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RESOLUTION NO. ONE: Proposed amendment to Rules of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education

September 24, 2019

UPDATE: The House of Delegates voted on Nov. 8, 2019, to adopt the resolution below as amended to change “Code of Professional Conduct” to “Rules of Professional Conduct.” The amendment is shown in green.

The following resolution will be submitted to the House of Delegates at the 115th Oklahoma Bar Association Annual Meeting at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

Whereas the Continuing Legal Education Task Force of the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) was charged with studying and evaluating the quality and delivery of education programs to OBA members;

Whereas the Continuing Legal Education Task Force and the OBA Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Commission met in joint session on June 20, 2019, to discuss the potential amendment of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Rules relating to the number of ethics credits that should be required;

Whereas the enhancement of Continuing Legal Education programs for OBA members on issues related to the fitness to practice law and recognizing and assisting clients and others in the profession with substance use disorders and mental health challenges is significant to providing quality legal services to the public;

Whereas OBA members currently are required to obtain one (1) legal ethics credit each year.

Whereas expanding the definition of legal ethics under the existing Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Rules and requiring an additional legal ethics credit each year will give OBA members greater opportunity for educational programs that address serious issues that impact the legal profession and the public.

Whereas the suggested change to the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Rules will not increase the total number of credits from the currently required twelve (12) total credits per year but will only require that an additional legal ethics credit be obtained each year by OBA members who are required to annually report their Mandatory Continuing Legal Education hours.

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Delegates of the Oklahoma Bar Association that the Association amend Rule 7, Regulations 3.6 and 4.1.3 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education, as published in The Oklahoma Bar Journal and posted on the OBA website at www.okbar.org. (Requires sixty percent (60%) affirmative vote for passage. OBA Bylaws Art. VIII Sec. 5.) (Submitted by OBA Continuing Legal Education Task Force and Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Commission.) Adoption recommended by the OBA Board of Governors. 

PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE RULES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF OKLAHOMA FOR MANDATORY CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION

RULE 7. REGULATIONS

The following Regulations for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education are hereby adopted and shall remain in effect until revised or amended by the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Commission with approval of the Board of Governors and the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

3.6       The number of hours required means that the attorney must actually attend twelve (12) instructional hours of CLE per year with no credit given for introductory remarks, meal breaks, or business meetings. Of the twelve (12) CLE hours required the attorney must attend and receive one (1) instructional hour of CLE per year covering the area of professional responsibility or legal ethics or legal malpractice prevention. An instructional hour will in all events contain at least fifty (50) minutes.

3.6      Instructional Hour.  Each attorney must complete 12 instructional hours of CLE per year, with no credit for meal breaks or business meetings. An instructional hour must contain at least 50 minutes of instruction.

Legal Ethics and Professionalism CLE. Effective January 1, 2021, of the 12 required instructional hours of CLE each year, at least two hours must be for programming on Legal Ethics and Professionalism, legal malpractice prevention and/or mental health and substance use disorders.

PROGRAM GUIDELINES FOR LEGAL ETHICS AND PROFESSIONALISM CLE

Legal Ethics and Professionalism CLE programs will address the Code Rules of Professional Conduct and tenets of the legal profession by which a lawyer demonstrates civility, honesty, integrity, fairness, competence, ethical conduct, public service, and respect for the Rule of Law, the courts, clients, other lawyers, witnesses and unrepresented parties. Legal Ethics and Professionalism CLE may also address legal malpractice prevention and mental health and substance use disorders.

Legal Malpractice Prevention programs provide training and education designed to prevent attorney malpractice. These programs focus on developing systems, processes and habits that reduce or eliminate attorney errors. The programs may cover issues like ensuring timely filings within statutory limits, meeting court deadlines, properly protecting digital client information, appropriate client communications, avoiding and resolving conflicts of interest, proper handling of client trust accounts and proper ways to terminate or withdraw from client representation.

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders programs will address issues such as attorney wellness and the prevention, detection and/or treatment of mental health disorders and/or substance use disorders which can affect a lawyer’s ability to provide competent and ethical legal services.

Programs addressing the ethical tenets of other disciplines and not specifically pertaining to legal ethics are not eligible for Legal Ethics and Professionalism CLE credit but may meet the requirements for general CLE credit.

Regulation 4.1.3

The program must deal primarily with matters related to the practice of law, professional responsibility, or ethical obligations of attorneys legal ethics, professionalism, mental health or substance use disorders related to attorneys. Programs that address law practice management and technology, as well as programs that cross academic lines, may be considered for approval.

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