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California State Bar Proposes to Increase CLE Requirements

The California State Bar’s Member Oversight Committee (“MOC”) recently convened public hearings in order to assess the current state of the Minimum Continuing Legal Education (“MCLE”) requirements for attorneys licensed in the state of California as well as for its MCLE providers (nationwide) for CLE credit in California.  The MOC’s proposal includes the following:

Enhanced MCLE Requirements for Attorneys

This would involve increasing the current minimum of 25 hours to 36 hours for each three-year period, increasing the number of ethics hours, and including a requirement for law practice management as part of the mandatory MCLE curriculum.

According to the Bar, the minimum MCLE hours required in California are fairly low compared to other states.  North Dakota, Oregon and Washington have the highest (at 45 hours every 3 years.)  Compared to other industries, attorneys in California have it much “easier.”  Physicians must complete 50 hours and accountants must complete 40 hours, respectively, every two-years.  [In other words, if the Bar raises the number of hours required by 11 hours, don’t complain because you still have easier compared to your brethren in other states and other industries!]

What is unique about California MCLE requirements are the subjects attorneys must complete in addition to the general requirements in their practice area.  These include Elimination of Bias, Substance Abuse and Legal Ethics.  The proposal seeks to add a fourth subject, Law Practice Management.

There’s no question that the rise in the use of social media and mobile devices have fundamentally changed the way law is being practiced nationwide, not just California.  It would certainly behoove attorneys to understand how this shift in law practice affects their legal duties to their clients and to the maintenance of an efficient law practice.

Enhanced MCLE Requirements for Providers

Having navigated through the MCLE requirements as a provider, California, as compared to other states, was much easier and straightforward in their requirements.  They were quick to respond to queries from our office and always quick to provide updates via email.  [I can’t say that for other states.]

The proposed changes would require enhanced measures for ways to audit a program or class.  Written materials would now be required for all courses, not just those that are one-hour long.  Finally, participatory (attendance must be verified) versus self-study courses would be more clearly defined.

Enhance and Automate the MCLE Compliance Self-Reporting Process for Attorneys

[The MOC did not articulate what the enhancements or automated features would be.]

Public Comment Period

What are your thoughts on the increase in hours?  Do you think it’s fair and wise?  The Bar has allowed for a public comment period through the end of September 6, 2013.  To submit a comment, click here for details.