Most lawyers in the United States are required to attend a minimum number of accredited continuing legal education courses each year. Forty-five states now have mandatory requirements, some demanding up to 15 credits hours each year.
But lawyers don’t need to limit themselves to courses accredited in their state only – in some cases they can earn reciprocal CLE for courses accredited in another state. Reciprocity offers attorneys licensed in one state, the opportunity to earn credit through participation in out of state activities.
However, CLE reciprocity still has a long way to go as many states still refuse to offer lawyers the option to satisfy their CLE requirement for courses accredited in another state.
States that offer CLE reciprocity include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The rules range from the flexible, like Arizona, where attorneys can evaluate CLE activities offered based on the guidelines and report their activities by affidavit for courses taken in any state, to the quirky West Virginia rule where all Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA) members are considered presumptively accredited providers.
Other states like California and New York only offer reciprocity for courses taken in certain states or ‘approved jurisdictions’. But a California lawyer must be outside of the state when taking the course, and a New York lawyer taking an online course will not earn reciprocal credit if the provider of the course is headquartered within the state.
A significant caveat to CLE reciprocity is that credit may be claimed only in a manner consistent with the rules and regulations of the attorneys home state: Like New York’s somewhat misguided rule where the faculty of every accredited CLE course must include at least one attorney in good standing.
Like much of the CLE rules and regs, it’s all a bit confusing. A few states not listed here may also offer some form of reciprocity, even though it’s not specifically mentioned in the rules. So check with your state CLE regulator and don’t assume that the course you took won’t go towards satisfying the mandatory CLE credit requirement.