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ABA Model Rules

ABA MCLE Model Rule Implementation Resources


In February 2017, the American Bar Association House of Delegates adopted the Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education and Comments (“MCLE Model Rule”), replacing the 1988 MCLE Model Rule. The ABA urges jurisdictions throughout the United States—including the forty-six states and other jurisdictions that already require MCLE—to undertake a review of the MCLE Model Rule and to consider integrating some or all of its provisions into their MCLE rules. For the four states and other jurisdictions without MCLE, the ABA encourages them to adopt MCLE and incorporate the some or all of provisions of the MCLE Model Rule when they do so.

Questions and requests for additional background can be directed Gina Roers-Liemandt, Director of MCLE and Professional Development, American Bar Association, [email protected], (312) 988-6215.


  • Requires lawyers to take the following specialty credits, which also count towards the general MCLE requirement: (1) Ethics and Professionalism (average one credit per year); (2) Diversity and Inclusion (one credit every three years); and (3) Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders (one credit every three years).
    • The Diversity and Inclusion credit requirement builds on existing ABA policy which encourages jurisdictions with MCLE to “include as a separate credit programs regarding diversity and inclusion in the legal profession of all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disabilities, and programs regarding elimination of bias.”
    • The Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Credit recognizes that requiring all lawyers to receive education about these disorders can benefit both individual lawyers and the profession. This requirement is in part a response to the 2016 landmark study conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, entitled, "The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys."
  • Accredits CLE program formats that include the use of distance learning, and does not limit the number of credits that can be earned using a particular delivery format.
  • Accredits CLE programs that address law practice and technology.
  • Allows lawyers to choose the MCLE programs that best meet their educational needs by not limiting the number of credits that can be earned in any subject area (e.g., substantive law, law practice, technology, ethics and professionalism, diversity and inclusion, and mental health and substance use disorders).
  • Treats in-house sponsors of CLE programs the same as other sponsors and allows for full accreditation of programs when all other accreditation standards have been met. Also, the new MCLE Model Rule no longer places limits on the number of credits a lawyer can earn through in-house programming.
  • Encourages jurisdictions to adopt a special exemption for lawyers licensed in multiple jurisdictions, pursuant to which a lawyer is exempt from satisfying MCLE requirements if he or she satisfies the MCLE requirements of the jurisdiction where the lawyer’s principal office is located.
  • Recognizes that jurisdictions may choose to authorize additional exemptions from MCLE requirements for certain groups, such as retired lawyers. The new MCLE Model Rule does not contain the Comment from its predecessor that stated: "Exemptions are inconsistent with the purpose of MCLE and are not recommended."
  • Creates a more narrow definition for "self-study" activities that are not approved for MCLE credit, including programming without interactivity, informal learning, and reading. Activities such as viewing programs online or on video are now defined elsewhere in the new MCLE Model Rule and are approved for MCLE credit. 

A discussion of each of these provisions can be found in the Report that was submitted to the ABA House of Delegates with the new MCLE Model Rule.


For more information, please contact Gina Roers-Liemandt, Director of MCLE and Professional Development, American Bar Association, [email protected], (312) 988-6215.