State Bar begins MCLE compliance audit of 4,700
By Amy Yarbrough
In a matter of days, the State Bar will launch its largest-ever compliance audit for Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE), taking a look at 4,700 attorneys whose last names begin with the letters A through G to ensure they have met their requirements.
The following information and tips are designed to make the process as painless as possible for those who are audited.
On July 9, notices will be mailed to 7.5 percent of those who were required to report their MCLE compliance by Feb. 1. Those selected will have until Aug. 23 to submit proof of compliance. Attorneys who did not complete the required 25 hours of coursework will be subject to a $75 penalty. If they still have not met the requirement by Nov. 21, they will be placed on administrative inactive status and will not be eligible to practice law. False declarations of compliance will be reported to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel for further investigation and potential discipline.
Robert McPhail, who oversees the audit, said the best course of action is to be honest, “comply as best you can with the audit” and be thorough when you submit your documents to the State Bar. You will be required to make up any missing hours to complete the audit. If you are audited, you should make every effort to provide certificates of attendance. While makeup courses are allowed, attorneys who can't prove their original declaration of compliance was truthful could still face a possible discipline.
McPhail urged lawyers to take the audit seriously, saying, "We are going to use what you submit."
McPhail said attorneys seem to be getting the message since the audits began in 2011. Last year, problems came up for 13.4 percent of the 2,600 attorneys who were audited, down from 21 percent the previous year, when 635 attorneys were chosen at random.
McPhail said that only a few lawyers have ignored their responsibilities altogether. Most have been just a bit short or missed their special topic hours. Attorneys practicing in other states have overlooked the substance abuse and elimination of bias requirements that are unique to California.
Attorneys are required to keep their certificates of attendance for one year after their reporting deadline. McPhail also recommends using the State Bar’s Personal MCLE Log to keep track of hours completed.
Want to make sure you understand the MCLE requirements and that you take the correct steps should you get audited? The following is a list of some frequently asked questions:
I’ve logged my courses into the online summary log. How do I submit my proof of course completion?
Once you have logged your courses into the online summary log, you must send a copy of your certificates or other proof of course completion to the State Bar.
By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Include your Bar Number in the subject line of the email. Your submission should be attached as one PDF attachment.
Or by mail:
MCLE Audit Team
Member Records & Compliance
The State Bar of California
180 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
I can’t find all of my certificates. What can I do?
If for any reason you are unable to locate your certificates or proof of course completion, please contact your provider right away for a copy of the attendance certificate or a printout.
What is “Administrative Inactive Status?”
You are not entitled to practice California Law and your public state bar records will permanently note this period of not entitled status.
How do I find an approved provider?
Here is a link to the list of providers on the State Bar website: http://members.calbar.ca.gov/search/cert.aspx
Is my out-of-state/country CLE acceptable in California?
If your state is CLE reciprocity approved, you may use it in California. Check the approved jurisdictions list on the State Bar website: http://mcle.calbar.ca.gov/Attorneys/EducationOptions/ApprovedJurisdictions.aspx
I don’t have any certificates for my self-study courses. How do I report those hours?
All of the hours taken, whether participatory or self-study must be logged on the Online Summary Log. The activities reported must be approved self-study activities
How do I get proof of completion for courses I took through the State Bar of California?
To obtain a copy of your proof of completion for State Bar courses, contact:
Data Analyst - Program Registrations
The State Bar of California
180 Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94105
California Bar Journal courses are self-study and should be noted on both the online summary log and your personal self-study log.
May I submit a certificate with someone else’s name on it if we took the course together?
You may only submit unaltered certificates from the official approved provider bearing your name and bar number.
Do I send in the original certificates or the copies?
Photocopies are sufficient for the purposes of the audit. Hold on to your originals for a year.
What if I completed more than 25 credit hours? Should I submit them all?
Please submit the required amount of hours based on your status during the compliance period. Excess hours may not be applied to the next compliance period.
If I can’t find all of my certificates, can I submit my receipts instead?
Please do not submit your receipts. A receipt is not considered sufficient proof of course completion. If you cannot find your certificates, contact the provider, send them your receipts, and ask for their assistance in helping provide proof of course completion.
Providers are required to maintain proof of attendance for 4 years. Contact your provider to obtain your certificates of attendance and exhaust all possible avenues to find your attendance records before completing additional courses. Submitting out of period coursework may result in your audit file being referred to the office of Chief Trial Counsel for further investigation and/or disciplinary prosecution.
I just found more certificates! Can I add them to my audit submission?
If you receive a notice of deficiency and are able to locate more certificates for courses taken within the compliance period, please either mail or submit them via email to: email@example.com. Please remember to include the MCLE Audit Submission Cover Sheet and a letter of explanation whenever responding to a Notice of Deficiency.
I don’t have a certificate but I do have a copy of the sign in sheet from the provider. Will you accept that as proof of completion?
We will only accept a sign-in sheet if it includes the name of the course, course provider, date of activity and the number of MCLE hours afforded to attendees.
I was exempt during the compliance period. Do I still have to respond to the audit?
If you claimed exempt status for any portion of the compliance period, please complete the MCLE Online Summary Log by selecting “Yes” in the Exempt box and provide a letter from all of your supervisors confirming your titles and dates of employment relative to the MCLE compliance period along with the MCLE Audit Submission Cover Sheet by the deadline. If you also have a proportional requirement you should submit the necessary number of certificates.
Does the letter from my supervisor have to be on company letterhead or will you accept an email?
Please only submit letters printed on official letterhead. They may be scanned and sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any correspondence to the audit mailbox should include your bar number in the subject line. Failure to include your bar number may result in unnecessary delays in processing your audit file.
How do I calculate and log credit for the articles I wrote?
When logging credit for published articles, it is not necessary to put in a provider number on the summary log. The provider will be the name of the publication and the course will be the article title. This is self-study credit. When you submit your proof of compliance, articles should be noted on your self-study log along with the date of publication (or submission if publication is pending). Again please note the name of the publication and the title of the article.
In order to be eligible for MCLE the article must meet the following conditions:
1) have contributed to the member’s legal education
2) have been published or accepted for publication
3) have not been prepared in the ordinary course of employment or in connection with an oral presentation at an approved educational activity
How do I edit the MCLE online summary Log?
Go to the MCLE summary log online at https://apps.calbar.ca.gov/mclelog/default.aspx. Look for the course you’d like to edit and click the red “Edit” button on the right side of the log. Make your changes and save each one. Remember to hit “Submit” when you are done. Whenever you update your online log, please notify email@example.com.
I purchased a CLE package. Do I need to list every course on the summary log?
Yes. You must enter each course included in the package into the online summary log and provide a copy of the proof of completion (i.e., the log which accompanied the package that included the witness statement.)
I’m having technical difficulties with the online summary log. Whom can I call for help?
Any questions regarding the MCLE Audit should be submitted to the State Bar’s MCLE Audit Team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also call Member Services at 888-800-3400.
Can I submit all of my hours as self-study?
No. To complete the audit you need to submit proof of completion of the required number of participatory courses.
What is the difference between participatory and self-study?
The MCLE rules specify that some types of activities qualify only for self-study credit. Other kinds of activities can qualify for either participatory or self-study credit, depending on whether or not the member participated in the particular activity is verified by a provider.
If a provider verifies your "participation," an activity is "participatory." Provider verification consists of ALL the following:
- the provider has you sign in at the time of the activity (electronic sign-in is acceptable)
- the provider keeps a list of those who signed in
- the provider issues a certificate of attendance to attendees
Online courses, CD ROM-based courses, and some tape-based courses can count for participatory credit if they are verified by an approved provider. If unsure, contact the individual provider to verify that the program has been approved for participatory credit. To confirm a tape or other self-study activity is still current, contact the Provider.
I joined the Bar towards the end of the compliance period. How do I calculate my proportional hours?
This link includes a table you can use to verify your proportional requirement:
When is the deadline to submit my audit packet? What happens if I miss the deadline?
The deadline to show proof of compliance is stated on your MCLE Audit Notice. If you fail to submit adequate proof of compliance by the deadline, you will be assessed a $75 penalty for late compliance, and you will receive a Non-Compliance Notice that gives you 60 days to comply. If you do not submit adequate proof of compliance and pay the late fee within that time period, you will be placed on Not Eligible to Practice status until you submit the required proof of compliance, pay the $75 non-compliance fee, and pay an additional $200 reinstatement fee.
How do I calculate and submit Speakers Credit and Teaching Credit?
Please submit course marketing materials that clearly show that the course was approved for MCLE, who the speakers were and how long the course was. You should also submit your certificate of attendance for that course if you were provided with one.
You may only claim speakers credit for approved MCLE activities. If you were part of a panel or you only presented a portion of the program you may only claim incremental speakers credit for the activity.
You receive 12 times the credit hours awarded by the law school for the course. There is an exception for subfield requirements in Ethics, Elimination of Bias and the Detection and Prevention of Substance Abuse hours. For sub-fields you only receive the actual speaking time.
To fill out the online form use the law school as the provider, the course title as the course and the date the class started as the date. Mark the course as participatory and note any qualifying subfield hours. Submit a syllabus and verification from the law school stating that you were an instructor, the dates of the course, and the number of academic credits the school awarded for the course.
What authorization does the State Bar have to require that I fill out the online form or submit to the audit?
The State Bar was charged with administering the MCLE program by an act of the California Legislature which amended B&P code to require MCLE for attorneys. The Supreme Court also authorized the program by rule of court, giving the State Bar authority to administer the program and to place non-compliant members on administrative Inactive status. State Bar MCLE Rule 2.73 authorizes the state bar to require certificates of attendance.
Are county employees considered exempt?
No. County employees are not exempt. Employees of Superior Courts are NOT exempt from MCLE requirements.
Why am I being audited?
Members were chosen at random so you did not do anything to influence your being selected for the audit. All recipients selected for the audit are required to respond as directed in the Audit Notice in order to be found in compliance.
Once I complete the administrative portion of the audit, will I be contacted again?
Please submit your information both online and by email, fax or mail. We will review the submission and let you know if you need to correct any deficiencies or provide further documentation. Once the administrative portion of the audit has been completed, you will be notified by mail. Members who attested to compliance but failed to provide sufficient proof may be referred to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel for further investigation and/or disciplinary prosecution.
I’ve lost (or never received) my MCLE Audit Notice. What do I do now?
Requests for duplicate audit notices and general questions regarding the MCLE Audit should be submitted to the State Bar’s MCLE Audit Team by email at email@example.com. You may also call Member Services at 888-800-3400.
How long do I need to keep my records on file once my audit is complete?
Rule 2.73 Record of MCLE
For a year after reporting MCLE compliance, a member must retain and provide upon demand and to the satisfaction of the State Bar one of the following:
- a provider’s certificate of attendance
- a record of self-study that includes the title, provider, credit hours and date of each activity
- proof of exempt status
Rule 2.73 adopted effective Jan. 1, 2008
I’ve submitted my audit materials. How will I know when the audit has been received and completed?
Once your audit is complete, you will receive a letter confirming your successful completion of the administrative portion of the audit.
May I have my administrator or paralegal respond to the audit on my behalf?
You may choose to delegate, however, you are ultimately responsible for the safe-keeping of your documentation, the accurate and timely submission of your response to the audit notice and payment of any penalties.
What if I submit someone else’s documentation as my own?
Submission of falsified documentation will result in a referral to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel for further investigation and/or disciplinary action.
What if I didn’t take enough courses during the compliance period?
Failure to complete the requirements during the compliance period will result in your having to make up the deficiency. You will have to submit all required hours to the online log and then mail in the proof of compliance. You will also need to provide the audit submission cover sheet, a cover letter explaining why you were unable to complete the requirements during the compliance period along with the $75 penalty for non-compliance by the deadline.
What happens if I just ignore the MCLE audit?
Failure to comply with the audit by the deadline will result in the assessment of a $75 late penalty and the issuance of a 60 day notice. Failure to pay the penalty and comply with the audit by the deadline on the notice will result in your placement on Administrative Inactive Status or Not Eligible to Practice status until you submit the required proof of compliance, pay the $75 penalty and an additional $200 reinstatement fee. You will not be eligible for reinstatement until you comply with the audit. You may also be referred to the State Bar discipline system for filing a false declaration of compliance.