Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Board

Leonard C. Heath Jr., 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 2014 included, Vice Chair Michael Lawrence Goodman of Richmond, Raymond B. Benzinger of Arlington, Afshin Farashahi of Virginia Beach, Lori Beth Galbraith of Chesapeake, Zachary Alan Kitts of Fairfax, Liza Shawn Simmons of Richmond, Lorrie Ann Sinclair of Leesburg, Carole Yeatts Timberlake of Richmond, Melinda Laverne VanLowe of McLean, Marie Everlyn Washington, 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, 67waiver and extension requests, and approximately 140,000 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 24/7, saving time, money and effort for both our members and the MCLE department. For the 2013 MCLE compliance year over 70 percent of the course attendance was certified by the members online.  Only 700 have taken advantage of the newly developed iphone app for connecting to the member login portal.

During this year the board adopted MCLE Opinion 20 titled “Interpretive Guidance for Courses Approved under Virginia Supreme Court Rule 1A:1(b)(3).”  This opinion was adopted as a result of the Supreme Court’s amendment of Rule of Court 1A:1(b)(3), effective February 1, 2014, that requires an applicant filing to be admitted to practice in Virginia without examination to certify that the applicant has completed twelve hours of instruction approved by the MCLE Board within the preceding six-month period.  MCLE Opinion 20 sets forth the standards for a “Rule 1A:1Reciprocity Course.”

In addition, the MCLE Board worked with the Supreme Court of Virginia to clarify and confirm that the board may delegate to the Virginia State Bar staff as it deems appropriate to carry out the board’s responsibilities under Paragraph 17 of Part 6, § IV of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia (the MCLE Rule).  As a result, the Supreme Court of Virginia amended the MCLE Rule this year to confirm the board’s authority to so delegate responsibilities as the board deems appropriate.

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

This year we welcomed new members Lori Beth Galbraith of Chesapeake and Zachary Alan Kitts of Fairfax to the board. As this year closes, I want to thank Ray Benzinger, Michael Goodman, and Marie Washington for their fine service on the board. As always, the MCLE staff, directed by Gale M. Cartwright, ensures that the MCLE process runs smoothly for both the MCLE Board and the membership of the Virginia State Bar. The staff conscientiously provides institutional memory for the MCLE Board, even as members of the MCLE Board come and go over time. I want to thank the staff for their good work thoughout this year. I especially want to thank Ms. Cartwright for her tireless efforts and her daily oversight of the MCLE process throughout the commonwealth and her sage advice to the board.  Finally, the MCLE Board is grateful for the assistance of the executive director of the Virginia State Bar, Karen Gould, who also provided guidance to the board this year, particularly with the adoption of MCLE Opinion 20 and the board’s interactions with the Supreme Court regarding the modification to the MCLE Rule.

Updated: Nov 07, 2014