New MCLE Rule for Inactive and Special Members to Take Effect Next Year
By H. Harold Stephens, chair, MCLE Commission
In 2010, ASB President Alyce Spruell appointed a task force to evaluate whether a rule change should be proposed to require a bar member returning from an inactive or special member status, or from a suspension or a disbarment, to obtain a minimum number of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education hours, in order to assure, to the extent possible, that such attorney's professional skills and knowledge are current.
The task force noted two significant issues:
1. As the MCLE Rules are currently written, attorneys returning to the active practice of law are not required to obtain any MCLE hours for the period during which they were inactive, regardless of the length of inactivity, and are required only to pay the fee for their occupational license in order to be immediately reinstated.
2. Twenty-six other states require attorneys to obtain additional MCLE hours prior to or shortly after their return to the active practice of law.
In response to the task force's stated goal of ensuring, to the extent possible, that an attorney is able to provide competent and professional legal services upon his or her return to the active practice of law, the ASB Board of Bar Commissioners adopted the following rule on March 25, 2011:
2. C. An attorney who has not engaged in the private practice of law, or who has held a Special Membership, for a period in excess of one (1) year, shall be required to complete an equivalent number of MCLE hours, up to a maximum of 24 MCLE hours, prior to being authorized to resume the active practice of law.
This proposed new rule is pending before the Alabama Supreme Court and passage is expected in the very near future.
Before panic sets in, note that this new rule will not affect special members who are subject to the existing exemptions set forth in MCLE Rule 2 (law clerks, attorneys holding public office and members of the military) or special members who are able to claim the exemption provided under MCLE Regulation 2.7 (out-of-state attorneys who are in MCLE compliance in their home state).
In order to ease into compliance with this new rule, a notice will accompany the 2011-2012 Annual Licensing Invoice advising all ASB members of the rule change and allowing them to change their status before enforcement of the new rule begins in 2012.