Articles & News

New Pennsylvania CLE Rules for 2015

By Mark A. Kearney, President, PA Bar Institute

Mark A. KearneyThe April and August compliance deadlines for CLE credits have passed and attorneys with those deadlines may have put their CLE requirement out of mind for another year. Recent changes to the CLE Rules make that a bad strategy.

In January, the Supreme Court made these two changes:

• Attorneys are now required to have at least two (2) ethics credits every year;

• Attorneys have permission to use up to six (6) distance education credits to satisfy the annual 12 credit requirement.

Both changes became effective for CLE compliance periods beginning May 1, 2014, which means that the increased ethics requirement will be enforced for compliance periods ending on April 30, 2015.

Beware! After 20 years of satisfying the requirement with one (1) ethics credit, it will be easy for attorneys to find themselves out of compliance with the ethics credit responsibility next April and through the remainder of 2015. The full CLE requirement of 12 credits annually has not changed, only the minimum number of ethics credits as part of those 12 credits.

Many CLE courses include one hour of ethics training related to that field of practice. PBI offers a group of one hour ethics courses near the end of each compliance period under the title Ethics Potpourri. Keep the new rule in mind to avoid getting an unpleasant reminder and possible fine after your 2015 deadline.

The distance education changes offer 24/7 convenience in meeting the CLE requirement, but there is a nuance in that change, too. “Distance education” credits, as defined by the CLE Rules, do not, like other credits, carry over to subsequent years. For example, an attorney who viewed 6 hours of CLE from PBI’s Online Campus before her deadline in 2014 will not be able to count 2 of those credits toward either her 2014 or 2015 requirement.

PBI simulcasts to bar associations and other facilities around the Commonwealth are not subject to this “cap” on distance education credits. They combine the convenience of local programming with quality instruction by statewide experts. Time spent in these outstanding seminars will help satisfy your full 12 credit requirement and can be carried forward to two future years.

Live webcasts, viewed on an attorney’s own computer at his office or home, on the other hand, are subject to the six credit cap. CLE “bundles” available from some national online providers may offer so many credits that will not be available to satisfy the Pennsylvania CLE requirement.

PBI offers in-person training, simulcasts delivered to local communities statewide, practical course manuals, PBI Press publications, webcasts, podcasts and the 24/7 convenience of our Online Campus, all focused on the substantive needs of Pennsylvania practitioners. For 50 years, PBI has provided the practical training to help you become a better lawyer throughout your career.