Bar News - August 20, 2014
New Process for Reporting CLE Credits Now in Place
By: Dan Wise
Members will now be in the driver’s seat when it comes to compliance with the NH Supreme Court’s Minimum Continuing Legal Education requirement (NHMCLE – Supreme Court Rule 53). The NH Supreme Court MCLE Board has developed a new self-reporting, self-certification method of ensuring compliance with the annual requirement.
Self-determination and self-reporting of credits by attorneys subject to the rule are key tenets of the approach, which is effective for credits earned after June 30, 2014. A simple online reporting tool accessible from www.nhbar.org will allow attorneys to enter course information for programs they determine meet the requirements of NH Supreme Court Rule 53. The reporting tool (also available as a mobile app) includes a checklist, extracted from the rule, to assist attorneys in making sure programs are appropriate for claiming credit.
As an efficiency and cost-saving measure, credits earned through programs offered by the NH Bar Association will be automatically entered into the NHMCLE self-reporting tool.
The new approach responds to the realities of enormous changes in the continuing legal education field and the technology for presenting programs. In the 21 years since the rule was put in place, there has been an explosion in the number of providers offering continuing legal education programs, a widening diversification of practice, and rapid improvements in technology, making it much easier to present and widely distribute programming.
Because of these changes, continuing with the prior method of ensuring compliance, including the administration of provider accreditation and processing each member’s paperwork, was requiring more and more staff time. The stream of providers seeking certification to offer NHMCLE credit had morphed into a flood as law practice – and the CLE marketplace – has become national in scope. Also rising dramatically were the number of inquiries and applications from attorneys to certify participation for single programs. The processing of paperwork was mushrooming.
For example, in 2012, there were 649 different CLE providers. Of that number, 398 had two or fewer Bar members who took their programs.
From an administrative point of view, a shift in emphasis from communicating with providers to empowering attorneys subject to the rule promises efficiency and cost-containment.
The self-determination, self-reporting approach gives attorneys greater freedom of choice – still within the confines of the rule – to choose how and where to earn their credits. The online reporting tool will enable them, on the spot, to record their participation using an online, cloud-based, mobile-friendly tool. At any time, an attorney will be able to consult his or her record and evaluate compliance status – no waiting for providers to report, or waiting for an eligibility determination from the NHMCLE board.
With freedom comes responsibility, however. Attorneys claiming credit for a program will have to assure that the activity meets the NHMCLE rule requirements, the substance of which have not changed. With the exception of Bar Association programs which will be automatically entered into the reporting tool, attorneys will have to self-report their CLE participation, and at the end of each year, attest in an online affidavit that the programs reported qualify under Supreme Court Rule 53.
Bar programs will automatically be entered into the new system because the Association and NHMCLE already share some data-processing resources. Bar programs offering CLE credit will always adhere to Supreme Court Rule 53 criteria. Lawyers will still be responsible for verifying that these programs meet the Rule 53 standards, and to adjust the number of instructional minutes attended if other than as reported. The Bar Association will clearly indicate when a training or informational program offered at or through the NH Bar is not claimable for credit. In 2013 and 2012, NH Bar programs accounted for 43 percent of the total credits reported by NH Bar members.
“Change is not always welcomed, but we are confident that members will embrace this approach, which provides flexibility while aiming for simplicity and reducing administrative costs for all,” said Russell Hilliard, chair of the NHMCLE Board. “We are confident that New Hampshire lawyers are familiar with the requirements of Rule 53 and can determine if a course qualifies for NHMCLE credit.”
The new “CLE Activity Reporting Tool” makes it easy to reference the standards of Rule 53, and to keep track of and self-report CLE activity.
Currently, extra administrative personnel are assisting on a temporary basis with the transition, processing information for the reporting year that ended June 30, while other staff focus on the implementation of the new system. Joining the NHMCLE administration office in September on a part-time basis will be Carol Brooks, a New Hampshire attorney who has been active in Bar Association sections and, in a previous position with a title company, as a CLE program provider. Dana Hochgraf, who has provided friendly support to members in administering the NHMCLE rule for the past four years, is retiring this fall.
Reports will soon be sent to members regarding their compliance for the reporting year that ended June 30. Their credit status also will appear in the new reporting tool. Visit www.nhbar.org for more information about NHMCLE reporting, whether for the past reporting year or for the current year.