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May 29, 2006

Association Endorses Pro Bono for CLE Program

PHILADELPHIA – A task force report on a pilot program that would allow lawyers to earn continuing legal education (CLE) credits for providing pro bono legal services was adopted by the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association at its May 25, 2006 meeting. The plan would facilitate free legal counsel to countless numbers of Philadelphia’s neediest citizens.

The pilot program would augment traditional CLE programs and “help address the vast unmet need for legal representation by encouraging lawyers who have not performed pro bono to do so, and to recognize and further encourage those lawyers who have performed pro bono to expand their efforts and to encourage others,” according to the report.

“By proposing a program to allow CLE credit for pro bono service, the Philadelphia Bar Association has once again taken the lead in an important initiative for Pennsylvania lawyers,” Chancellor Alan M. Feldman said. “The pilot project we are suggesting will support and encourage the legal community's efforts to help address the unmet need of so many of our citizens for essential legal services. We are hopeful that the CLE Board, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, will favorably consider this meaningful alternative to classroom-style CLE.”

Just prior to assuming the office of Chancellor, Feldman commissioned the task force in October 2005 to investigate the concept and to research similar programs in other states. A complete copy of the task force’s report was forwarded to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has the power to determine how CLE credits may be earned, and to the Pennsylvania CLE Board, which administers the CLE programs.

The eight-member task force, which was chaired by Joseph Sullivan, the Director of Pro Bono Programs for Pepper Hamilton LLP, made 12 recommendations, including the adoption of a pilot program that would allow attorneys to earn up to three of the 12 CLE credits required annually to maintain a license to practice in Pennsylvania by providing approved pro bono legal services.

The task force recommends that the pilot program extend over three years with an analysis of the effectiveness conducted in the third year. Legal services providers would request approval to be established as an “Approved CLE Provider” from the Pennsylvania CLE Board and certification would be valid for three years. Only pro bono cases taken by approved providers would be eligible for CLE credits. Approved providers would be required to submit annual reports to the CLE Board, which would then grant the CLE credits per attorney.

For the full, printable version of the report and recommendations, click here.
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