CLE Survival Guide for Newly Admitted Attorneys

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By: Brad Kelly, NBI Staff

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

CLE Survival Guide for Newly Admitted Attorneys

You finished law school and passed the bar exam. This represents years of study and hard work, but your years of learning aren’t over. Now you need to complete CLE credits to retain your license. Fortunately, you have a lot of options to get these.

What you may not realize is that most states have special requirements for new attorneys. Some have special new attorney training programs. Others exempt newly admitted attorneys from CLE requirements for their first year. No matter what your state’s requirements are, the responsibility for getting the credits you need is now in your hands. Here’s what you need to know about new attorney CLE credit.

What is Continuing Legal Education?

Continuing legal education, or CLE, is legal training that takes place after an attorney graduates from law school, and while they are practicing law. The requirements vary by jurisdiction.

Most topics of study can typically be chosen by the attorney, provided the course is accredited in their jurisdiction. In many states, attorneys must complete some mandatory credits in certain areas. Professionalism, substance abuse, or elimination of bias are possible areas that may be mandated. These are referred to as specialty credits.

What course formats are permissible varies by jurisdiction. Some mandate live programs where a speaker presents material in real time. Other areas allow OnDemand formats that are not presented live. Many jurisdictions allow a combination of the two.

As you continue to practice law, you’ll probably come to know your state’s CLE requirements by heart. In the meantime, here’s a useful, state-by-state guide to stay on top of things.

What is CLE Credit?

CLE credit is the byproduct of taking CLE courses. It’s the credit attorneys earn from attending CLE courses. Most states require between 12 and 15 CLE credits per year in order to remain in compliance.

What constitutes a credit hour varies by jurisdiction. In most areas, 60 minutes of instruction equals one credit hour. There are some that say 50 minutes of instruction time equal a credit hour. Consult your jurisdiction’s regulations for more information.

How Long are CLE Reporting Periods?

Reporting periods vary by jurisdiction. These are the amount of time an attorney has to complete their CLE credit requirements. Many states, such as Georgia, require yearly reporting of CLE credit. Others, such as California, require attorneys to report their CLE credits every three years. There are also a few states, like Vermont, that require attorneys to report their credits every two years. Almost all states have reporting deadlines. Most states have credit reporting deadlines in December or June.

How do I Report CLE Credits?

In many jurisdictions, NBI will report your credit to your jurisdiction’s CLE board for you. All you have to do is to successfully complete the course, and our credit team will handle the rest.

Other jurisdictions require attorneys to report their own credits. This is often done via an online portal created for this purpose. The process varies by state, but it may involve you picking the courses you completed from a list of approved courses. It may also involve you filing a paper form with your state’s CLE board.

NBI’s State MCLE Requirement Page has more information on how you need to report CLE credit in your state.

What States Don’t Require CLE?

Some jurisdictions do not require attorneys to complete CLE courses. This doesn’t mean ongoing legal education should be neglected, however. These areas still recommend attorneys take CLE courses to stay current with the latest legal knowledge.

Trying to balance a busy practice with independent legal research to stay on top of things is a lot of work. CLE courses are a convenient way for attorneys in these jurisdictions to obtain the knowledge they need to competently represent clients.

Jurisdictions that do not have CLE requirements for attorneys include Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, South Dakota and the District of Columbia.

What Special Requirements Exist for Newly Admitted Attorneys?

When it comes to CLE credit requirements for new layers, every jurisdiction does things differently. In some states, new attorneys have to comply with the same requirements as attorneys who have been practicing for years. In other states, new attorneys are exempt from CLE requirements for their first year of practice. There are still others that have special new lawyer training programs, or Bridge the Gap programs.

Here's a quick rundown of how things are done in different jurisdictions.

States With No Special Requirements for New Attorneys

There are a few states where newly-admitted attorneys in their first year of practice comply with the same requirements as every other attorney. If you practice in one of these jurisdictions, all you have to do is complete the CLE requirements as outlined by your state’s board. These states include:

  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota

In addition to these states, there are four states, plus the District of Columbia, that do not require any attorney to complete CLE credits. This includes new attorneys. These states include:

  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • South Dakota

States That Exempt New Attorneys From CLE Requirements

Several states do not require new attorneys to complete CLE courses in either the first calendar year they are admitted, or for their first reporting period. These states include:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Though these states exempt new attorneys from CLE requirements for a certain period, some may still require them to complete new lawyer training in some form.

There are a few states that may exempt new attorneys from CLE requirements for a period, depending on their bar admission date. These states include:

  • Arizona
  • Maine
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Check here for more information on what each of these states requires.

States That Require New Lawyer Training Programs

The majority of states require new attorneys to complete new lawyer training programs of some sort. These programs typically provide foundational skills in ethics and law practice management. Some also include practice area-specific information.

Many of these are called Bridge the Gap programs. They literally bridge the gap between law school and law practice. Whatever they are called, the intent is the same – to provide new attorneys with the training they need to thrive in their first years of law practice.

These states have new lawyer training programs, or special credit requirements, in some form. These programs can range from a course on professionalism to a comprehensive program on several topics relevant to new attorneys. They may or may not count toward CLE requirements in an attorney’s first compliance period.

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

The timeframe for completing these programs varies by state. Start here for more information on what each jurisdiction requires.


Brad Kelly

Brad Kelly is NBI's Content Strategist, Writer and Editor. He provides attorneys with timely, relevant information that helps them advance their law practices. You can reach him at brad.kelly@nbi-sems.com.

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