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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 adress them to Alice Mine

Highlights

  • Comprehensive amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct on legal advertising were adopted by the Council at its meeting on October 23, 2020, and will be sent to the Supreme Court for approval next January.

  • The proposed amendment to the Preamble to the Rules of Professional Conduct published last quarter received many comments, both in support and opposed. The proposed amendment identifies the avoidance of discriminatory conduct while acting in a professional capacity as a value of the provision. At its meeting on October 22, 2020, the Executive Committee of the Council sent the comments to a subcommittee of the Ethics Committee for study.

Amendments Approved by the Supreme Court

On September 25, 2020, the North Carolina Supreme Court approved the following amendments. (For the complete text of the rule amendments, see the Spring and Summer 2020 editions of the Journal or visit the State Bar's website.)

Amendments to the Rules on the Annual Membership Fee

27 N.C.A.C. 1A, Section .0200, Membership—Annual Membership Fee

The amendments make the language of Rule .0203 consistent with the authorizing statute and delay imposition of the late fee until September 1, 2020, for the 2020 calendar year only.

Amendments to the Discipline Rules

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

The amendments eliminate the requirements in Rule .0113 that letters of warning, admonitions, reprimands, and censures issued by the Grievance Committee be served by certified mail or personal service when valid service has previously been accomplished upon the respondent.

Amendments to the Rules on Reinstatement from Inactive Status and Administrative Suspension

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

The amendments to Rule .0902 and Rule .0904 replace the $125.00 fee for reinstatement from inactive status and administrative suspension with a fee in an amount to be determined by the Council. They also eliminate the six-hour cap on online CLE when fulfilling the requirements for reinstatement from inactive status and from administrative suspension.

Amendments to the Certification Standards for the Immigration Law Specialty

27 N.C.A.C. 1D, Section .2600, Certification Standards for the Immigration Law Specialty

The amendments update and clarify the requirements for substantial involvement for certification as a specialist in immigration law.

Amendments to the Regulations for Organizations Practicing Law

27 N.C.A.C. 1E, Section .0100, Regulations for Professional Corporations and Professional Limited Liability Companies Practicing Law; Section .0200, Registration of Interstate and International Law Firms

The amendments replace specified filing and registration fees with fees in amounts to be determined by the Council.

Amendments to the Rules on Prepaid Legal Services Plans

27 N.C.A.C. 1E, Section .0300, Rules Concerning Prepaid Legal Services Plans

The amendments to the rules on prepaid legal services plans are comprehensive and include the following: incorporating the registration, renewal, and amendment forms in the rules; eliminating the requirement that the State Bar review plan documents to determine whether representations made in the registration, renewal, and amendment forms are true; and specifying that registration and renewal fees shall be in amounts to be determined by the State Bar Council.

Amendments to the Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of Law

Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of Law in the State of North Carolina

Section .0500—Requirements for Applicants; Section .0600—Moral Character and General Fitness; Section .1200—Board Hearings

The amendments to the admission rules of the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners will streamline the processing of comity, military-spouse comity, and transfer applications that do not present character and fitness issues.

Amendments Pending Supreme Court Approval

At its meeting on October 23, 2020, the Council of the North Carolina State Bar voted to adopt the following rule amendments for transmission to the North Carolina Supreme Court for its approval. (For the complete text of the rule amendments, see the Fall 2020 edition of the Journal or visit the State Bar's website.)

Amendments to the Student Practice Rules

27 N.C.A.C.1C, Section .0200, Rules Governing the Practical Training of Law Students

The rule amendments clarify the different forms of student practice placements outside the law school and the supervision requirements for those placements. In addition, throughout the rules, the term “student intern” is replaced with the term “certified law student” to avoid confusion between student practice in law school clinics and practice placements outside the law school.

Amendments to Rule 1.5, Fees, in the Rules of Professional Conduct

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

Amendments to Rule 1.5 add a specific prohibition on charging a client for responding to an inquiry by a disciplinary authority regarding allegations of professional misconduct by the lawyer; for responding to a Client Security Fund claim alleging wrongful conduct by the lawyer; or for responding to and participating in the resolution of a petition for resolution of a disputed fee filed against the lawyer.

Amendments to the Advertising Rules in the Rules of Professional Conduct

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

Comprehensive amendments to the rules on legal advertising in Section 7, Information About Legal Services, of the Rules of Professional Conduct accomplish the following: strengthen and prioritize the prohibition on false and misleading communications concerning a lawyer’s services; streamline the rules on advertising and eliminate unnecessary or unclear provisions; update the rules to reflect the current state of society and the profession, including the recognition of technology’s presence in personal and professional lives and of the increasing sophistication of the consuming public; and enable lawyers effectively and truthfully to communicate the availability of legal services.

Proposed Amendments 

At its meeting on October 23, 2020, the Council voted to publish for comment the following proposed rule amendments:

Proposed Amendments to the Rules Governing the Continuing Legal Education Program

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

The proposed amendments define a new category of CLE credit called “Diversity, Inclusion, and Elimination of Bias Training” and impose a 1-hour mandatory requirement in this new category for all active members during the 2022 CLE reporting period. The requirement is only effective for 2022; however, the CLE Board intends to propose an ongoing requirement for diversity, inclusion, and elimination of bias training following the board’s comprehensive review of its rules and procedures over the next two quarters.

.1501 Scope, Purpose, and Definitions

(a) Scope …

(b) Purpose …

(c) Definitions

(1) “Active Member” shall include any person…

(8) “Diversity, Inclusion, and Elimination of Bias Training” shall mean a program, directly related to the practice of law, devoted to diversity, inclusion, and elimination of bias towards persons based on race, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or socioeconomic status. Programs may focus on implicit and explicit bias, equal access to justice, serving a diverse population, diversity and inclusion initiatives in the legal profession, and sensitivity to cultural and other differences, among other things, when interacting with clients, judges, jurors, litigants, attorneys, court personnel, and members of the public.

(9)(8) “Inactive member” shall mean a member of the North Carolina State Bar who is on inactive status.

[re-numbering remaining paragraphs]

.1518 Continuing Legal Education Program

(a) Annual Requirement. Each active member subject to these rules shall complete 12 hours of approved continuing legal education during each calendar year beginning January 1, 1988, as provided by these rules and the regulations adopted thereunder.

Of the 12 hours:

(1) at least 2 hours shall be devoted to the areas of professional responsibility or professionalism or any combination thereof;

(2) at least 1 hour shall be devoted to technology training as defined in Rule .1501(c)(17) of this subchapter and further explained in Rule .1602(e) of this subchapter;

(3) effective January 1, 2002, at least once every three calendar years, each member shall complete an hour of continuing legal education instruction on substance abuse and debilitating mental conditions as defined in Rule .1602 (a). This hour shall be credited to the annual 12-hour requirement but shall be in addition to the annual professional responsibility/professionalism requirement. To satisfy the requirement, a member must attend an accredited program on substance abuse and debilitating mental conditions that is at least one hour long.

(4) Temporary Rule for 2022 Reporting Period. All members shall complete at least one hour of approved diversity, inclusion, and elimination of bias training (as defined in Rule .1501(c)(8) of this subchapter) during the 2022 reporting period. This training will be credited to the annual 12-hour requirement but shall be in addition to the annual professional responsibility/ professionalism requirement.

Proposed Amendments to the Rules Governing Admission to the Practice of Law

Section .0900, Examinations

The North Carolina Board of Law Examiners proposes an amendment to Rule .0902 on the examination requirements for admission to the North Carolina bar. To comply with social distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic, there is a need for additional venues at which to administer the February 2021 bar exam. To permit administration of the exam at some of the state’s law schools, the board seeks to remove the requirement in the rule that all exams be administered in Wake County. This will permit the exam to be administered anywhere in North Carolina.

.0902 Dates

The written bar examinations shall be held in Wake County or adjoining counties North Carolina in the months of February and July on the dates prescribed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. 

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