crunch: What to do if you’re audited
State Bar stepping up its efforts to ensure attorneys are meeting their continuing
education requirements, experts offer a number of tips to avoid getting in
trouble – and prevent problems from ballooning in the event of an audit.
the bar audited 635 lawyers chosen at random – 1 percent of attorneys whose
Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements were due. This year's
audit will be broader with the bar planning to look at a 5-percent sample, or
roughly 3,000 to 4,000 lawyers.
defense attorneys who represent lawyers in State Bar Court agree that the best
tactic, short of completing your MCLE requirements in the first place, is
haven't done it, be straight with them,” said Jonathan Arons, a San
Francisco-based legal ethics attorney. Lying to the bar can give the agency the
impression that you are also willing to lie to clients, he said.
you are going to get into more trouble,” said Arons, who also cautions against
ignoring an audit notice.
Margolis of Margolis & Margolis in Los Angeles agreed, noting that while
meeting the MCLE requirements might seem inconvenient, it pales in comparison
to a discipline proceeding.
fulfill education requirements can result in an administrative suspension, but
lying about having done so could lead to a much more damaging moral turpitude
charge, Margolis said.
up on your record as discipline, where the other doesn't,” she said.
600-plus lawyers selected for last year's audit, 98 were found not in
compliance. Twenty four are facing potential discipline for falsely reporting
they had met their requirements, and five were suspended for failing to respond
to the audit.
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.
it can be easy to pick up most – if not all – of the required hours at the
State Bar's annual meeting or through programs offered by local bar
DiLoreto, the bar’s managing director of member records and information, said
attorneys must hold onto records for MCLE they have completed for a year after
the Feb. 1 reporting deadline.
recommends keeping a log of courses to make it easier to respond to the audit
in the event documentation is lost. MCLE providers are required to hold on to attendance
records for four years and can provide duplicates.
attorneys who haven’t met their MCLE requirements by the deadline, DiLoreto
said there is a worst-case scenario option to buy a little more time. The bar
initially charges a late fee of $75 and gives attorneys a 60-day notice to
bullet and pay the late fee,” DiLoreto said. “It's a small price to pay to get
a little more time.”
plans to send out letters for this year's audit in July. Those selected will
need fill out an online MCLE compliance log and submit actual certificates of
attendance, either by mail or email. For more information about the MCLE
requirements, visit the State Bar's MCLE web page or call the Member Services Center