Defining the Rules: New York Diversity, Inclusion, and Elimination of Bias

Meredith Cohen
July 5, 2018

Every two years, New York attorneys need to complete 24 credits of CLE within 30 days after their birthday. At least four of these credits must be in Ethics and Professionalism - and for attorneys who are due to re-register on or after July 1, 2018, at least one of those credits must be in Diversity, Inclusion, and Elimination of Bias (“Diversity” for short). But what does that mean? To assist with this sometimes troublesome - but always important - credit type, check out our guide to New York’s Diversity requirement.

What is the Diversity and Inclusion requirement?

The New York Courts website notes that courses that will satisfy this new CLE requirement need to address implicit and explicit bias within the legal industry in addition to issues relating to equal access to justice and serving a diverse population. This is all so necessary right now: 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. This can include courses on 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) in order to qualify. 

It is worth noting that this requirement only impacts Experienced Attorneys, so if you’re newly admitted in New York you don’t have to worry about taking this just yet (and in fact, you won’t be able to earn CLE credit for Diversity courses as a Newly Admitted Attorney).

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 diversity 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 requirement. However, courses in this area can actually be extremely relevant to the practice of law. Some examples of Diversity courses available in New York 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.

For additional information, check out our other blog posts on this requirement, and don’t forget to check your compliance using our Universal CLE Tracker. If you’re not sure if this is your year to complete your CLE requirements (where does the time go?!) you can double check using our handy dandy New York CLE Deadline Checker.

Whether you’re a New York attorney who’s due to complete their MCLE requirement this July, or you don’t have to think about CLE for another year or so, 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!


Author Bio

Written by Meredith Cohen

Meredith is the Director of Customer Experience at Lawline but has taken on a number of diverse roles within the company over the years, and has handled just about everything from managing customer databases to doing post-production work on courses. Since joining the Lawline team in 2012, she has gotten her MBA online, done some world traveling, and hand-fed an ostrich. She loves singing off-key in the car, shouting out the questions on ‘Jeopardy!’ and eating dessert first.


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