In A First, The Supreme Court Imposes a Continuing Legal Education Requirement On New Jersey Lawyers Beginning In 2010

Yesterday, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced that it will require mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) for all lawyers admitted to practice law in New Jersey starting next year. Under the plan, attorneys licensed in New Jersey, including judges, law school professors and in-house counsel, will have to take 24 hours of continuing legal education every two years, including at least four hours on topics related to ethics or professionalism.  The requirement could be satisfied by attending classes or using other media such as videorecording, videoconferencing or online programs.  NJ attorneys would receive reciprocal credit for meeting equivalent legal education requirements in other states.

The MCLE requirements, to be adopted as new Court Rule 1:42, are laid out in detail in a Notice To The Bar and are open for public comment for the next 30 days.

In announcing the plan, Supreme Court Justice Stuart Rabner said.”Our goal is to implement a meaningful system of continuing legal education that will enable attorneys to learn about developments in the law, in order to help maintain the high quality of the legal profession in our state.”

The Court’s MCLE plan largely adopted the recommendations of its Ad Hoc Committee on Continuing Legal Education, chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero, but did make changes from those recommended by the Verniero committee in a few areas, most significantly in the area of the reporting process. The committee had called for providers and attorneys to report attendance to the MCLE regulator, but the Court decided on a self-reporting system with random audits.

When the plan is implemented, New Jersey will join 42 states, including New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and a number of overseas territories that require mandatory legal education.