Sunday, July 23, 2017
Bill Piatt (Former Dean, St. Mary's), State Bar Efforts to Deny Accreditation to Faith-based CLE Ethics Programs Sponsored by Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, 29 Regent U. L. Rev. 293 (2017):
Religiously affiliated law schools focus on the integration of faith in the formation of future attorneys and leaders. Yet our students are only our students for three years. We can extend our influence and continue to provide a faith-based perspective to them and to other attorneys during the thirty, forty, or more years of their careers by offering continuing legal education (CLE) courses, which bring attorneys and judges together to provide a model for incorporating faith and morality into our professional roles. However, CLE programs must receive accreditation by state authorities if participants are to receive credit for them. Recently, the State Bar of Texas’ Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Committee refused to accredit such a program, determining that only “secular” programs could receive CLE credit. That committee was forced to reverse itself by virtue of a formal appeal filed by this author, and supported by evangelical Christian and Catholic attorneys and entities, including St. Mary’s University School of Law. This Article examines that situation, and provides the framework other schools may use to prevent similar denials from occurring in their states.
Religiously affiliated law schools offer our students a faith-based approach to the practice of law. That approach benefits not only our individual students, but their future clients and society. What if we could continue to bring this message to them throughout their careers? The answer is obvious. Faith-based CLE programs will bring this assistance to them and to other attorneys. Our profession, our society, and our economic and political systems will benefit from the infusion of the deeply held moral, ethical, and religious values that brought us into the teaching of law in our unique schools in the first place. We should take the lead in the creation of such programs, and fight, where necessary, with the faith that guides our lives, to receive accreditation for them.