Mandatory Continuing Legal Education

Paula Steinhilber Beran, chair

The Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Board administers the program that was established by the Supreme Court of Virginia in 1985. The rules governing the MCLE program were amended in 1990 to require all active members of the Virginia State Bar to complete a minimum of twelve hours of approved continuing legal education courses, including two hours of ethics or professionalism, each fiscal year.

The MCLE Board consists of twelve members appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court. In addition to the chair, members for fiscal year 2013 included Michael Lawrence Goodman of Richmond, vice chair; Raymond B. Benzinger of Arlington, Afshin Farashahi of Virginia Beach, Leonard Claro Heath Jr. of Newport News, Helen Eckert Phillips of Grundy, Liza Shawn Simmons of Richmond, Lorrie Ann Sinclair of Leesburg, Carole Yeatts Timberlake of Richmond, Melinda Laverne VanLowe of McLean, and George William Watkins of Waynesboro.

The board meets seven times per year at the VSB’s Richmond office to, among other things, consider course-approval applications.  The VSB’s MCLE department provides daily administration of the MCLE requirements for the board. Over the last reporting cycle, the MCLE staff and board considered the following: 21,600 course approvals, 64 waiver and extension requests, and approximately 150,000 certifications of attendance. Usage by attorneys of the online MCLE certification feature continues to increase and enables attorneys to post the majority of their certifications of attendance directly to MCLE record and view current MCLE record anytime, saving time, money, and effort for both our members and the MCLE department. For the 2012 MCLE compliance year over 60 percent of the course attendance was certified by the members online.

Over the last reporting cycle, the board also began to study the topics of diversity and bias in the legal profession to determine if alternative approval standards are warranted and what modifications should be recommended. 

The implementation of the amended MCLE Regulations began November 1, 2011.  The new regulations recognize advantages of modern technology in continuing legal education while balancing the benefits of professional interaction.  In so doing, the new regulations requires attorneys to attend a minimum of four credit hours via live interactive programs, which will include presentations delivered through traditional live on-site programs, live telephone or live webcast programs, and any other programs as may be developed which include real-time live interactivity with the course presenter.  In connection with this change and related items, the MCLE Board had amended Opinion 16 on distance learning programs in order to provide more comprehensive information on the standards for approval of these types of CLE programs. The first full year with this new requirement went smoothly from an administrative perspective.

I wish to welcome new members Lori Beth Galbraith of Chesapeake and Zachary Alan Kitts of Fairfax as they join in the good work of the MCLE Board.  I wish to thank Helen Phillips for her contributions to the board.  The MCLE staff, directed by Gale M. Cartwright, continues to work diligently to perform their many responsibilities. As my appointment to the board has come to an end, I want to personally and on behalf of the MCLE Board, thank Ms. Cartwright and the entire staff for their conscientious work and dedication in helping lawyers discharge their obligation to provide competent representation of clients.  The value added by the MCLE staff is immeasurable and indescribable. 

Updated: Sep 19, 2013