Every two years, Illinois attorneys need to complete 30 credits of CLE by the end of June. At least six of them must be in Professional Responsibility (PR) - and starting with the reporting periods ending in 2019 and 2020, at least one of those credits must be in Diversity and Inclusion (D/I) education. But what does that mean? To assist with this sometimes troublesome (but always important) credit type, check out our guide to Illinois’ Diversity and Inclusion requirement.
What is the Diversity and Inclusion requirement?
The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism notes that the aim of this specific CLE requirement is to encourage attorneys and the legal community at large to both explore their own prejudices and biases, as well as institutional bias, as well as to develop strategies to change behavior. This is all so necessary right now because, according to the ABA, women currently make up only 36% of the legal profession, and minorities make up just 29.8% of the industry (as of 2008). These studies don’t even touch on many other bases for discrimination, such as sexual orientation, nationality, disability, or religion.
Like all CLE courses, a diversity CLE course must directly relate to issues in the legal profession and in the practice of law. In order to qualify for D/I credit, the courses have to focus on underrepresented groups within the legal industry, and the challenges they face. This includes lack of representation, workplace harassment, barriers to hiring, low retention, lack of professional development and promotion, and other such issues. Courses must be directly focused on the legal profession and aimed at attorneys (like any other CLE course), so courses that aren’t geared towards attorneys won’t qualify.
What types of biases are we talking about?
The idea here is to eliminate bias against underrepresented groups within the legal industry, so courses can focus on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, disability, and many other bases for discrimination. The key is that the focus be on the legal industry itself, and not on substantive law topics that are related to diversity and inclusion (ex: courses focused on immigration laws, the tax code and divorce law would not qualify for professional responsibility credit).
What are some example course topics that qualify for D/I credit?
It may seem daunting to try to find course topics that qualify both for MCLE - aka, courses that are specifically geared towards attorneys and are related to legal subjects - and for this specific Diversity/Inclusion requirement. However, courses in this area can actually be extremely relevant to the practice of law. Some examples of D/I courses available in Illinois include:
Steps to Eliminate Bias in the Legal Profession - This course provides lawyers with the information and insights they need to recognize and stop often subtle and unconscious gender biases, and provides advice and techniques that women and men can use to avoid or overcome such gender bias.
Whether or not you’re an Illinois attorney who’s due to complete the MCLE requirement this June, it’s always a good idea to be reminded of the unconscious biases you may be holding - and to learn as many methods as possible to eliminate them from your legal practice!