Pennsylvania Eyes Making Diversity Training CLEs Mandatory

In a new proposal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Continuing Legal Education Board has suggested that all attorneys receive training on diversity and sexual harassment.

The Board’s new proposed CLE rule would create a requirement that attorneys attend programming on diversity, inclusion and anti-bias and sexual harassment awareness and prevention as part of their required legal ethics education.

“Without some type of mandated training,” the Board said in its proposal, “many attorneys who would benefit from better understanding of these workplace issues would not even consider the relevance to their practice or the positive impact such training may have on their law firm or their practice.”

Notice of the proposed amendment was posted to the Pennsylvania Bulletin on November 5th and the change will be considered after the required comment period ends on January 5th.

The Board said the training it seeks to mandate has long been available, but those programs’ attendees have primarily been minority lawyers and attorneys who already showed an interest in diversity and inclusion.

“Ultimately, it was concluded that the mere availability of such coursework is insufficient to address these topics and to ensure a comprehensive dialogue takes place among Pennsylvania licensed attorneys—a dialogue facilitated through continuing legal education requirements,” the Board said.

Jennifer Coatsworth, a partner at Margolis Edelstein and a proponent of the requirement, said the rule would help address the harassment and bias she said are still pervasive in the legal profession.

“I definitely think there’s a big need,” she said. “We are behind other industries in requiring this type of training.”

Coatsworth said she has found training on diversity, equity and inclusion to be useful in her own education, but those programs often do not reach those who would most benefit from them.

She said CLEs can be particularly impactful for people who don’t understand the harm their actions or statements may cause. “In a lot of instances it’s not the intent of the person to demonstrate [biased or harassing] behavior,” she said.

One problem Coatsworth saw in the board’s proposal, however, was how limited the requirement would be— only a one-time attendance of two one-credit courses. She would prefer to see mandatory attendance of diversity and harassment training on a yearly basis.

You can read more about this potential new requirement here.

Be assured that if the new rule is adopted, Marino Legal CLE will have online courses in our CLE bundles that will allow Pennsylvania-barred attorneys to satisfy the new requirement. You can also take a look at our newest Pennsylvania CLE bundle here.