After Thanksgiving, an annual tradition begins for Indiana attorneys. It’s what some people call the “mad rush” to finish continuing legal education requirements by year’s end.
A rule adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1986 has required lawyers – beginning in January 1987 – to complete 36 hours of CLE credit per three-year cycle. That means that for many lawyers in the state, the three-year cycle ended in 2010. Even so, 2011 will see its share of last-minute efforts to finish CLE.
Scott King, program director for the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, said around the end of October calls increase from firms and bar associations requesting to host ICLEF video replays.
“It’s human nature. People have a lot of priorities in their lives, and CLE is not always at the top of that list until the fourth quarter of the year,” he said.
For those who have been too busy to attend CLE sessions in-person, video replays offer a second chance – or a last chance – to complete requirements.
Maribeth Leininger, executive director of the Allen County Bar Association, said the bar offers five days of “last-chance” video CLE sessions, which are repeat performances of its summer brown bag lunch offerings.
“We have multiple opportunities for attorneys to fulfill CLE requirements, and for those attorneys who call us the first week of December needing their hours, we can accommodate them,” she said.
The Indianapolis Bar Association offers “11th Hour Video Replays” Dec. 27-29, which are also repeats of live CLE sessions it offered throughout the year.
Corydon attorney Harold Dillman said his three-attorney law office has been hosting video replays for at least six years. Dillman is hosting a two-day replay of the 2011 Elder Law Institute on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and a daylong probate litigation replay on Dec. 29.
“It keeps me from having to drive to Indianapolis,” he said. And Dillman, who is licensed to practice in Indiana and Kentucky, is able to earn CLE credits for both states by hosting one video replay. Occasionally, attorneys from outside the firm will sign up for the CLE replays.
“You never know – it’s not unusual that there just isn’t anybody, but some years, I’ve had a dozen,” he said.
Since 1996, the Indiana Supreme Court Commission for Continuing Legal Education has allowed attorneys to earn CLE credit by watching programming online, and ICLEF generally offers between 40 and 55 online programs, King said.
“There’s always something for somebody that’s relevant to watch – and we have people who log into those programs right up until midnight on Dec. 31,” King said.
Anyone who purchases an online CLE through ICLEF can access the presentation for 30 days, which means it can be watched in segments, as time allows. But be warned: if you nod off during an online CLE, ICLEF will know.
“We have what’s called a random verifier encoded in our webcasting programming, and it will at random times check your attendance at the program,” King said. “Two attorneys watching the same program will not get the same verifier popping up on their screen. If you do not respond to it, the program will shut down.”
Meeting the need
ICLEF offers an all-day, in-person CLE on Dec. 31, but most bar associations stop offering CLE before that date. The Evansville Bar Association, for example, will offer no CLE between Dec. 19 and Jan. 5 – a point that was communicated to members in giant red type in the bar’s November newsletter.
Sometimes, people can’t find exactly what they’re looking for at a time or place that works for them. That’s why Leininger sometimes sees lawyers from all over the state – including Evansville – attending last-minute CLE in Fort Wayne. She also sees people registering for CLE programs who may be in town visiting relatives but are trying to make the most of their time.
Many late-year CLE programs will offer some ethics component, as the three-year cycle must include three hours of ethics CLE.
“Ethics seems to be probably the most requested subject matter, but second to that it’s really across the board … estate planning, family law, things of that nature,” King said.
Attorneys who need help covering the cost of CLE may apply for a grant from Indiana Bar Foundation’s ICLEF Scholarship Fund. Lawyers must apply at least two weeks in advance of the CLE they wish to attend, and the award covers only six hours of CLE.•