29 September 2005

The Illinois Supreme Court Comes to Its Senses

For a looooooong time, Illinois has been one of the few states with no CLE requirement. No longer… in a sense.

This is really a two-tiered system. For Illinois lawyers entering the practice of law for the first time after 31 December 2005, there will be no CLE requirement as we understand it. Instead, there is a 15-hour basic skills course to be completed within one year of entering the bar.1 After that, a rolling two-year-window CLE requirement kicks in. However, the first required certification isn't until 01 July 2008 (for lawyers whose surname begins with A through M) or 01 July 2009 (for lawyers whose surname begins with N through Z). The first cycle requirement is 20 hours; second cycle is 24 hours; and third and later cycles are 30 hours.2

This is long overdue. I think the requirement for professional responsibility/ethics within the CLE system is laughably low; I also think the total number of hours over each two-year period is low, particularly given the variety of ways in which one can earn credit outside of taking "traditional" CLE courses. One hint that the ethics requirement is too low is that the same set of changes also establishes a new Commission on Professionalism to

promote among the lawyers and judges of Illinois principles of integrity, professionalism and civility; to foster commitment to the elimination of bias and divisiveness within the legal and judicial systems; and to ensure that those systems provide equitable, effective and efficient resolution of problems and disputes for the people of Illinois.3

Since these are the minimum standards with which every lawyer should comply simply by having a law license, I see no need for a separate commission. At most, all that is necessary is to provide the ARDC with the resources, and the courts in this state with the motivation, to enforce the existing rules.4

In any event, it's a start. Now if we can just make sure that the content of the courses is actually useful—unlike too many CLE courses—and not inordinately expensive, we'll be taking another step.

  1. Ill. S. Ct. R. 793 (effective 29 September 2005).
  2. Ill. S. Ct. R. 794 (effective 29 September 2005).
  3. Ill. S. Ct. R. 799 (effective 29 September 2005).
  4. Don't get me started on the profession's refusal to effectively self-regulate; if you've read this blawg for long, you've come across some of several-times-a-year rants on the illusion of self-regulation in the practice of law. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that Illinois is so lax, as the ABA is headquartered here. That is an explanation—not an excuse.