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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

What’s new in MCLE ?

By Laura Ernde
Staff Writer

As of July, attorneys can choose from newly expanded categories to fulfill their specialty Minimum Continuing Legal Education credits.

Under rule changes adopted by the State Bar Board of Trustees, the one-hour substance abuse education requirement was broadened and renamed “competence.” Competence education is designed to teach lawyers how to recognize and deal with any mental or physical issue — including dementia, mental illness or substance abuse — that could affect their ability to practice.

In addition, the one-hour elimination of bias specialty requirement now includes courses on how to recognize bias in society, not just in the legal profession.

The four-hour legal ethics requirement remains the same, as does the overall requirement that attorneys log 25 hours of MCLE every three years.

Attorneys may still claim specialty credit for substance abuse and elimination of bias courses that were taken before the rules changed.

So far, the changes have not had much of an impact on the content of course offerings, although that will likely change over time, said Pam Wilson, senior director of the State Bar’s Office of Education.

Since the substance abuse education requirement was adopted in the early 1990s, many attorneys have gotten the message about how to recognize and deal with signs of a problem, said Richard Carlton, acting director of the bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program.

Carlton said even before the rule change he expanded his own CLE program to address anxiety, depression and stress management  in order to reach a broader audience.

“We did a good job getting the word out about how to identify and address substance use problems in the legal profession,” he said. “Now it’s time to talk about some other issues, frankly, that apply to a broader portion of the membership.”