FAQs about MCLE Compliance
happens if I don’t fulfill my MCLE requirement?
State Bar requires active attorneys, with some exceptions, to complete 25 hours
of continuing education every three years including at least four hours of
legal ethics, one hour of elimination of bias in the legal profession and one
hour of prevention, detection and treatment of substance abuse or mental
illness. Failing to fulfill MCLE requirements can result in placement on administrative
inactive status. Attorneys who are audited and found to have falsely reported
compliance may also face discipline.
When is the deadline to file an MCLE compliance report?
Deadlines generally fall around Feb. 1, depending on which group you fall under.
However, in 2017 the MCLE compliance reporting deadline for attorneys in Group 3 (N-Z) has been extended by one month to coincide with the extended fee payment deadline of March 1. CLE courses taken through the end of February can be credited for the current reporting period. However, if you use these courses for the current reporting period, you will not be allowed to count them a second time for Group 3’s next reporting period that comes in 2020.
Who is required to complete MCLE?
following members are subject to the MCLE education requirement and must report
- all members of the bar on “active”
- members of the bar on “not
eligible” status who were:
- members of the State Bar who are
“exempt” because of the nature of their employment. They may not have an MCLE
requirement, but they are STILL required to report compliance by claiming their
- members of the State Bar who were
not active for the entire period or were exempt for some portion of the
compliance period. They will still be required to report their status.
is NOT subject to the MCLE Requirement?
- members on voluntary inactive status. You do not have to complete MCLE during the period of time that you are
on inactive status, and you are not required to report compliance to the State
Bar if you were on inactive status during the reporting deadline.
- members of the bar for four (4)
months or less before the end of the compliance period
I am an active member of the State Bar but am retired from practicing law, do I
have to complete MCLE hours?
Retired members whose status is listed as "active" are subject to the
MCLE requirement, even if they are not practicing law.
I was suspended for disciplinary reasons, do I still have to complete CLE?
Members are required to complete MCLE and must report that they have complied
even if they are suspended from the bar for not paying membership fees or as
is exempt from MCLE requirements?
following attorneys are exempt, according to Rule of Court 9.31 and Business & Professions Code
Section 6070 [Rule 2.54]:
exemption for retired judges was deleted from Business & Professions Code
section 6070, effective Jan. 1, 2000.
if my job title is not "attorney" or "administrative law
purposes of 2.54(A)(3) and 2.54(A)(4), attorneys are exempt who are required by
the State Bar of California to maintain an active membership status as a result
of the duties they are required to perform by virtue of their employment with
the State of California or the United States government. Exempt workers include
I have to be a permanent or probationary employee in order to be exempt?
Examples of those who are not exempt: annuitants and consultants.
I have to work full time to be exempt?
Part-time employees can be exempt, as long as they are permanent or
probationary employees who do not otherwise practice law. The words "those
employed full-time ...who do not otherwise practice law" in sections
2.54(A)(3) and 2.54(A)(4) refer to employees "employed on a permanent or
probationary basis, regardless of their working hours, who do not practice law
in California" except as employees of the State of California or the
United States government.
I lose my exemption if I do work outside the scope of my employment?
You lose your exemption for the entire compliance period, with the exception of
"qualified" pro bono work (see details below).
employees of the State of California or the United States government are exempt
under 2.54(A)(3) and 2.54(A)(4) only if the sole legal work done by the
attorneys is within the scope of their employment.
these attorneys engage in any legal activity outside the scope of their
employment, including pro bono work (see below for exception) or legal work for
the attorney personally, close friends or immediate family, such as drafting a
will for a relative, or reviewing a contract for a nonprofit association of
which the attorney is a member and giving advice respecting it, they are not
covered by the exemption of section 2.54(A)(3) and 2.54(A)(4) and must comply
with the full MCLE requirements.
exemption is lost regardless of whether the member is paid for performing such
activities. An activity such as teaching law, however, would not result in the
loss of the exemption. (For a further discussion of what constitutes the
practice of law, see Rules of the State Bar of California, Division 3, and People
v. Merchants Protective Corp., (1922) 189 Cal. 531, 535).
Do I lose my exemption if I do pro bono work? [Rule
otherwise exempt from the continuing legal education requirement as employees
of the State of California and the United States government may provide pro
bono legal services through a qualified legal services project or support
center receiving funds according to Business & Professions Code
section 6210, et seq., provided that
the sponsor of the pro bono project or support center ensures that members
volunteering have received the necessary training or otherwise possess the
necessary skills to provide quality service and maintain professional
I exempt if I am a member of the military?
Members of the military serving as attorneys (i.e. JAG officers) are exempt.
Attorneys serving in military positions that do not require them to be an
attorney are not exempt.
MCLE and Attorney Status
I still have to meet MCLE requirements if I report that I’m exempt?
But members who meet the exempt criteria must still report compliance by
claiming their exemption for each compliance period. You can report compliance
by logging on to My
State Bar Profile. Without a statement of compliance, the
State Bar has no way of determining whether or not an attorney was exempt for
any particular compliance period.
was not practicing law for a portion of the compliance period. Do I owe all 25
depends. The only time that a member is not subject to the MCLE
requirement is during the time s/he is officially on inactive status. If the attorney
remains an active member, he/she is subject to the MCLE requirement, regardless
of whether the attorney is practicing law. See Inactive Status for more information.
an attorney is inactive for
a portion of the compliance period, the MCLE education requirement is
pro-rated, based on the number of months during the compliance period that s/he
is subject to. (See Requirements)
am on voluntary inactive status and wish to return to active status. What is my
is no specific MCLE requirement for reactivation. For more information, see Inactive Status.
I earn more than 25 hours, can I carry the excess hours forward?
If an attorney earns more than 25 hours during a compliance period, he/she
cannot carry the excess hours forward to the next compliance period. [Rule
was admitted to the State Bar with four months or less left in the MCLE compliance
period. Do I still have to comply?
proportional requirement rules specify that if a member is subject to the MCLE
requirement for four months or less, s/he does not need to comply with the MCLE
education requirement for that compliance period. If an attorney was admitted
in December, and his or her compliance group's deadline is less than two months
away, it is unnecessary to comply with the MCLE requirement for that period.
The next compliance period for this group begins on Feb. 1, and an attorney can
count only activities earned on or after Feb. 1 toward the requirement for that
next compliance period. You cannot carry forward credit hours from one
compliance period to the next. [Rule 2.72(D)]
Calculating MCLE Requirements
do I find out how many MCLE credit hours I need?
State Bar Profile. Under the “Report MCLE” section of the page,
follow the instructions for finding out how many credits you need.
How long must I keep my compliance records?
records should be kept at least one year from end of the compliance period.
Records should be kept in the event that an attorney's compliance is audited.
Go to Compliance
Information for information on what
records to keep.
do I go if I have questions about my MCLE compliance?
Information about MCLE requirements is available on the website. Call
the Member Services Center at 888-800-3400 for more information.
do I report my MCLE?
should report their compliance online through My
State Bar Profile. Go to “Report MCLE” and follow the instructions
for reporting your credits.
do I know how many hours of MCLE I have left to complete?
MCLE Compliance Department does not keep track of the education an attorney has
completed. Attorneys are responsible for keeping certificates of attendance and
a record of self-study activities. These records should be used to tally hours.
of attendance list the overall amount of credit available for an activity and
whether any credit is available for legal ethics, prevention of substance
abuse, or elimination of bias in the legal profession. Contact the provider
directly regarding lost certificates of attendance or if information about an
activity is incomplete.
Provider Search: Telephone numbers for approved providers
Information: Record Keeping Requirement
I need to send in anything else when reporting my compliance online?
Except in the case of an audit, an attorney should never send in any
MCLE-related documentation unless specifically requested to do so by the State
Bar (otherwise, it will be returned) .In the event that your declaration of compliance
is audited, you will be required to submit proof of completion for MCLE
completed and/or proof of your eligibility for exempt status.
changed my last name. Does my compliance group change?
An attorney's compliance group never changes, even if a last name is changed.
Attorneys always remain in the compliance group to which they originally were
assigned. See Compliance Groups for more information.
should I do if I can’t complete the MCLE requirements in time?
you have a good cause reason (such as a serious medical issue, or military
deployment) you can request a modification of the MCLE requirement by
submitting an application and paying a nonrefundable processing fee. Contact
the MCLE office to request a form.
the difference between participatory and self-study CLE?
a participatory activity, a provider verifies your activity in the class. For
example, you sign in at the time of the activity, either in person or online;
the provider keeps the list and issues a certificate afterward. A self-study
credit may include online assessment tests, where you choose when and where to
take it. The test is then graded, and you are issued a certificate.
courses and some CD and taped courses can count for participatory credit if
they are verified by an approved provider. Contact
the provider to verify that the program is approved for participatory credit.
there a list of low-cost CLE programs?
State Bar does not have a list of low-cost CLE programs, only a complete list
of all approved providers. Attorneys may find the following resources useful in determining the
most convenient and cost-effective method of fulfilling requirements:
can fulfill up to half of their total required MCLE hours by utilizing
self-study options and should consider:
self-study tapes with fellow practitioners
their county law library for approved tapes that can be checked out for
self-assessment tests offered online by the State Bar of California
Do I earn self-study or participatory credit for watching approved
videotapes or listening to approved audiotapes?
depends. Participatory credit for watching or listening to an approved
education activity recorded on electronic media is available if:
- the provider has the attorney sign
in at the time of the activity and keeps a record of attendance
- the program is approved for participatory
- provider gives the attorney a
certificate of attendance
an attorney receives self-study credit.
kinds of activities count only for self-study credit?
following activities count only for self-study credit:
- self-assessment tests
- writing a legal article accepted
kinds of approved activities always count for participatory credit?
following activities always count for participatory credit:
- "live" education
verified by a provider
- a law school class (whether taught
- speaking or teaching at an
approved CLE education activity
much credit do I get for attending a participatory education activity?
an activity or provider is approved by California, the provider is required to
give a certificate of attendance for participatory education activities that
lists total credit hours and the number of those total hours allocated to the
special requirements (i.e. legal ethics; detection, prevention and treatment of
substance abuse; and elimination of bias in the legal profession). An attorney
can claim credit only for the amount of time actually attended.
information about attending a participatory activity outside California, go to approved jurisdictions.
much credit do I get for a self-study education activity?
are not required to give a certificate of attendance for approved self-study
education, but they are required to specify the total amount of credit hours
available and the number of those total hours allocated to the special
education activities I take before I'm admitted to the State Bar count for MCLE
may claim credit only for education activities taken on or after the first day
of the month in which you are admitted (sworn in) to the State Bar of
California. Law school courses and bar exam prep courses taken prior to bar
admission are not accepted as MCLE courses.
providers report to the State Bar each time I attend a participatory CLE
Neither members nor providers report attendance at an approved activity to the
State Bar of California. Members are responsible for keeping track of their own
education. Attorneys must keep the certificates of attendance that providers
distribute when attending a participatory education activity. (Providers are
required to keep a record for four years of members' attendance at provider's
participatory activities. Duplicate certificates of attendance may be available
from the provider.)
note that a personal CLE log of self-study education activities must also be
maintained. See Compliance Information for Record Keeping Requirements.
nontraditional or out-of-state courses count towards CLE?
Many courses are offered live in traditional classrooms. But you may also get
credit for taking courses offered through video conferences, audiotapes and
online, in and out of California as long as the CLE provider is an approved by
the State Bar or an approved
jurisdiction. If the State Bar has not approved the provider, activity or jurisdiction,
file a Member Credit Request to get approval for your attendance.
do I find CLE courses in California?
State Bar has a searchable list of approved
providers in California. You may look up the name of a
provider or search through an alphabetical list. Your local bar association may
also maintain a list of CLE providers.
Other Types of CLE Credit
I get CLE credit for teaching or attending a law school class?
Yes. Credit hours for teaching a law
school class can be computed by multiplying the number of units granted by the
law school for completion of the class by 12. Example: If you teach a class
that is offered for two (2) units, you are eligible for 24 hours of credit.
I earn CLE credits for writing a legal article?
You may get credit if you wrote or co-wrote articles or written materials which
have been published or accepted for publication that contributed to your legal
education. This includes articles, chapters or books. This type of CLE is
awarded as self-study credit. You may not claim CLE credit for activity which
is part of your employment (such as writing on legal issues for a client
I earn credits for teaching CLE?
You may get credit if you teach or speak at a CLE activity. A speaker at a CLE
activity may claim actual speaking time multiplied by four for the first
presentation. For repeat presentations, the speaker may only claim actual
I get credit for grading bar exams, participating as a moot court judge or
acting as a mediator?
You are also not eligible for CLE credit for taking courses unrelated to law,
such as business, computer or writing classes. You may not get credit for
preparing or taking the bar exam.
I find CLE if I have a disability?
CLE providers need to keep the Americans with Disability Act in mind when
hosting a class or activity.
Member Credit Requests
do I get credit for an activity that isn’t listed as CLE?
individual attorney can request California MCLE credit for attendance at an
education activity that is not already approved for California MCLE credit or
for California Legal Specialization credit.
submitting the Member Credit Request form, check to make sure that the activity
is not already approved for credit and that it is eligible to be approved for
credit. Go to:
approval to learn how education activities are approved for
California MCLE credit
jurisdictions if you attended the education activity
while you were outside California. The activity may already be approved for
If you are a judge seeking MCLE credit for an activity given by the Center for
Judicial Education and Research (CJER), a division of the Administrative Office
of the Courts (AOC), you do not need to submit the Member Credit Form. The CJER
is an approved provider. Contact the CJER for MCLE credit information. Credit
will only be awarded for CJER courses for which they award MCLE credit.
much is the processing fee?
nonrefundable processing fee is $25 per application.
long will it take to process my application?
are processed in the order received. Once a complete application is received by
the State Bar, it takes four to six weeks to process. If your application is
incomplete, or the education activity does not qualify for credit, the
application will be returned with an explanation of further information
required. Applicants are notified by U.S. mail of the final status of a
happens if the State Bar approves a Member Credit Request?
the member credit request is approved, you will be sent a Notification of
Approval Letter, which will include the number of credit hours granted for
individual attendance at the activity.
much credit can I claim if I taught an education activity?
you submit a Member Credit Request to get approval for an education activity
that you taught, be aware that the Notification of Approval Letter will list
the number of credit hours for attending, not for teaching the activity. To
calculate credit for teaching go to Education
I claim credit for attending a cross-professional education activity?
if the activity is approved and enhances your legal skills or ability and is
directly relevant to the practice of law. (For example, a tax attorney may be
interested in attending a program for tax accountants.) If the provider of the
program has not sought approval, you must request credit by submitting a Member
I claim credit for teaching groups other than lawyers?
The exception is teaching law students in a law school class. [Rule 2.82]
states also allow attorneys to seek credit, on an ad hoc basis, for activities
that are not covered in their rules. Rule 2.85 will not allow automatic credit
for activities approved by other states on an ad hoc basis. Members may,
however, seek individual activity approval for these activities by submitting a
Member Credit Request.
is an MCLE Audit?
compliance period, a sample of the compliance group is selected to be part of
the audit group. Audit group members are required to provide the State Bar
with satisfactory proof of compliance with their MCLE requirements or proof of
exemption if they claimed they were exempt.
do I know if I am being audited?
State Bar of California will mail an audit notice to your address of record.
The audit notice will provide instructions on how to complete the audit and
inform you of the deadline to complete the audit. The State Bar may also send
follow-up email or mail reminders about the audit.
do I complete the audit?
the instructions on your audit notice. Audit compliance is a two-step process. First,
you must complete an online submission. List all courses taken or report your
exemption information. The online submission tool will help you determine if
you have input all your MCLE requirements. After completing the online portion of
the audit you should submit proof of completion (generally in the form of
certificates) for all the courses you reported using the online tool. Proof of
Compliance may be submitted by email, mail or fax (though all are referred to
as a ‘paper submission). The paper submission is used to make the final audit
decisions and must be submitted.
is satisfactory proof of compliance?
should provide certificates of attendance for each participatory course taken.
Certificates must include the name of the provider, title of the course, date
the course was completed, the number of CLE hours awarded and the number of
subfield hours awarded (if any).
should provide a log for all self-study courses taken noting the provider, name
of the course, date you took the course (note whether you listened to a tape or
took a self-assessment test), the number of hours claimed and the number of
subfield hours awarded (if any).
law school teaching credit, provide a letter from the law school verifying the
dates and title of the course and the number of academic credits awarded (you
will receive the credits times 12). If you wish to claim subfield credit you should
include an explanation and a course syllabus which justifies the award of
receive CLE teaching credit you should include an MCLE attendance certificate
from the provider noting your teaching credit or course materials (marketing
materials, agendas or syllabi) that clearly show your role as an instructor and
indicate how many hours you taught.
you are claiming self-study credit for authoring articles you should include a
copy of the article showing the authorship and the date and name of the
members should provide proof of their exempt status by means of a letter from
their employer on official letterhead. The exemption letter should note their
dates of employment and job title. (Note that determinations of MCLE exemption
are based on the opinion of the State Bar of California and not the member’s
if the records I submit after an audit are considered unsatisfactory?
paper submission will be reviewed for compliance and you will be notified of
any deficiencies. In order to complete the administrative audit you will need
to make up any deficiencies either by providing additional certificates or
taking additional courses. Failure to provide satisfactory proof of compliance
by the deadline will result in penalty fees and you may be placed on voluntary
inactive status, making you ineligible to practice law. Such an administrative
suspension also may become a permanent part of your member status record.
who fail to complete the audit or submit proof of completion which would appear
to show that they made false statements on their declaration of compliance may
also be referred to the Office of Trial Counsel for further disciplinary
exempt. How do I complete the audit?
the exempt portion of the online submission and submit a letter from your
employer verifying your title, and dates of employment.
lost my certificates. What do I do now?
are required to maintain attendance records. Contact the provider of the course
and request proof of attendance.
have 200 hours of CLE credits. Do I have to input everything?
should ensure that you input at least 25 hours, including all the required
subfield hours (ethics, bias, and substance abuse). Make sure at least 12.5 of
the hours are participatory.