Monthly Archives: May 2012

California Attorneys Can Expect More MCLE Audits

By Jason Castillo, Director of Legal Education

I have received a few frantic phone calls and emails from colleagues and clients in the last few weeks in regards to their MCLE compliance.  Apparently, they had been audited the State Bar of California .. and they were not alone.

“No California attorney should be surprised if their compliance certificate is audited.”                                                                                                  – John Streeter, President of the State Bar of California

After a little research I found out that last month that John Streeter, the President of the State Bar of California, sent a letter to Voluntary Bar Associations within the state.  The letter warned that the State Bar would be “taking a more aggressive approach to auditing compliance than it has historically.”  In June the bar plans to send out letters requesting proof of compliance for 2012.

In all, then State Bar of California plans to potentially audit as many as 12,000 lawyers over the next two years. In 2012, California attorneys can expect that 5% or roughly 3,000-4,000 lawyers to be audited. In 2013, the goal is to audit 10% which translates to 7,000-8,000 lawyers.  It’s interesting to note that while the Bar only audited 1% of the attorneys in 2011 it is now looking to audit as many as 10% in 2013.

Even if you don’t practice in California, this action should serve as a warning – state bars are getting serious about MCLE compliance.

The reason for the change in policy?  The ‘troubling’ result of the 2011 audit – over 15% non-compliance.  Of the 635 audited attorneys in Compliance Group 3, 96 did not have full compliance – and only 1% of the Group was audited.  Of the 96 in non-compliance, 5 were suspended right off the bat for inability to show any compliance.  Many of the remaining 91 attorneys only had minor reporting deficiencies.  These attorneys received a cautionary letter about future compliance.  However, 25 of the 91 are being referred to the Office to Chief Trial Counsel for disciplinary action for falsely reporting they had met their requirements.

“The message from the State Bar: California lawyers must fulfill and accurately document and report their MCLE requirements.”

While fulfilling the MCLE requirement might seem inconvenient to some, it pales in comparison to lying about MCLE completion to the State Bar.  Neglecting to complete the 25 required units can result in an administrative suspension.  However, dishonesty in reporting MCLE compliance can possibly lead to an extremely damaging moral turpitude charge.

If your compliance with the MCLE requirement is audited, the following must be provided to the State Bar:[1]

  • The certificates of attendance given to you by providers by mail or email
  • Your record of self-study activities including, as appropriate, the title, provider, time spent in the activity, subject matter of the activity, and the date on which you engaged in the activity; and
  • Proof of Exempt status, if applicable.
  • Fill out an online MCLE compliance log

The State Bar advises that you maintain the records listed above for one year from the time compliance is reported.  If you are a California attorney I would suggest downloading a Personal MCLE Log form from the State Bar website that you can use to keep track of your credit hours.   Also, if you use our Attorney Credits website for your MCLE compliance you always have records of your Certificates of Completion online – one more benefit of our website.

Our CE Gauge will also soon be functional.  Our CE Gauge will be able to track your MCLE compliance for you and warn you of impending deadlines.
Further resources:

[1] Compliance Information

Eliminating Bias in the Legal System

By Jason Castillo, Director of Legal Education

What does eliminating bias from the legal system mean to you?  After attending a handful of Elimination of Bias lectures, I know that probably just the mention of eliminating bias probably makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Is the elimination of bias just another required course that you are forced to take by your State Bar? Is it a course that you are forced to take to keep your law license?[1]  What thoughts or emotions are conjured up when you hear these words?

I would surmise that there is a large percentage of attorneys who feel that State Bars and the ABA have no business trying to eliminate bias and discrimination from the legal profession.  After all, we already have Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.[2]  Do we really need a CLE course on bias in the legal system?

“Elimination of bias is an important goal; requiring CLE courses to draw attention to the issues and help lawyers know how to eliminate bias is an appropriate method of pursing that goal. But what the disciplinary rules and cases applying them show is that actual harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated by the court in the practice of law, and that real disciplinary consequences will be imposed for direct violation of the anti harassment or antidiscrimination rules and/or for the effect such conduct has on the administration of justice.”[3]

The short answer is yes, you do.  Not only because it’s mandated in many states, but also because every person is biased to a certain extent.  And this bias factors into many aspects of the legal system – from the decisions to the attorneys that judges and lawyers make, to the final verdict that the jury reaches.  However, by being aware of your biases and consciously managing these biases you can make more sound legal decisions for your client and the court.

If you need to pick up that hard to get Elimination of Bias credit or you are an attorney that has an interest in this fascinating topic, we have had the good fortune of working with Myer J. Sankary to produce an excellent course on the subject.[4]  Myer is a member of the Neuroleadership Institute, and was personally trained by Dr. Robert Cialdini, the author of the best-selling book Influence: Science and Practice, and received his CMCT certification to present the Principles of Persuasion workshop based on Cialdini’s acclaimed research in this field

Myer’s course – Elimination of Bias in the Legal System details the biological and social origins of bias.  He further describes how we might be able to manage bias to reduce certain types of thinking and judgment that are adverse to our clients and the legal system.  Myer’s exploration and learning of the neurosciences has given him new insight into how our brains function and how our decisions are formulated.  The main issues discussed in the course include how the mind and behavior works, how bias is created, and how bias plays out in making decisions in the courtroom and in the office.  Further topics discussed include types of biases, bias in jury selection, implicit social cognition, how to manage bias, bias prevention training, snap judgments, stereotypes, biological evolution & organizing principles of the brain, warmth vs. competence, the SCARP Model, mindfulness and ways to reduce bias.

Don’t miss this chance to learn from an expert on bias!  Myer’s course is one of the best CLE courses that I have had the pleasure of producing.

[1] Bias and Discrimination courses are generally a part of attorneys MCLE requirement as Legal Ethics, Professional Responsibility or Elimination of Bias credit.

[2] Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws

[3] Professional Ethics & Elimination of Bias

[4] Mr. Sankary teaches the application of cognitive sciences to lawyers and business leaders so that they can become more effective leaders in their professional careers by using the science of the mind and social influence.  Myer has attended numerous advanced courses by leading neuroscientists applying theories of neuroscience to resolving high stakes, high emotion conflicts and has focused his research and training in social science and neuroscience on the subject of “Understanding and Managing Bias in the Legal System.“  Myer recently presented a program to the office of general trial counsel of the State Bar on the use of social and cognitive science in the practice of law and he also trains lawyers to become arbitrators for the Mandatory Fee Arbitration programs.

Illinois MCLE Requirement Now 30 Units

By Jason Castillo, Director of Legal Education

If you are an Illinois attorney – and your last name begins with A-M – you must now complete 30 units to fulfill your MCLE requirement OR be entitled to claim a valid exemption no later than June 30.[1]  This 30 hour requirement includes 6 units of Professional Responsibility.[2]  Also, different rules and requirements apply to newly admitted attorneys.[3]

There is a grace period for attorneys that have not yet completed the required MCLE credit hours by June 30.  This grace period extension ends on September 30, 2012.  However, it will cost you if you fall into the grace period.  If your MCLE is not completed by June 30, one of two late fees will apply:

  • $100 if the attorney reports non-compliance by July 31, 2012
  • $150 if the attorney fails to report compliance, non-compliance or a valid exemption by July 31, 2012.

Attorneys may report online or respond to certification forms mailed by the Illinois MCLE Board.  Online reporting is done through the MCLE Board Online Reporting System.  To access the online attorney reporting website click the following link:

Attorneys may access the Illinois MCLE Board online reporting system to complete a number of tasks including reporting MCLE compliance and making payments.[4]  Lastly, the Supreme Court of Illinois amended the MCLE Rules and the MCLE Board’s fee schedule effective September 27, 2011.  For a list of changes click here.

We have a number of one-click state bundles to fulfill the Illinois 30 credit hour MCLE requirement. Click here to view:

Click these links for further information:

What is a two-year Illinois reporting period?

Newly Admitted Attorneys, Did You Know …

MCLE Requirements in Illinois

How do I report MCLE compliance?

Attorney reporting periods and required CLE hours

[1] Illinois attorneys have a two-year reporting period according to Rule 794. Different rules apply with respect to newly admitted attorneys. Rule 793. An attorney’s two-year reporting period depends on the first letter of the attorney’s last name as it appeared on the master roll of attorneys on July 1, 2006 if the attorney was admitted to the Illinois bar by June 30, 2006 or, if admitted on July 1, 2006 or later, the attorney’s last name upon admission.

[2] This includes professionalism, diversity issues, mental illness and addiction issues, civility or legal ethics as per Rule 794(d)(1).

[3] Newly-admitted attorneys must comply with the requirements of Rule 793 and must complete a total of 15 credit hours

[4] To use the online reporting system, you must log in using your attorney registration number that was issued by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC).  The ARDC number appears on your ARDC card and annual registration form.