Mandatory Course History

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On February 23, 1994, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals adopted a rule instituting a Mandatory Course on the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct and District of Columbia Practice (“Mandatory Course” or “Course”) for all attorneys admitted to the District of Columbia Bar after July 1, 1994.  Under Rule II, Section 3 of the Rules Governing the Bar, all newly admitted attorneys must complete the Course within 12 months after the date of their admission to the Bar.  Attorneys who fail to complete the Course within 60 days after issuance of a notice of noncompliance from the Bar are automatically administratively suspended from active membership in the Bar and may not practice law in the District of Columbia until they return to good standing. 

The Court rule also directs the Bar to present the Course at least six times a year and to establish procedures by which attorneys must comply with the Course requirement.  FY 2020-21 was the 26th year in which the Mandatory Course was administered.

On May 10, 1994, the Bar’s Board of Governors adopted D.C. Bar By-law Article IV, which implemented the Court rule and established procedures for Course compliance, alternative compliance, and reinstatement for attorneys who are administratively suspended for failure to comply with the requirement.  Later in 1994, the Board amended Sections 3 and 4 of Article III of the Bylaws to include proof of compliance with the Mandatory Course requirement as one of the conditions for reinstatement of new members who have been suspended for failure to pay dues or to register.

In May 1998, the Board further amended the Bylaws to extend the Course requirement to other Bar members as a condition of reinstatement, change of status, or registration.  Under these amendments, the following members other than new admittees are subject to the requirement: those who have been inactive, inactive (retired), or voluntarily resigned for five years or more, and who are seeking to switch or be reinstated to active status.  This requirement also applies to individuals seeking to be registered in good standing, but who, although eligible to do so, did not register in 1972 when the Bar was unified.   

In January 1999, the Board amended the Bylaws to extend the Course requirement as a condition of reinstatement for all members who have been suspended from the Bar for five years or more for nonpayment of dues. These amendments also clarified that members admitted after July 1, 1994, who are suspended for nonpayment of dues before completion of the Course, must satisfy the Course requirement. Members covered by these categories (“other covered members”) must certify completion of the Course before reinstatement or change of status.

In October 2014, the Court of Appeals amended Rule 48 on the limited practice of law by law students.  Among other provisions, Rule 48, as amended, provides that faculty members visiting for one year or less are permitted to function as supervising attorneys in law school clinical programs without becoming members of the Bar provided that they: (1) are active members in good standing of the highest court of any state; (2) submit applications to the Court for a waiver of this rule; (3) are supervised by enrolled, active Bar members; and (4) first complete the Mandatory Course.  It further provides that visiting faculty members shall certify in their waiver applications that they have completed the Mandatory Course.  The Rule 48 amendment marks the first instance in which the Court has required a nonmember to certify completion of the Mandatory Course requirement.

In April 2015, the Board of Governors further amended Article III of the Bylaws to clarify that the Mandatory Course requirement for “other covered members” applies to members in any status or combination of statuses other than active for five years or more who are seeking reinstatement or a change to active status.

In September 2019, the D.C. Bar introduced an online, on-demand presentation of the Mandatory Course.  This version provides members the option to complete the Course remotely, no longer necessitating Alternative Compliance or Refresher Compliance to complete the Mandatory Course requirement.  As a result, the D.C. Bar Board of Governors amended the D.C. Bar’s Bylaws on September 15, 2020, to delete the provisions pertaining to these options.

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