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Under newly approved rules for continuing legal education, New York attorneys will no longer be eligible for partial credit when they attend part of a course and will not be credited for repeating a course. Lydia C. Lai of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board said Friday that the new regulations were recently approved and were slated to take effect Oct. 1. However, because of Web site publishing difficulties, the new rules are not yet online, and providers learned of them only in the past several weeks. Lai said the current plan is to make the rules effective 30 days after they are posted on the Web, or roughly around the first of the year. The two major changes have to do with partial credit and repeat attendance. When the new rules take effect, partial credit will not be available, which means that if attorneys cannot attend an entire presentation, there is no point — as far as CLE credits are concerned — in attending any portion. In addition, credit will no longer be granted for repeating a course, even if the format changes and even if the course is taken in a subsequent reporting cycle. “There was some concern that people were attending only a portion of a course,” Lai said. “For example, if they only needed half of a CLE credit to complete their requirements, they may attend just 25 minutes of a CLE course. You can’t attend a half hour of a four-hour course and gain a comprehensive understanding of the topic.” The changes are taking some providers by surprise and generating some controversy. Holly Steuerwald, coordinator of continuing education for Albany Law School, said that providers had been offering partial credit when an attorney arrived late or had to leave early. That practice is apparently about to come to an end. “If you are halfway through a four-hour presentation by one person and get beeped or your child gets ill … too bad, you don’t get any credit,” Steuerwald said. “From a customer-service perspective, I am not thrilled with the changes. Certainly, there are some courses where if you don’t attend the whole thing you are not going to get the gist of it. But I think there are a lot of courses out there where if you miss a half hour, it doesn’t mean that you are not going to get any value out of the course.” Steuerwald said the change may well affect provider scheduling. For instance, she said that she would be inclined to make the initial session of the day as short as possible. “I don’t want to start with a two-hour session because if people get here late I am going to have to say, ‘Why don’t you take a long break and come back in a couple hours,’ Steuerwald said. “That, to me, doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think that these changes don’t necessarily take into account the realities of attorneys’ practices.” Nancy Kramer, who operates the New York State Trial Lawyers’ continuing legal education program, is concerned not only with the impact of the new regulations, but with the fact that they were apparently promulgated with little input. “Most people come for a full session, but there are regularly a number of people who get held up in traffic or have another problem and come a half hour or hour late,” Kramer said. “To penalize the person who is a half hour late seems awfully harsh and unnecessary. “The situation I now see is someone who has registered and paid showing up for a seminar a half hour late and our having to turn them away … . They will be angry, and they will not be angry at the CLE board. They will be angry at us.” REPEAT ATTENDANCE Additionally, Kramer sees problems with the elimination of credit for repeat attendance. “We give basic trial skill seminars, among others, and I don’t know that there is anything wrong with taking a basic evidence seminar or cross-examination seminar, and if you think you haven’t gotten it all, taking it again two or four years later,” Kramer said. MOOT COURT CREDIT Other changes incorporated in the new regulations were anticipated. For instance, under the newly revised rules the board has codified a provision it had agreed to long ago — namely, allowing CLE credit for preparing high school and college students for moot court competitions. Initially, only law school moot court competitions were eligible. Additionally, in the new regulations the board has made clear that credit can be earned through the provision of pro bono legal services. Eventually, the new rules will be posted on the Web, located at http://www.courts.state.ny.us/mcle.htm.

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