Every three years, Minnesota attorneys need to complete 45 credits of CLE credits by the end of June. At least two of them must be in Elimination of Bias education. But what does that mean? To assist with this sometimes troublesome - but always important - credit type, check out our guide to Minnesota’s Elimination of Bias requirement.
What is the Elimination of Bias requirement?
Minnesota names three major learning goals for Elimination of Bias programs. Courses do not necessarily need to address all three of these, but they give us a picture of the overall objectives for taking such courses in the first place.
First and foremost, one of the major goals is to teach attorneys about the elimination of bias or prejudice in the legal profession, in the practice of law, and/or in the administration of justice.
Another objective is to teach attorneys about the barriers to hiring, retention, promotion, professional development and full participation of lawyers of color, women, and others who face discrimination due to other factors such as economic status, creed, color, religion, national origin, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Finally, one of the goals is to educate attorneys about the problems identified in the Supreme Court’s Race Bias and Gender Fairness Task Force Reports, as well as in other studies that describe bias and prejudice within the legal profession. If you’re not sure what this is referring to, it may surprise you to know that, 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 the many other bases for discrimination as noted above. Elimination of Bias courses are not, however, courses on the substantive law of illegal discrimination, so courses about how to help your business client who is being sued for discrimination would not meet the learning goals.
What types of biases are we talking about?
Minnesota specifies that the focus of these programs should be aimed at eliminating bias as it relates to race, gender, economic status, creed, color, religion, national origin, disability, age or sexual orientation. The focus could be on interacting with fellow attorneys, bias as it relates to hiring practices in law firms (other than courses about illegal hiring practices or substantive law against discrimination), or interacting with a diverse client population.
What are some example course topics that qualify for Elimination of Bias?
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 Elimination of Bias requirement. But courses in this area can actually be extremely relevant to the practice of law. Some examples of Elimination of Bias courses in Minnesota 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.
Overcoming Age Bias In the Legal Profession, With a Discussion of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) - The goal of this course is to help attorneys recognize biases against both older and younger attorneys. The course also provides techniques to help legal organizations combat age discrimination;there’s even a discussion about the unique challenges that older women face within the legal profession. Even if you’re not involved in the hiring process at a firm, there’s plenty of practical applications to attorneys’ day-to-day operations.
Whether or not you’re a Minnesota 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!