MCLE Opinion 15

MCLE OPINION 15 - COURSES AND PROGRAMS PRESENTED BY VENDORS OF PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

The MCLE Board has observed an increasing trend in the number of courses and programs submitted for accreditation by program sponsors who sell or provide certain products or services. Such courses and programs (hereinafter referred to as "Vendor Programs") will be subject to close scrutiny by the Board to insure that the primary objective of the Vendor Program is to increase the attendees' professional competence and skills as an attorney and to improve the quality of legal services rendered to the public, as opposed to selling a product or service. Vendor Programs addressing the use of hardware, software, other equipment and tools, or procedures that are specific products or services of a particular company or person will not be accredited unless such Vendor Programs otherwise meet the requirements of the Rules of Court, the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Regulations, and the Opinions of this Board.

In determining whether the Vendor Program will be accredited, consideration will be given to the following factors:

1. Whether the course pertains to a recognized legal subject or other subject matter which integrally relates to the practice of law or the professional responsibility or ethical obligations of the participants. For example, while training in the use of a computer program to perform legal research may be accredited, training in the use of a word processing program will not be.

2. Whether the Vendor Program is presented immediately before, during, or immediately after a sales presentation.

3. Whether the Vendor Program is presented before the attendee has purchased a particular product or service. If so, accreditation will be denied unless the course sponsor can demonstrate that the product or service presented during the Vendor Program is merely being used to explain the concept being taught. With regard to this particular factor, the Board is particularly concerned about unwarranted CLE credits in situations where a lawyer, in the process of deciding which product to purchase, invites three (3) suppliers to give presentations, when in the end, the attendee will only purchase one product. Under such circumstances, from the standpoint of the public interest and the intent of the MCLE Regulations, the attendee has truly received no educational benefit with regard to training about products which he or she will not be using in the future.

4. Whether the personnel presenting the Vendor Program are the same personnel who actually sell the product or service.

5. Whether the following issues are discussed during the Vendor Program: prices, price comparisons, quality of the product or service, quality of competitors' products or services, payment or financing terms, or similar matters.

6. Whether the target audience for the program is attorneys and, if so, whether the Vendor Program is open to all attorneys or solely to attorneys of a particular firm.

The MCLE Board will weigh the factors above to determine whether the Vendor Program should be accredited. The burden of demonstrating that a Vendor Program qualifies for accreditation shall be upon the Vendor Program sponsor or the individual attendee seeking accreditation.

In no event will a Vendor Program be approved if the Board determines that the program includes elements of a sales presentation.

[Paragraph 17(H)(1) of Section IV, Part 6, Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia; MCLE Regulations 101(h), 103(b), 103(c)]

Updated: Jul 27, 2006