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BBE reverses self on mandatory online CLE filing

Despite what state attorneys were recently told, they will not be required to file CLE reports online.

James A. Morrison, chair of the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners, announced on Nov. 25 that attorneys reporting their continuing legal education credits will not be required to use the BBE’s new online system. He has asked the State Bar of Wisconsin to e-mail lawyers and publish a notice about it in its paper newsletter, and expects the news will be conveyed there very soon.

The original plan was for attorneys to be encouraged, but not mandated, to use the new system. However, the BBE recently issued notice to attorneys that they were required to file CLE reports online. In a Wisconsin Law Journal article last week, BBE officials discussed the mandatory online reporting plan.

The agency has returned to encouraging that filing rather than requiring it.

Morrison, of James A. Morrison S.C. in Marinette, wrote:

“Those of us who report our continuing legal education this reporting period have received a letter from BBE stating that all reporting must be done using our new online system.

That is not a correct statement of the Rule nor is there an Order of the Supreme Court to that effect. Our directive was in error in that respect. I am sorry for that. While many lawyers have used the new system with great results, there have been some problems….

“We hope that most lawyers will find the online reporting system easy to use and will report that way but there will be no sanction to paper filing this reporting period.”

Morrison additionally noted that since digital signatures have not yet been approved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, attorneys that opt for the new system will still be required to print a paper form, sign and mail it to BBE.

BBE director John E. Kosobucki said attorneys may download the optional, paper form, if that’s their preference, from the BBE’s web site.

As of Nov. 21, about 900 lawyers had filed their reports via the new system. Kosobucki has received somewhere between 75 to 100 calls from lawyers having difficulty using the new system.

Morrison said the new system has worked fine for a many attorneys who’ve used it so far.
However, since an interview on the requirement, for a story which ran in the Wisconsin Law Journal last week, he said, “I did receive a number of calls and e-mails about the lack of a court order requiring online filing. As I said before, I don’t think that was necessary.”

Morrison said he had been in touch with the BBE board “and it was almost a unanimous conclusion that we’d like to roll this better, and that it wasn’t exactly our finest hour, from a communications standpoint.”

He encouraged attorneys to try the online system, noting it would likely be required for reports filed next year.

In the meantime, Kosobucki said there will be further refinements made to the program, which will be based upon feedback they receive from attorneys who use it in 2008. In addition, the CCAP staff will develop a training video, and he and/or Morrison will write an article about the new system for publication in the State Bar’s magazine.

“I suppose we’ve dropped the ball on this one. But our goal has always been to make [CLE reporting] easier for attorneys,” Kosobucki said. “I still think it’s a good system, and it will only get better.”

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