The Minnesota Supreme Court recently amended a new CLE rule allowing credits for pro bono work. The changes were made in response to criticism that original version of the rule was not inclusive enough.
The CLE rule — which took effect on July 1 — allows attorneys to accrue one CLE credit for every six hours of legal representation provided to a pro bono client. Attorneys can accrue a maximum of six such credits per three-year reporting-period under the rule.
As originally worded, the rule sparked some controversy because of its narrow definition of what constituted a Legal Services provider. Only work done for a Legal Services provider was eligible for credit. The rule defined a Legal Services provider as “a legal services organization funded by the Legal Services Corporation.” Several local nonprofits that provide pro bono services — including the Volunteer Lawyers Network — were excluded by this language.
The new version (issued the day before the pro bono CLE rule was to take effect) is much broader in its definition of pro bono work eligible for credit. In addition to work for groups funded by the LSC, it includes pro bono efforts overseen by nonprofits that have a primary purpose of providing legal services to the poor, law firms that offer similar programs with a designated supervisor and the Minnesota Judicial Branch for designated projects, such as the Guardian ad Litem Program.