SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY BOARD ON CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the New Jersey CLE requirement for an attorney?
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

What is a legal education activity or course?
Continuing legal education is defined as any legal, judicial, or other educational activity designed principally to maintain or advance the professional competence of attorneys and/or to expand an appreciation and understanding of the ethical and professional responsibility of attorneys. BCLE Reg. 103:1(i)

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/professional responsibility portion of a course most also be a minimum of 50 minutes 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.

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

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

What is reciprocity?
New Jersey attorneys who are satisfying the CLE requirement of another mandatory CLE state or who take courses approved in another mandatory CLE 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, professional responsibility and/or professionalism. 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. BCLE Reg. 201:4

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

What is the requirement of providers for courses given in alternate formats such as tapes or webinars?
Providers must have a reliable method of verifying and recording an attorney's attendance under an alternative verifiable learning format. Reliable methods of verifiability include embedded codes, polling, pop-up quiz questions, etc.  A system that only monitors a participant’s log on and off times is insufficient.  The provider is also required to distribute a New Jersey Certificate of Attendance to each attorney confirming the successful completion of the course only upon verification that the course in fact was completed. BCLE Reg. 301:9

Do attorneys get additional credit for teaching?
Attorneys who teach an approved course are entitled to twice the credit of 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 the 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 compliance in NJ.  Attorneys are able to claim teaching credit for the same course only once during a compliance period.

Can a law professor obtain credit for teaching law students?
Law school professors and instructors are not awarded CLE credit for teaching full and part-time law students. BCLE Reg. 201:6

What about law school courses, do they get credit?
No. Courses taken toward any degree, including law, cannot be used toward compliance with the CLE requirement.  However, law schools that offer continuing education courses to already licensed lawyers can obtain CLE credit for those courses, so long as those courses do not also apply toward the school’s law degree program.

Are courses that do not focus on the law itself, but still enhance an attorney's skills, eligible for accreditation?
Hybrid programs that cross academic lines but do not deal directly with the practice of law, such as: accounting, medicine, environmental science, may be considered for approval by the Board. In making a determination, the Board must be satisfied that the content of the activity or course will enhance legal skills or the ability to practice law. BCLE Reg. 301:5

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.

How does a provider calculate credit?
The provider should submit the total number of minutes of actual instruction, exclusive of the introductory remarks, keynote speeches, breaks, meals, and any other segments that are not educational. That number of minutes will be divided by 50 to reach the correct amount of total credits for the course. Any minutes related to ethics or professionalism should be separated. Providers also should indicate if the course is eligible for certification credits in civil trial law, criminal trial law, matrimonial law, workers' compensation law, municipal court law, or the newly admitted attorney specified areas of law. For example, if a course is 180 minutes with 60 minutes of ethics, the course would be worth 3.6 credits, of which 1.2 qualifies for ethics. If the course subject is on custody or visitation and domestic relations, the course would also be worth 3.6 credits toward matrimonial law certification and may be eligible for the newly admitted attorney course area of New Jersey family law practice, depending on the level of difficulty of the course. BCLE Reg. 301:13

Is there a minimum amount of time required for a course to be accredited?
The minimum amount of time for any course to be granted credit is 50 minutes.  In addition, any ethics, professional responsibility, or professionalism portion of a course must be a minimum of 50 minutes. BCLE Reg. 103:1(j)

What are the standards for course accreditation?
Educational activities that satisfy the following standards shall be approved for CLE credit:

  1. the activity must have significant intellectual, educational or practical content, and its primary objective must be to increase each participant's professional competence and proficiency as a lawyer;
  2. the activity shall constitute an organized program of learning dealing with matters directly related to the practice of law, professional responsibility, professionalism, or ethical obligations of lawyers;
  3. the CLE materials are to be prepared and approved activities are to be conducted by an approved service provider or a per-course approved provider qualified by practical or academic experience for a traditional CLE course in a setting suitable to the educational activity of the program and, when appropriate, equipped with suitable writing surfaces or sufficient space for taking notes; and
  4. thorough, high-quality, and carefully written materials are to be distributed to all attendees at or before the time the approved education activity is presented.

What are "in-house" courses?
In-house courses are those programs that are offered or conducted by law firms, corporate or government legal departments, or similar entities for the purpose of educating their members/employees. BCLE Reg. 103:1(m)

Can attorneys get credit for a course when the provider did not apply for accreditation?
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 credit, not the attorney, especially if the course is primarily given to attorneys or is given in-house by law firms or corporations.

What types of courses or activities will not receive CLE credit?
Examples of activities that will not be given CLE credit include, but are not limited to, writing or publications; mentoring another attorney; moot court or mock trial; pro bono work; teaching law school classes; and activities used to market or sell the presenter's technology, products, services or skills. BCLE Reg. 301:7

Who is eligible to seek per-course approval as a provider of New Jersey CLE?
Any person, entity, organization or association who complies with the standards and requirements of Rule 1:42 and the Board's Regulations can apply for per-course approval or approved service provider status. BCLE Reg. 302:1

How are courses approved?
Providers seeking per-course approval must complete an on-line application for Individual Course Accreditation and submit the proper fee and required documents, including: a final version of the timed agenda; a brochure, advertisement, or announcement for the course; the names and credentials of all instructors; a complete set of written materials that will be distributed at the course to the attendees; and a copy of their financial hardship policy if a registration or membership fee is charged. If the course is not conducted live with the instructor in the same room as the participants, providers must also submit additional information on the reliable method used to verify and record the attendance of each participant.  Providers can also seek approved provider status, which is discussed in further detail below.

Does the provider have to pay a fee to apply for per-course accreditation or approved provider status?
Most organizations are subject to paying an application fee to the Board.  Please refer to the fee chart available on the Board’s website.  Government or public service organizations may be exempt from paying a fee but must request the exemption by providing an explanation as to how they qualify as government or public service organizations and submit that request on their organization’s letterhead.  Public service organizations refer to only those that are offering CLE courses to train volunteers providing pro bono services.

Is there a time limit on when a provider can submit a program for per-course approval?
All programs must be submitted for per course approval at least 30 days prior to but no later than 30 days after the date the course was given.

What if a provider cannot submit an application for course accreditation within the 30-day period?
These will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and a late fee will be imposed. Late application is discouraged.

Is there a limit on how many times the same course is given in a calendar year under a per-course approval?
No. Many courses are given multiple times at different locations. The Board must be notified of all the dates and locations of the presentation of a course during the calendar year.  The provider should update the additional dates and locations on-line at the Board’s website. The accredited course is valid for one calendar year from the date of Board approval.

Who is eligible to be considered as an approved service provider?
Local, state, and specialty bar associations; for profit and nonprofit legal education providers; Inns of Court; educational institutions; in-house providers; and government entities are eligible for approved service provider status. BCLE Reg. 302:1

What are the standards for becoming an approved service provider?
Applicants who meet the following minimum requirements may be granted approved service provider status: the provider has presented at least five separate programs of CLE that meet BCLE Reg. 301 within the past two consecutive years; the provider has demonstrated that its CLE activities have consistently met the standards set forth in BCLE Reg. 301; the provider is a law school accredited by the American Bar Association; or an in-house provider that previously has not presented a CLE course but satisfies the Board that the proposed future educational activities meet the standards set forth in BCLE Reg. 301.

How do applicants seek approved service provider status?
You must complete the on-line application for Approved Service Provider Status and submit the appropriate fee and required documents.

What are the obligations of a provider once approved service provider status is obtained?
Once a provider is granted approved service provider status, the courses offered are presumptively approved and the provider need not apply for individual approval of each course.  However, the approved service provider must submit on-line announcements of each of its CLE activities prior to the date of the presentations, but no later than 30 days after the presentation.  Course announcements are to be submitted on-line through the Board’s website. Moreover, by January 15 and July 15 of each year, the approved service provider shall also file with the Board a detailed report describing the CLE activities it conducted during the prior six months. In addition, approved service providers must give attendees the New Jersey Certificate of Attendance.  The approved service provider is also required to maintain all records of attendance for a period of 3 years from the date the course is given.  Providers may be asked to submit information on an attorney’s attendance during the random audit process.  BCLE Reg. 302:4

How long is approved provider status valid?
The grant of accreditation as an approved service provider is valid for a period of two consecutive years from the date of the grant.

How do providers renew or extend their approved provider status?
A grant of accreditation as an approved service provider may be continued for an additional two-year period upon the on-line filing of a new and fully completed application and payment of the required fee prior to the expiration of the approved service provider's current accreditation period. BCLE Reg. 302:6

Can a renewal application for approved provider status be declined?
An approved service provider's status could be declined for renewal and may be revoked at any time if the Board determines that the requirements of BCLE Reg. 301 and 302 were not met. BCLE Reg. 302:7

How do providers learn that their application for either per course approval or approved provider status has been granted?
Providers will be notified in writing by the Board of its decision regarding their application.  They may also check their status on-line at the Board’s website.  Approved courses will be displayed in the Board’s course catalog and will be available for attorneys to search.  The presumption is that all approved courses will be displayed in the Board’s course catalog unless the provider specifically requests that it not be advertised.

What is the specific language that must be used by a provider to advertise a course?
When a course has been accredited or a course is offered by an approved service provider, the following language must be used: "This program has been approved by the Board on Continuing Legal Education of the Supreme Court of New Jersey for _____ hours of total CLE credit. Of these, ___ qualify as hours of credit for ethics/professionalism, and ______ qualify as hours of credit toward certification in civil trial law, criminal trial law, workers compensation law and/or matrimonial law." BCLE Reg. 302:10 In addition, providers should note whether the course qualifies under any of the nine specified new admit areas, if applicable.

Can providers inform attorneys that they are seeking Board approval even if they have not yet heard from the Board?
Providers may state that their application for course or program accreditation or approved service provider status in New Jersey is pending.

Are providers required to use the New Jersey Certificate of Attendance?
Only those CLE providers who have obtained course per-approval or approved provider status by the Board are required to use the New Jersey Certificate of Attendance.  Providers who do not seek or obtain course approval in New Jersey are not authorized to use the New Jersey Certificate of Attendance.  Attorneys taking courses approved in another mandatory CLE jurisdiction and using them toward compliance in New Jersey through reciprocity should be given that state’s approved Certificate of Attendance. 

What records should providers keep?
All New Jersey CLE providers are required to keep and maintain attendance records for each approved educational activity that they offer for a period of not less than three consecutive years. BCLE Reg. 301:2

Does a provider have to offer a financial hardship policy?
Every per-course provider and approved service provider who charges a registration, attendance, or membership fee is required to have a detailed financial hardship policy for lawyers who wish to attend its courses, but for whom the expense of such courses would pose a financial hardship. A financial hardship policy may include the award of scholarships, waivers of course fees, reduced fees, or discounts.  The Board would like to see that a provider will offer a scholarship or waive the fee for an attorney who demonstrates a significant hardship, including but not limited to, unemployment.  The Board will not approve courses or grant provider status without a financial hardship policy. BCLE Reg. 302:8

What can providers do if their application for course approval or accredited provider status is denied?
There is an appeal process. The provider can seek reconsideration from the Board. They can then file with the Board a Notice of Petition for Review by the Supreme Court. BCLE Reg. 501:1

Who should providers contact if they have more questions?
You may 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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