Professional Guidelines

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

The Virginia State Bar

Professional Guidelines

17. Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Rule—

The Virginia Supreme Court hereby establishes a Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Program in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

  • A. Purpose:

    Continuing professional education of lawyers serves to improve the administration of justice and benefit the public interest. Regular participation in Continuing Legal Education programs will enhance the professional skills of practicing lawyers, afford them periodic opportunities for professional self-evaluation and improve the quality of legal services rendered to the public. All active members of the Virginia State Bar shall participate in an additional amount of further legal study throughout the period of their active practice of law, and failure to do so shall result in their suspension from membership in the Virginia State Bar.

  • B. Continuing Legal Education Board:

    A Continuing Legal Education Board shall be established for the purpose of administering the program.
    • (1) Appointment:

      The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall appoint, after consultation with the Council, the members of the board who shall be members of the Bar and twelve in number. One member shall be designated by the Chief Justice as Chair and another as Vice chairman. Members shall serve terms of three years each, except that, initially, four members shall be appointed for terms of one year, four for terms of two years, and four for terms of three years. No member shall serve more than two consecutive terms but shall be eligible for reappointment after the lapse of one or more years following expiration of the previous term. The Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar shall be an ex officio member of the board.
    • (2) Notice of Meetings/Quorum:

      The board shall meet on reasonable notice by the Chair, Vice chair or the Executive Director. Five members shall constitute a quorum and the action of a majority of a quorum shall constitute action of the Board; however, new regulations or amendments shall be approved by a majority of the full membership of the board.
    • (3) Powers:

      The board shall have those general administrative and supervisory powers necessary to effectuate the purposes of this Rule, including the power to adopt, following the advice and comment of Council, reasonable and necessary regulations consistent with this Rule. The effective date of any regulations or amendments to the regulations adopted by the board shall be as prescribed by the board, but in no event earlier than one hundred twenty (120) days following such adoption. The Council may reject any regulations or amendments to the regulations adopted by the board on or after July 1, 2010, by a 2/3 vote of those members of Council present and voting. Council’s rejection of any regulations or amendments to the regulations shall have the effect of suspending the regulation or amendment until the Supreme Court has reviewed and approved, rejected, or modified the proposed regulation or amendment. The Virginia State Bar shall have the responsibility for funding the board and for enforcing Mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirements.

      The board shall specifically have the following powers and duties:

      • (a) To approve, on an individual basis, CLE programs and sponsors and publish a list of those approved. The publication shall include the number of credits earned for completion of a particular program;
      • (b) To establish procedures for the approval of Continuing Legal Education courses, whether those courses are offered within the Commonwealth or elsewhere. These procedures should include the method by which CLE sponsors could make application to the Board for approval, and if necessary, make amendments to their application;
      • (c) To authorize sponsors of Continuing Legal Education programs to advertise that participation in their program fulfills the CLE requirements of this Rule;
      • (d) To formulate and distribute to all members of the Virginia State Bar appropriate information regarding the requirements of this Rule, including the distribution of a certification form to be filed annually by each active member.
  • C. Continuing Legal Education Requirements:

    • (1) All active members of the Virginia State Bar shall annually complete and certify attendance at a minimum of twelve (12) credit hours of approved Continuing Legal Education courses of which at least two (2) hours shall be in the area of legal ethics or professionalism, except those lawyers expressly exempted from the requirement by this Rule or by decision of the Continuing Legal Education Board; provided, however, that for the period July 1, 2001 through October 31, 2002, active members shall complete and certify attendance at a minimum of fifteen (15) credit hours of approved Continuing Legal Education courses of which at least two (2) hours shall be in the area of legal ethics or professionalism, except those lawyers expressly exempted from the requirement by this rule or by decision of the Continuing Legal Education Board. Each active member shall complete the required Continuing Legal Education courses each year during the period November 1 through October 31 of the following year; provided, however, the next completion period following June 30, 2001, shall be July 1, 2001 through October 31, 2002.
    • (2) In order to provide flexibility in fulfilling the annual requirement, a one year carryover of credit hours is permitted, so that accrued credit hours in excess of one year's requirement may be carried forward from one year to meet the requirement for the next year. A member may carry forward a maximum of twelve (12) credit hours, two (2) of which, if earned in legal ethics or professionalism, may be counted toward the two (2) hours required in legal ethics or professionalism.
    • (3) Each active member of the Virginia State Bar shall be responsible for ascertaining whether or not a particular course satisfies the requirements of this Rule. Each member should exercise discretion in choosing those approved programs which are most likely to enhance professional skills and improve delivery of legal services.
  • D. Certificate of Attendance:

    • (1) Each active member of the Virginia State Bar shall certify prior to December 15 each year that such lawyer attended approved Mandatory Continuing Legal Education programs for the minimum number of hours required during the previous calendar year ending October 31; provided, however, the next certification deadline following July 31, 2001, shall be December 15, 2002. The failure to certify shall cause suspension of such lawyer's license to practice law. An untruthful certification shall subject the lawyer to appropriate disciplinary action.
  • E. Exemptions:

    Each active member of the Virginia State Bar shall comply with this Rule except as follows:
    • (1) A newly admitted member shall be exempted from filing a certification for the completion period in which he or she is first admitted.
    • (2) A member who has obtained a waiver for good cause shown, as may be determined by the board, shall be exempted from filing a certification for the completion period for which the waiver is granted.
  • F. Activation or Reactivation:

    A member of any category who wishes to become an active member of the Virginia State Bar shall furnish to the Secretary an affidavit stating that he or she has completed twelve (12) hours of Continuing Legal Education, including two (2) hours in legal ethics or professionalism within the previous twelve months. Thereafter, that member shall have the same completion period and certification deadline as other active members.

  • G. Credits:

    • (1) Credit will be given only for Continuing Legal Education courses or activities approved by the board.
    • (2) Hours in excess of the minimum requirements defined in this Rule may not be carried forward for credit beyond the one year provided for in the Rule.
    • (3) Credit will not be given for Continuing Legal Education hours accumulated prior to admission to the Virginia State Bar.
    • (4) Credit shall be given to active members of the Virginia State Bar who prepare course materials and who personally participate as instructors. The credit, as determined by the board, will reflect the time reasonably required for preparation of materials, as well as the actual time spent instructing.
  • H. Standards:

    The Board shall evaluate, and where appropriate, approve, those programs which serve to satisfy the requirements of this Rule. In evaluating the specific programs, the Board shall consider the following factors:
    • (1) Whether the course tends to increase the participant’s professional competence as a lawyer.
    • (2) The number of hours of actual presentation, lecture, or participation, so that the appropriate number of credit hours can be identified and published.
    • (3) The usage of written educational materials which reflect a thorough preparation by the provider of the course, and which assist course participants in improving their legal competence.
    • (4) To qualify for mandatory legal education credit, a course is not required to have a component on legal ethics or professionalism, although such components are encouraged. When topics on legal ethics or professionalism are offered, either as an entire course or component thereof, they must be clearly identified as such.

Updated: January 10, 2011