I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Wendy Weiss, Counsel for the New Jersey Board on Continuing Legal Education and the New Jersey Board on Attorney Certification. Wendy was generous with her time despite a very hectic schedule, and patient with the barrage of questions I had regarding the new MCLE rules and regulations. Along the way I also had the pleasure of getting to know Wendy as I begin the journey into New Jersey’s CLE world.
While the mandatory CLE requirement has just become effective on January 1, 2010 for all attorneys in New Jersey, continuing education is not new to the state, or to Wendy. New Jersey has long had an attorney specialization scheme in four areas of practice (Civil Trial, Criminal Trial, Matrimonial, and Workers’ Compensation). Wendy began working for the Court in this area in 1987 in order to find a better work/life balance when she had her first child. Prior to her time with the Court, Wendy worked for the New Jersey Department of Transit and in Insurance defense with two different law firms.
As New Jersey had a “mini-mandatory” scheme already, Wendy feels that her time spent approving CLE programs will lend much to the new MCLE process. As the state was already in the business on a course-by-course basis, the extension of her team into the full mandatory requirement for all attorneys is a natural fit. She and her office will be dealing with many more providers and attorneys, but the standards and approval process will remain largely the same.
Wendy also points out the 73% of the New Jersey Bar are licensed in another jursidiction, one that most likely already has a MCLE requirement. Much of the bar is already completing CLE programming. A strong believer that learning is never a waste of time, Wendy feels that attorneys new to CLE will always get something out of the programs they now must take.
The most confusing aspect of the rules to me, at least initially, was the compliance periods for attorneys. Wendy helped me understand the periods, and what will be happening during the intial phases of the program.
Attorneys are divided into two groups based upon their date of birth. Attorneys with birthdays from January 1 to June 30 will be placed into Group 1, and attorneys with birthdays from July 1 to December 31 will be placed into Group 2. Group 1 attorneys report in even number years, Group 2 attorneys report in odd number years. Reporting will be done in March with the attorney’s Annual Attorney Registration Statement.
For the first compliance periods:
- Group 1’s first period is January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2011, with reporting done in March of 2012. The full two-year requirement is due (24 credits, including 4 ethics & professionalism).
- Group 2’s first period is January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2010, with reporting done in March of 2011. The first period will be a transitional period, with only half of the credits being required (12 credits, including 2 ethics & professionalism).
Each subsequent compliance period thereafter is every two years, with the full 24 credits, including 4 ethics & professionalism due.
In a future post, I’ll detail more of the interview and Wendy’s responses to my questions about the regulations.