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:
- 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.
 Compliance Information