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October 15, 2016
Court approves CLE tech component

The change adds 3 CLE hours to the reporting cycle, all in technology

By Mark D. Killian
Managing Editor

The Supreme Court approved a three-hour increase in the Bar’s CLE requirement, plus a new mandate to take technology-related CLE courses.

With the September 29 opinion in case no. SC16-574, The Florida Bar becomes the first mandatory bar in the nation to require a CLE tech component for its members.

The Board of Governors sent the three-hour increase in the Bar’s CLE requirement, plus a new mandate to take technology-related CLE courses, to the court a year ago. It began as a recommendation of the Technology Committee of the Vision 2016 commission, as a way to improve the technological competence of Florida lawyers.

After the opinion was released, John Stewart, chair of the Board of Governors Technology Committee, tweeted that he is proud the Bar and the Supreme Court are leading Florida lawyers into the future by requiring technological competence.

The change increases the mandatory CLE hours for each Florida lawyer from 30 to 33 in a three-year reporting cycle with the three additional hours devoted to technology training. The amendments are effective January 1, 2017.

“The simple fact is that technology is changing the way lawyers practice,” Stewart said. “This provides us an opportunity to offer more services to more clients at a better price point, and I suggest puts Florida lawyers at a national advantage in cultivating business where the business sees the value of technological competence.”

Specifically, the court amended Rules 4-1.1 (Competence) and 6-10.3 (Minimum Continuing Legal Education Standards).

The unanimous court amended the comment to Rule 4-1.1 to add language providing “that competent representation may involve a lawyer’s association with, or retention of, a nonlawyer advisor with established technological competence in the relevant field. Competent representation may also entail safeguarding confidential information related to the representation, including electronic transmissions and communications.”

The court also added language to the comment providing that, in order to maintain the requisite knowledge and skills, a lawyer should engage in continuing study and education, including an understanding of the risks and benefits associated with the use of technology.

The court published the proposed amendments in the News for comment, but none were filed.

Terry Hill, director of the Bar’s Programs Division, said, since the petition was filed, the Bar has been re-evaluating its current CLE course catalog to determine if any of those programs have technology components that would qualify under the rules.

As of the release of the opinion, 197 Bar CLE programs have been awarded “technology credit” representing 437 hours of already available “technology credit.”

“Equally impressive, more than 2,386 Bar members have already satisfied the three mandatory hours of ‘technology credit’ as part of their mandatory CLE credit hours,” Hill said.

The Bar is only re-evaluating its own courses, unless an outside provider specifically asks that its courses be re-evaluated.

The Bar makes CLE available online, on demand, with 24/7 access and provides enough free CLE per year so that any member can fulfill his or her now average 11-hours-per-year requirement with complimentary CLE.

It has been 31 years since the board first voted to recommend mandatory CLE for Bar members, and in that time the 30-hour-per-three-year standard has not changed, until now.

[Revised: 11-20-2018]