Georgia attorneys are supposed to complete their annual 12-credit CLE requirement, which includes one hour of Ethics and one hour of Professionalism, by December 31 each year. If you haven’t finished your 2019 requirement in time, you have until April 30, 2020 (usually March 31, but the Georgia Supreme Court has extended the grace period in response to the current pandemic) to complete any remaining credits before you incur a $100 late fee.
While it’s typically pretty straightforward to determine which topics fall under Ethics - those that deal with professional responsibility or malpractice - the Professionalism credit can be a bit harder to find. If you’re looking for more information on the Georgia Professionalism requirement before the grace period ends, here’s a refresher on everything you need to know.
What is the Georgia Professionalism CLE requirement?
Unlike many other states, Georgia requires both an Ethics and a Professionalism credit to be completed as part of the annual CLE requirement. While the Ethics credit can be satisfied by taking an Ethics program offered by an Accredited Sponsor, Professionalism courses need specific, separate approval from the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism in order to qualify for Professionalism credit. In fact, the Commission on Professionalism recently revised the guidelines for Professionalism CLE, which went into effect on July 1, 2019, in order to clarify what does - and what does not - count for this particular requirement.
So how is Professionalism different from Ethics?
“Ethics” is what is required of lawyers under the rules of professional responsibility, while “Professionalism” goes a step above the rules. It harkens back to The Lawyer’s Creed and Aspirational Statement on Professionalism, which were developed by the Commission on Professionalism. The Creed and Statement outline values that lawyers should embody such as fairness, integrity, and civility, and a commitment to improve the practice of law and uphold the profession as one of public service. It’s a serious charge! The Professionalism credit acknowledges that an attorney can follow the Rules of Professional Conduct and behave completely within the laws, but still be dishonest or unprincipled, and this requirement is an attempt to remind attorneys of their calling.
What kinds of topics are covered in a Professionalism CLE?
The Commission on Professionalism offers specific guidance on the type of material of that should be covered by the Professionalism credit, including the principles of the Lawyer’s Creed, the difference between ethics and professionalism, and hypotheticals that allow participants to explore scenarios in which attorneys do - or do not - demonstrate faithfulness to their clients, honesty to the court and their adversaries, courage, prudence, and other professionalism values. These topics are always important, and right now, as attorneys are facing pandemic-related crises in their professional lives and at home, the values of professionalism are more crucial than ever.
If you’re approaching the end of the grace period and aren’t sure if you’ve completed the Professionalism credit type yet, or you’re wondering if you need other credits to remain compliant, don’t forget to check your Credit Tracker. For more information regarding Professionalism, or the Georgia CLE requirement as a whole, check out our CLE Requirements FAQ!
What courses can I take to complete my requirement?
You can view all of Lawline's Professionalism courses here. The highlights include a Professionalism 101 course, taught by a consumer law advocate, and Pro Bono Perspectives: Best Practices for Matters Serving the Public Good, Wherever You Work, a panel presentation discussing best practices for attorneys to use their training to serve the public and the interests of justice.
This article was originally published on March 7, 2018 and updated on March 26, 2020.