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YLD works to promote mental health and wellness and bias elimination education

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Adam J. WhiteYLD President Adam White says he is willing to compromise after the Board of Legal Specialization and Education rejected a division proposal to make mental health and wellness and bias elimination credits mandatory within the 33 CLE hours that Bar members must earn every three years.

“We are not in any way taking an adverse position to BLSE, we obviously would like to work together with them to make our profession better,” White said.

Under Rule 6-10.3(b), Bar members must dedicate five credit hours to approved legal ethics, professionalism, bias elimination, substance abuse, or mental illness awareness, with at least one of the five credit hours dedicated to professionalism.

The YLD Board of Governors voted 44-0 on July 17 to approve a proposal that would require that at least one of the five credit hours also be dedicated to approved health and wellness programs and another of the five credit hours also be dedicated to approved bias elimination programs.

The Supreme Court would ultimately have to approve any change.

On August 14, the BLSE voted 11-4 against the proposal, with one abstention.

BLSE Chair Steven Lesser said that while the YLD proposal was “a good idea,” most board members were uncomfortable imposing a mandate.

“Members are already required to have five hours of professional responsibility credits, with those specific categories as options, but we did not want to make it a directive,” Lesser said. “Not everybody voted the same way, but that was the sum and substance of it from my standpoint. We just thought it was too much.”

Lesser said he agrees with White that the legal profession needs to do more to promote mental health and wellness.

“I personally lost one of my partners to a suicide last year, and it was horrible,” Lesser said. “I can relate to this very, very well.”

White said the YLD became interested in the subject after learning that the BLSE was considering changing the rule’s terminology from “mental illness awareness” to “mental health and wellness.”

The YLD endorsed the proposed terminology change, and decided to go a step further, White said. With free health and wellness and bias elimination CLE readily available, the YLD felt the mandate wouldn’t be too burdensome to fulfill, White said.

“It would be the YLD’s position that a health and wellness program as well as a bias elimination program would be just as important as professionalism in this day and age,” White said.

Later this month, a Program Evaluation Committee subcommittee will review the BLSE decision with an eye toward a possible compromise.

White and Lesser said they would be willing to work on an alternative.

“A compromise?” Lesser said. “We do that all the time.”

The only other existing CLE mandate requires Florida Bar members to dedicate three of the 33 hours to approved technology programs. Florida became the first mandatory Bar in the nation to have a technology CLE requirement when the Florida Supreme Court approved it three years ago.

Meanwhile, White said, the YLD remains committed to promoting mental health and wellness, as well as its “#YLDisMe” campaign, which features testimonials from Florida Bar members from underrepresented groups.

“This is going to be a priority for the YLD for years,” White said.

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