorneys who do not fulfill the mandatory CLE requirement?
Attorneys will be notified by the Board of noncompliance and may receive a short grace period to achieve compliance.  Any credits obtained during this time will count only for the previous compliance period and not the then-current compliance reporting period. Attorneys will receive no more than one grace period. Those failing to timely report compliance will be assessed a $150 late compliance fee.  Attorneys who fail to comply may be administratively ineligible to practice.  BCLE Reg. 402:1 and 402:3

For more information.
Contact the Board's staff at (609) 633-9733 or submit questions in writing to: sctcle.mailbox@judiciary.state.nj.us.

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