As a practicing attorney, you have a lot of demands on your time. In addition to meeting your billable-hour requirement, running your practice, serving on boards and committees, and trying to keep up with family life, you have to attend continuing legal education courses (CLEs), and you probably do some pro bono work as well. That's a lot for anyone to handle.
But did you know that there's a provision in the CLE rules that allows you to receive credit for pro bono work? It's a great incentive to get more involved. Not only does pro bono work help provide access to justice for low-income clients, it also saves you CLE course fees and helps connect you to your community, all while giving you an opportunity to meet fellow attorneys and volunteers. If you're already volunteering, this should help make your schedule a little more manageable; if you're not volunteering yet, it's a great excuse to get started.
Here's how the rules work. Attorneys admitted to practice in Washington are required to complete a minimum of 45 credit hours of continuing legal education during every three-year reporting period, or an average of 15 credit hours each year. That rule is codified as Admission to Practice Rule 11.2(a). Reading a little further into that subsection reveals the often-overlooked APR 11.2(a)(4), which says that up to six credit hours may be earned each year through pro bono training and service, as long as the attorney complies with the rules laid out in Regulation 103(f) of Appendix APR 11.
In order to get CLE credit for pro bono work, an attorney must first receive at least two hours of education each year through a qualified legal services provider. The attorney receives two hours of CLE credit for the training. That requirement can be met in four different ways: (1) by attending an MCLE Board-approved live presentation; (2) by watching or listening to MCLE Board-approved, pre-recorded training courses; (3) by some combination of live and pre-recorded training; or (4) by mentoring an attorney who attended MCLE Board-approved training.
Once an attorney has satisfied the training component, he or she can get up to four additional CLE credits by either providing legal advice, representation or other legal assistance to low-income clients through a qualified legal services provider, or by mentoring an attorney who is providing such advice or representation.
Qualified legal service providers (QLSPs) are not-for-profit legal service organizations primarily engaged in providing legal services to low-income clients.1 They also must be recognized as a QLSP by the Washington State Bar Association. In King County, there are currently 13 QLSPs, including the King County Bar Association; Legal Action Center; Northwest Immigrant Rights Project; Eastside Legal Assistance Program; and Solid Ground.2 You can contact any of these organizations directly to learn about pro bono volunteer opportunities.
Once you get started, make sure that the organization you're working with understands that you want to get CLE credit for your pro bono work, and then be sure to follow up and report your hours on your online CLE roster at www.mywsba.org.3
Jason Wax represents consumers, small business owners, and non-institutional creditors in bankruptcy-related matters at Wax Law PLLC in downtown Seattle. He also is an active pro bono volunteer through KCBA's Volunteer Legal Services Program. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-395-5485.
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