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The Process and Your Comments

Proposed amendments to the Rules of the North Carolina State Bar are published for comment during the quarter after the council of the North Carolina State Bar approves their publication. The proposed amendments are published in the North Carolina State Bar's Journal and on this website. After publication for comment, the proposed rule amendments are considered for adoption by the council at its next quarterly meeting. If adopted, the rule amendments are submitted to the North Carolina Supreme Court for approval. Amendments become effective upon approval by the court. Unless otherwise noted, proposed additions to rules appear in in bold and underlined print, deletions are interlined. Proposed amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct appear at the end of the page.

The State Bar welcomes your comments regarding proposed amendments to the rules. Please send a written response to L. Thomas Lunsford II, The North Carolina State Bar, PO Box 25908, Raleigh, NC 27611, or comments@ncbar.gov, by September 30, 2016.

Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court

On June 9, 2016, the North Carolina Supreme Court approved the following amendments to the rules of the North Carolina State Bar (for the complete text see the Fall and Winter 2015 editions of the Journal, unless otherwise noted, or visit the State Bar website):

Amendments to the Rules Governing the Board of Law Examiners

27 N.C.A.C. 1C, Section .0100, Board of Law Examiners

Amendments to Rule .0101, Election, were recommended by the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners to modernize the outdated rule and to conform provisions of the rule to current practice in regard to the appointment of members of the board.

Amendments to the Rules and Regulations Governing the Administration of the CLE Program

27 N.C.A.C. 1D, Section .1500, Rules Governing the Administration of the Continuing Legal Education Program; Section .1600, Regulations Governing the Administration of the Continuing Legal Education Program

The amendments to the CLE rules clarify that the exemption from CLE requirements for members who teach law-related courses at professional schools has reference only to graduate level courses; require a sponsor of the Professionalism for New Attorneys Program to be an accredited sponsor; and allow credit to be granted to private/in-house CLE programs on professional responsibility and professional negligence/malpractice under certain circumstances.

Amendments to the Standards for the Estate Planning and Probate Law Specialty

27 N.C.A.C. 1D, Section .2300, Certification Standards for the Estate Planning and Probate Law Specialty

The amendments to the standards for the estate planning specialty eliminate the subject matter listings for related-field CLE and for the exam, and explain that these listings will be posted on the specialization website.

Standards for a New Specialty in Utilities Law

27 N.C.A.C. 1D, Section .3200, Certification Standards for Utilities Law Specialty

A new section of the rules for the specialization program sets forth standards for a specialty in utilities law. The standards are comparable to the standards for the other areas of specialty certification.

Amendments to the Plan for Certification of Paralegals

27 N.C.A.C. 1G, Section .0100, The Plan for Certification of Paralegals; Section .0200, Rules Governing Continuing Paralegal Education

Amendments to the standards for certification of paralegals add the disciplinary suspension or revocation of an occupational or professional (non-legal) license and the unauthorized practice of law to the list of conduct that may be considered by the Board of Paralegal Certification when determining whether an applicant is honest, trustworthy, and fit to be certified as a paralegal. An amendment to the rules on paralegal continuing education eliminates the $75 accreditation fee for any program that is presented without charge to attendees.

Amendments to the Trust Accounting Rule in the Rules of Professional Conduct

27 N.C.A.C. 2, Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.15, Safekeeping Property

Amendments to Rule 1.15, Safekeeping Property (and its subparts, Rule 1.15-1, Rule 1.15-2, and Rule 1.15-3), and to Rule 8.5, Misconduct, add requirements that will facilitate the early detection of internal theft and errors, and adjust the trust account recordkeeping requirements to accommodate “paperless” work environments. A new subpart—Rule 1.15-4, Alternative Trust Account Management Procedure for Multiple-Member Firm—creates a procedure whereby a firm with two or more lawyers may designate a firm principal to serve as the “trust account oversight officer” to oversee the administration of the firm’s general trust accounts in conformity with the requirements of Rule 1.15. The amendments, when proposed, were published in the Spring, Summer, and Fall 2015 editions of the Journal.

Amendments Pending Supreme Court Approval

At its meetings on February 1, 2016, April 22, 2016, and July 22, 2016, the council of the North Carolina State Bar voted to adopt the following rule amendments for transmission to the North Carolina Supreme Court for approval (for the complete text of the proposed rule amendments see the Spring 2016 and Summer 2016 editions of the Journal unless otherwise noted):

Proposed Amendments to the Rules on the Organization of the State Bar

27 N.C.A.C. 1A, Section .0700, Standing Committees of the Council

The proposed amendments establish the Technology and Social Media Committee as a standing committee of the State Bar Council.

Proposed Amendments to the Discipline and Disability Rules

27 N.C.A.C. 1B, Section .0100, Discipline and Disability of Attorneys

The proposed amendments to the Discipline and Disability Rules separate Rule .0114, Formal Hearing, into five shorter rules, to wit: Rule .0114, Proceedings Before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission: General Rules Applicable to All Proceedings; Rule .0115, Proceedings Before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission: Pleadings and Prehearing Procedure; Rule .0116, Proceedings Before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission: Formal Hearing; Rule .0117, Proceedings Before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission: Post-trial Motions; and Rule .0118, Proceedings Before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission: Stayed Suspensions. In addition, the content of existing Rule .0114 is reorganized within this five-rule structure, and numerous substantive changes are proposed, including amendments to the provisions on mandatory scheduling conferences, settlement conferences, default, sanctions, and post-hearing procedures relative to stayed suspensions. Proposed amendments to the substance of existing Rule .0115, Effect of a Finding of Guilt in Any Criminal Case (renumbered as Rule .0119), explain the documents constituting conclusive evidence of conviction of a crime and the procedure for obtaining an interim suspension.

With the division of existing Rule .0114 into five shorter rules, existing Rule .0115 and all subsequent rules in this section will be renumbered, and cross references to other rules throughout the section will be renumbered accordingly.

The proposed amendments to Rule .0129, Confidentiality, clarify that the State Bar may disclose the fact that a complaint was filed before the Disciplinary Hearing Commission pursuant to Rule .0113(j)(4), .0113(l)(4), or .0113(m)(4), because the defendant rejected discipline imposed by the Grievance Committee (1) after the DHC proceeding is concluded, or (2) to address publicity not initiated by the State Bar.

Proposed Amendments to the Rules Governing the Board of Law Examiners

27 N.C.A.C. 1C, Section .0100, Board of Law Examiners

A proposed amendment to Rule .0105, Approval of Law Schools, recommended by the Board of Law Examiners, eliminates the ten year experience requirement from the rule which allows a graduate of a non-ABA accredited law school to be considered for admission to the State Bar if the graduate was previously admitted to the bar of another jurisdiction and remained in good standing with that bar for ten years. For the text of the proposed amendment see the Fall 2015 Journal.

Proposed Amendments to the Procedures for the Administrative Committee

27 N.C.A.C. 1D, Section .0900, Procedures for Administrative Committee

Proposed amendments to the rules on reinstatement from inactive status and administrative suspension eliminate from the CLE requirements for reinstatement the condition that five of the 12 CLE credit hours required for each year of inactive or suspended status must be earned by taking practical skills courses. For the text of the proposed amendments see the Fall 2015 Journal.

Proposed amendments to Rule .0905 specify that pro bono practice status for an out-of-state lawyer ends when the lawyer ceases working under the supervision of a North Carolina legal aid lawyer, and clarify that the status may be revoked by the council without notice to the out-of-state lawyer or an opportunity to be heard.

Proposed Amendments to the Continuing Legal Education Rules

27 N.C.A.C. 1D, Section .1500, Rules Governing the Administration of the Continuing Legal Education Program

The proposed amendments to Rule .1512 clarify that the sponsor/attendees fee charged for each hour of CLE credit is earned for every hour reported regardless of subsequently claimed exemption or adjustment in reported hours. In addition, proposed amendments to Rule .1517 add full-time tribal chiefs and vice-chiefs to the list of lawyers holding political office who are exempt from mandatory CLE.

Proposed Amendments to the Specialization Rules

27 N.C.A.C. 1D, Section .1800, Hearing and Appeal Rules of the Board of Legal Specialization; Section .2400, Certification Standards for the Family Law Specialty; Section .2700, Certification Standards for the Workers’ Compensation Specialty

Proposed amendments to Rule .1804 of the hearing rules for the specialization program simplify the procedure for a failed applicant to appeal a final certification decision of the Board of Legal Specialization to the council. The proposed amendment to the standards for the family law specialty will permit a family law specialist who was elected or appointed to the district court bench to meet the substantial involvement requirement for recertification if the specialist’s service on the bench involved hearing a substantial number of family law cases. The proposed amendment to the standards for recertification in the workers’ compensation specialty clarifies that a specialist must earn at least six CLE credits in workers’ compensation law courses in each year of the five year period of certification.

Proposed Amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct

27 N.C.A.C. 2, Rules of Professional Conduct

The proposed amendments to Rule 1.0, Terminology, replace the term “Partner” with the more generic and apt term “Principal,” and modify the definition of the term to include lawyers who have management authority over a legal department of a company, organization, or government entity. In accordance with this change in terminology, proposed amendments in the other rules (and the comments thereto) replace the word “partner” with the word “principal” where appropriate. 

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