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  • WisBar News
    March 17, 2020

    Supreme Court Temporarily Eases CLE Rules, Lawyers Can Get More On-Demand Credits

    Attorneys can obtain up to 30 CLE credits "on-demand" under a temporary order, providing more stay-at-home options amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

    Joe Forward


    March 17, 2020 – Attorneys can obtain up to 30 continuing legal education (CLE) credits “on-demand” under a temporary order the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued today at the request of the State Bar of Wisconsin, providing more stay-at-home CLE options amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

    Under current CLE rules, lawyers must obtain a minimum of 30 hours of approved CLE during each two-year reporting period.  

    A maximum of 15 CLE credits may be earned through a “repeated on-demand program” that can be accessed and watched anytime. Remaining CLE credits must be earned through live in-person seminars or live webcasts.

    However, the Supreme Court’s March 17 Order – effective today through Dec. 31, 2020 – noted that the public health emergency unfolding may impact lawyers’ ability to obtain CLE since many in-person programs are canceled or postponed.

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s order now allows lawyers to temporarily obtain up to 30 CLE credits on-demand, which gives lawyers more options to earn CLE.

    “In an effort to mitigate the impact of these measures on a lawyer’s eligibility to practice law, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has, at the request of the State Bar of Wisconsin, elected to temporarily increase the number of credits from on-demand programs that lawyers may use to satisfy the requirements of SCR 31.02,” the order states.

    For instance, the State Bar has suspended in-person seminars through April 30, 2020, to help reduce transmission of coronavirus and protect the health of members and staff.

    This temporary change allows attorneys to tap on-demand offerings through State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® and other providers with one restriction.

    The temporary order does not apply to ethics and professional responsibility (EPR) credits. Lawyers are required to obtain at least three EPR credits per reporting period.

    In the interest of providing lawyers with the most up-to-date ethics and professional responsibility information, EPR credits must still be obtained through live programming, which could include live webcasts or live telephone seminars.

    The order is effective today through Dec. 31, 2020. That is, the on-demand courses must be completed before Dec. 31, 2020, for attorneys who will be reporting credit for the 2019-20 reporting period.

    Impact on Reinstatement and Suspension

    Under the temporary order, “lawyers required to satisfy CLE requirements as a prerequisite to reinstatement may satisfy 100 percent of their required CLE using on-demand programs for petitions, provided that make up credit requirements are completed on or before December 31, 2020,” excluding EPR credits.

    In addition, any lawyer whose license to practice law may be suspended because the lawyer is unable to complete EPR credits. Either in-person or live online, may file a request for a waiver with the BBE under SCR 31.12.

    Requirements for Late CLE Reporting

    Lawyers report CLE credits to the BBE every two years. The order notes that there may be a delay before the BBE’s reporting system can accept late-filed attendance reports of on-demand courses in excess of the usual 15-credit rule.

    Lawyers admitted to practice in an odd-numbered year were supposed to file CLE reports by Feb. 1, 2020, for the 2018-19 reporting period.

    In the case of late filed reports with more than 15 on-demand credits, the order requires filers to submit a statement of their request for CLE credit in writing, together with documentation of the on-demand courses for which credit is claimed.

    The report is deemed filed upon receipt of the late fee. Questions about CLE reporting should be directed to the BBE, by email or by phone at (608) 266-9760.

    State Bar of Wisconsin Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

    The State Bar of Wisconsin has taken a number of measures to help reduce transmission of the coronavirus, including suspension of in-person CLE programming and in-person meetings of boards, committees, and other groups.

    The State Bar’s coronavirus response page will be updated periodically to keep members informed about changes to State Bar operations, and also includes information concerning the Wisconsin Court System’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

    The State Bar has launched a new Coronavirus & the Law Blog, a repository of articles from attorneys that address the legal impact of the pandemic and its impact on the practice of law in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Visit often – the page will be updated frequently.

    For practical and ethical advice on managing your practice while working at home, see the article Working Remotely: Practical & Ethical Tips and Resources, from March 23, 2020, WisBar News.

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