MCLE AUDITS INCREASE: A FIRST HAND ACCOUNT

By Alfonso Martinez

Unless otherwise exempt under the California Rules of Court, all active members of the State Bar are required to complete at least 25 hours of legal education within a 36-month period. CRC, Rule 9.31. Recently the State Bar announced a more aggressive approach in the MCLE audit process. This change would increase audits to 5 percent (roughly 3,000 to 4,000 lawyers) instead of the 1 percent (635 lawyers) it has audited historically.

This enforcement step-up stems from the 2011 audit, which revealed over 15 percent non-compliance. Of the 635 audited attorneys in Compliance Group 3, 96 did not meet full compliance – and only 1 percent of the Group was audited. Of the 96 in noncompliance, five were suspended for inability to show proof of compliance. Twenty-five of the remaining 91 were referred to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel for disciplinary action for false reporting.

Last month I was one of the lucky five percent who received an MCLE audit letter from the State Bar. Needless to say I had no clue what to do. I asked a few colleagues for guidance, but none had ever received such a letter nor had they heard of an attorney receiving one. Fortunately, completing an MCLE audit is an easy two-step process that anyone could follow. You first have to log on to a secure State Bar website and complete the online MCLE Summary Log.

The electronic log allows you to input your total hours according to category (e.g., legal ethics, bias, substance abuse, and general). After you complete the summary log you click on the submit link. Next, you must mail or fax copies of your attendance certificates to the State Bar. The entire process took me about fifteen minutes.

If anyone has any question regarding the MCLE audit process you may contact the State Bar’s MCLE Audit unit by email at MCLEAudit@calbar.ca.gov or call (888)800-3400.

Alfonso Martinez is an associate at the Dion Law Office, APLC in Westlake Village, representing clients in family and criminal law matters. He is a certified mediator. Mr. Martinez may be reached at al@dionlawoffice.com or at 805-497-7474.

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