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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

FAQs about MCLE Compliance

MCLE Requirements

What happens if I don’t fulfill my MCLE requirement?

The 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?

The following members are subject to the MCLE education requirement and must report their compliance:

  • all members of the bar on “active” status
  • 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 exempt status.
  • 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.

Who 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

If I am an active member of the State Bar but am retired from practicing law, do I have to complete MCLE hours?

Yes. Retired members whose status is listed as "active" are subject to the MCLE requirement, even if they are not practicing law.

If I was suspended for disciplinary reasons, do I still have to complete CLE?

Yes. 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 discipline.

MCLE Exemptions

Who is exempt from MCLE requirements?

The following attorneys are exempt, according to Rule of Court 9.31 and Business & Professions Code Section 6070 [Rule 2.54]:

The exemption for retired judges was deleted from Business & Professions Code section 6070, effective Jan. 1, 2000.

What if my job title is not "attorney" or "administrative law judge"?

For 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 law clerks.

Do I have to be a permanent or probationary employee in order to be exempt?

Yes. Examples of those who are not exempt: annuitants and consultants.

Do I have to work full time to be exempt?

No. 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.

Do I lose my exemption if I do work outside the scope of my employment?

Yes. You lose your exemption for the entire compliance period, with the exception of "qualified" pro bono work (see details below).

Full-time 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.

If 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.

The 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 2.54(B)]

No. Members 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 standards.

Am I exempt if I am a member of the military?

Yes. 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

Do I still have to meet MCLE requirements if I report that I’m exempt?

No. 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.

I was not practicing law for a portion of the compliance period. Do I owe all 25 hours?

It 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.

If 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)

I am on voluntary inactive status and wish to return to active status. What is my MCLE requirement?

There is no specific MCLE requirement for reactivation.  For more information, see Inactive Status.

If I earn more than 25 hours, can I carry the excess hours forward?

No. 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 2.72(D)]

I was admitted to the State Bar with four months or less left in the MCLE compliance period. Do I still have to comply?

No. The 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

How do I find out how many MCLE credit hours I need?

Go to My 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?

MCLE 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.

MCLE Compliance

Where 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.

How do I report my MCLE?

Attorneys should report their compliance online through My State Bar Profile. Go to “Report MCLE” and follow the instructions for reporting your credits.

How do I know how many hours of MCLE I have left to complete?

The 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.

Certificates 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

Compliance Information: Record Keeping Requirement

Do I need to send in anything else when reporting my compliance online?

No. 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.

I changed my last name. Does my compliance group change?

No. 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.

What should I do if I can’t complete the MCLE requirements in time?

If 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.

CLE Programs

What’s the difference between participatory and self-study CLE?

For 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.

Online 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.

Is there a list of low-cost CLE programs?

No. The 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:

Attorneys can fulfill up to half of their total required MCLE hours by utilizing self-study options and should consider:

  • sharing self-study tapes with fellow practitioners
  • contacting their county law library for approved tapes that can be checked out for self-study credit
  • accessing the low-cost 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?

It 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 credit
  • provider gives the attorney a certificate of attendance

Otherwise, an attorney receives self-study credit.

What kinds of activities count only for self-study credit?

The following activities count only for self-study credit:

  • self-assessment tests
  • writing a legal article accepted for publication

What kinds of approved activities always count for participatory credit?

The following activities always count for participatory credit:

  • "live" education verified by a provider
  • a law school class (whether taught or attended)
  • speaking or teaching at an approved CLE education activity

How much credit do I get for attending a participatory education activity?

If 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.

For information about attending a participatory activity outside California, go to approved jurisdictions.

How much credit do I get for a self-study education activity?

Providers 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 requirement areas.

Do education activities I take before I'm admitted to the State Bar count for MCLE credit?

No. You 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.

Do providers report to the State Bar each time I attend a participatory CLE activity?

No. 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.)

Please note that a personal CLE log of self-study education activities must also be maintained.  See Compliance Information for Record Keeping Requirements.

Can nontraditional or out-of-state courses count towards CLE?

Yes. 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.

How do I find CLE courses in California?

The 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

Can 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.  

Can I earn CLE credits for writing a legal article?

Yes. 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 newsletter).

Can I earn credits for teaching CLE?

Yes. 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 speaking time.

Can I get credit for grading bar exams, participating as a moot court judge or acting as a mediator?

No. 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.

Can I find CLE if I have a disability?

Yes. CLE providers need to keep the Americans with Disability Act in mind when hosting a class or activity. 

Member Credit Requests

How do I get credit for an activity that isn’t listed as CLE?

An 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.

Before 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:

  • education approval to learn how education activities are approved for California MCLE credit
  • approved jurisdictions if you attended the education activity while you were outside California. The activity may already be approved for MCLE credit.

NOTE: 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.

How much is the processing fee?

The nonrefundable processing fee is $25 per application.

How long will it take to process my application?

Applications 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 complete application.

What happens if the State Bar approves a Member Credit Request?

If 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.

How much credit can I claim if I taught an education activity?

If 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 Options.

May I claim credit for attending a cross-professional education activity?

Yes, 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 Credit Request.

May I claim credit for teaching groups other than lawyers?

No. The exception is teaching law students in a law school class. [Rule 2.82]

Many 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.

MCLE Audits

What is an MCLE Audit?

Each 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.

How do I know if I am being audited?

The 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.

How do I complete the audit?

Follow 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.

What is satisfactory proof of compliance?

You 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).

You 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).

For 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 subfield credits.

To 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.

If 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 publication.

Exempt 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 employer.)

What if the records I submit after an audit are considered unsatisfactory?

Your 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. 

Members 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 investigation.

I’m exempt. How do I complete the audit?

Complete the exempt portion of the online submission and submit a letter from your employer verifying your title, and dates of employment.

I lost my certificates. What do I do now?

Providers are required to maintain attendance records. Contact the provider of the course and request proof of attendance. 

I have 200 hours of CLE credits. Do I have to input everything?

You 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.