Mandatory Continuing Legal Education

G. William Watkins, 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 2018 included, Christine L. Poarch of Salem, Vice Chair, Mark S. Brennan of Richmond, Darius K. A. Davenport, Sr. of Suffolk, Lori Beth Galbraith of Chesapeake, Leonard C. Heath, Jr. of Newport News, Zachary A. Kitts of Fairfax, Victoria N. Pearson of Richmond, Kimberly A. Pierro of Mechanicsville, Liza S. Simmons of Richmond, Joanna L. Suyes of Richmond and Tameeka M. Williams of Norfolk.

The Board meets seven times per year at the VSB’s Richmond office to, among other things, consider course-approval applications, requests for extensions and waivers, and other matters integrally related to the MCLE process in Virginia. 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: 21,188 course approvals, 46 waiver and extension requests and approximately 164,963 certifications of attendance. Usage by attorneys of the online MCLE certification feature continues to increase and enables attorneys to post most 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 2017 MCLE compliance year over 77% of the course attendance was certified by the members online. Three hundred three (303) members have taken advantage of the iPhone app for connecting to the member login portal, an increase of 31% over the previous reporting period.

Over the last reporting cycle, the Board continued to study the topics of diversity and bias in the legal profession to determine (1) if alternative approval standards are warranted and, if so, (2) what modifications should be recommended. The Board approved amendments to Opinion 16 to allow for new gaming formats in distance learning programs and Opinion 14 to clarify the standards required for written, instructional materials. The Board also approved and published for comment amendments to Opinion 19 to respond appropriately to the ABA’s lawyer wellness report co-authored by Chief Justice Lemons.

At the beginning of this year we welcomed new members, Mark S. Brennan, Joanna L. Suyes and Tameeka M. Williams to the Board. Darius Davenport resigned in March and was replaced by Michael D. Pierce of Norfolk. At the close of the year, three of our members completed their service on the Board: Leonard C. Heath, Jr., former chair and now 2018-19 VSB President, Liza S. Simmons, and the 2017-18 chair, George William Watkins. With the possible exception of the latter, the Board will miss their insight and dedication to the profession. As this year closes, I want to thank Christine Poarch for her terrific and enthusiastic support as Vice-Chair and her willingness to step up as Board Chair for 2018-19 and, most especially, Gale M Cartwright, our Director of Member Compliance, who will retire at year’s end after more than twenty years of service to the MCLE Board. Gale’s organizational skills, good humor, wisdom and quiet grace were invaluable to me as I learned the ropes of leadership of the Board this past year.

Although Gale’s presence and guiding hand will be sorely missed next year, the MCLE staff will continue to ensure that the MCLE process runs smoothly for both the MCLE Board and the membership of the Virginia State Bar under its new Director, Demetrios Melis. The staff conscientiously provides institutional memory for the MCLE Board, even as members of the MCLE Board come and go over time and their recommendations are solicited and carefully weighed by the Board before every decision is made. The staff richly deserves our thanks for their good work throughout this year. Finally, the MCLE Board is grateful for the assistance of the Executive Director of the Virginia State Bar, Karen Gould, who faithfully attended our meetings and provided valuable guidance to the Board in its deliberations.

Updated: Aug 15, 2018