Mental health, diversity may become required CLE

Lawyers soon could be required to earn continuing legal education credits in diversity and inclusion and mental health and wellness under a proposal the Indiana State Bar Association House of Delegates will consider next month. It’s one of two resolutions delegates will consider.

The proposal would push forward recommendations of the ISBA’s Committee on Diversity and Committee on Wellness to align Indiana’s CLE rules with the American Bar Assocation’s Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education. The ABA adopted those rules in February to replace the prior 30-year-old model CLE rule.

As part of the 36 CLE credit hours attorneys are required to earn every three years, the proposed language would mandate for the first time categories of CLE content beyond the current requirement of three credit hours of ethics and professional responsibility education. The proposal would recommend adding these new requirements within the minimum 36 CLE credit hours:

• One hour of diversity and inclusion programming, and;

• One hour of mental health and substance use disorders programming.

The proposal will come before the House of Delegates at ISBA’s annual meeting Oct. 10 in French Lick. 

“It is time for Indiana to become the fifth state to adopt a stand-alone diversity and inclusion CLE requirement and the third state to adopt both a stand-alone diversity and inclusion CLE requirement and a stand-alone mental health and substance use disorders CLE requirement,” the proposed resolution concludes. “It is time for us to positively change the conversation on diversity and inclusion in our profession as well as educate Indiana attorneys on mental health and substance use disorders that impact our very own lawyers. We believe that adopting this resolution is important in reaching these goals.”

The resolution lists California, Illinois, Minnesota and New York as states that currently have a standalone diversity CLE requirement. California and Illinois now require mental health and substance use disorder CLEs. 

While the ISBA resolution would authorize officers to “take such other and further action as may be necessary to implement this resolution,” any changes to Indiana’s CLE requirement would require the approval of the Indiana Supreme Court.

The House of Delegates also will consider a proposed resolution “to eliminate language requiring that lawyers use the services of non-lawyer assistants only as employees and not as independent contractors.”

That proposed resolution notes “in recent disciplinary cases, lawyers facing discipline on other grounds were also held to have violated Indiana Guideline 9.1 by employing a paralegal as an independent contractor and not as an employee.” Yet, “many Indiana lawyers and law firms procure the services of non-lawyer assistants on an independent contractor basis and not as employees.”   


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