7 MCLE Mistakes
By Psyche Pascual
Every year it happens: A certain group of California
lawyers have until Feb. 1 to complete their Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE)
credits and to turn in their reports to the State Bar.
Making sure attorneys keep up with their continuing
education requirements is one the State Bar takes seriously and yearly audits
show most lawyers are pretty good at complying.
But those who fail to turn in an MCLE report face monetary
penalties and the possible loss of active status. Attorneys found lying on
their MCLE reports also face penalties and disciplinary charges. In July, the
State Bar begins auditing these records to determine whether the MCLE reports
attorneys file are not only correct, but complete.
Will all that in mind, it’s a good
idea for attorneys to make sure their records are as accurate as possible. Here’s
a list of the most common mistakes that auditors have found:
1. Forgetting or overlooking
ethics, elimination of bias and substance abuse CLE
to complete the ethics (4 hours), elimination of bias (1 hour) and substance
abuse (1 hour) requirements.
the State Bar’s MCLE Personal
Log will help you track these requirements. There are separate columns for
substance abuse, ethics and elimination of bias.
Taking CLE classes after reporting compliance
compliance and then submitting credit for courses taken after the date you
reported compliance will land you in trouble.
Tip: If you know
you’ll miss the deadline you should be aware that you will be assessed a $75
late penalty. You do have additional time to complete the requirement before
you face the final deadline, however. Paying the late penalty and reporting
compliance after you complete the hours is a better option than facing possible
discipline for filing a false report of compliance.
will not face audit sanction if you are late, but do not report compliance
until after you’ve completed the requirements. Remember, you can’t use the late
hours a second time as part of the next compliance period.
errors resulting in failure to complete enough hours.
Tip: Attorneys can use the MCLE Personal Log to tally their hours. You still
have to do the math, but it creates a record of the classes you took so that
you have the correct numbers.
‘I thought I was exempt’
the exemption rule. Members thought they were exempt and weren’t, or were only
exempt for part of the compliance period and failed to complete their
proportional requirement. To be exempt, state and federal employees must be
employed in a position that requires them to be an attorney. City, county and
superior court employees are NOT exempt. Temporary and contract workers are
also not exempt from the rule.
Tip: Review the extensive
State Bar rules on
“My cat ate my certificate”
attendance certificates make up a significant number of excuses. If you’re
audited, you will have to produce a paper certificate as proof.
Tip: Keep your
certificates in a safe place and use the MCLE Personal
Log to track your CLE hours in case you need to contact the provider for a
replacement. If you know you don’t have the certificate, ask the provider for
one before you’re audited.
Sky-diving for MCLE credits
activities that have not been approved for MCLE is a common mistake. CLE
courses MUST be approved for CLE credit and the certificate of attendance must note
Tip: Check out your education
options to determine whether the activity you participate in is actually acceptable. If
your activity is not on the approved list, you may have to submit a member credit request to get the
hours considered towards the MCLE requirements.
Mistaking programs that advertise “MCLE credit available” for “MCLE approved.”
is a common problem with members who take classes from out-of-state CLE
providers. The fact that MCLE credit is available for a course does not
necessarily mean that it has been approved for it. Your certificate must
indicate that CLE has been awarded.
with the provider first to make sure that you will get credit for the course that
counts towards compliance. You may need to apply for credit on your own using a member credit request. These requests,
however, must be approved by the State Bar.
you have a question about MCLE, don’t assume that you’re covered. You can avoid
audit problems by contacting the Member Services Center at 888-800-3400, before
you report compliance.