Monthly Archives: October 2012

MCLE Deadline Draws Near in North Carolina

Attorneys in North Carolina (NC) are running out of time to complete their minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) requirement.  North Carolina attorneys have until December 31 to complete the required 12 CLE credit hours.  The twelve unit NC MCLE requirement includes two (2) required hours of professional responsibility (ethics) or professionalism.[1]

Attorney Credits has recently begun offering CLE courses for North Carolina attorneys right in time for the December 31 NC CLE compliance deadline.  If you are an attorney in North Carolina and you don’t feel like attending a live CLE event, you may complete up to four hours of online CLE courses each annual compliance period through Attorney Credits online CLE courses.[3]  Attorney Credits also offers MP3 and downloadable video CLE courses for North Carolina attorneys that don’t feel like working online.

“Yes, members may take up to four (4) hours of online credit each year towards their CLE requirements. Members may also take an additional four (4) hours of online credit which will be banked and applied to the following calendar year.”[2]

Once the CLE is completed, North Carolina attorneys must remember to report MCLE compliance in a timely fashion. In January, all North Carolina attorneys will receive an annual report.  The annual report form will show all of the information that the N.C. CLE department has accumulated regarding CLE credit hours for the preceding year. All active members of the North Carolina State Bar must return this annual report form – regardless of exemption and regardless of whether the MCLE requirement has been completed. In order to avoid a $75.00 late penalty, North Carolina attorneys must sign and return the form to the North Carolina CLE department by February 28.

If you need further information about CLE in North Carolina, please visit our CLE FAQ for North Carolina attorneys.

[1] In addition, at least once every three calendar years, each North Carolina attorney must complete an additional one hour of professional responsibility devoted exclusively to instruction in substance abuse awareness or debilitating mental conditions, and a lawyer’s professional responsibilities.

[2] See Frequently Asked Questions for Attorneys, Rules & Regulations

[3] Members may also take an additional four (4) hours of online credit which will be banked and applied to the following calendar year.

Mandatory MCLE in All States?

In an earlier Attorney Credit’s post, I wrote about how Nevada is contemplating making substance abuse a mandatory CLE course for its attorneys.  Of course, the attorneys opposed to the mandatory requirement  always feel that the paternalistic state bar association is going out of its way to burden attorneys with yet another mandatory requirement and ignore the fact that substance abuse is a major problem in the legal profession.

I read another article this morning about mandatory MCLE and who the requirement should apply to.  There are still a handful of states where CLE is not mandatory such as Connecticut, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan and South Dakota.

There are also a number of states including Illinois, New Jersey and Florida who make newly admitted attorneys complete a certain amount of live CLE courses.  And these courses are geared towards new attorneys and they challenges they face – mainly learning the things that don’t teach you in law school … like actually learning to practice law.

Another comment that I often see against CLE often focuses on the ‘mandatory’ aspect of MCLE.  Since people are forced to take classes – the argument goes – they get very little out of the education because they are simply there to get the units done.  Well, with that logic we might as well get rid of mandatory driving classes for 16 year-old kids because they would get more out of driving classes if they were optional.  Unfortunately, the argument does not hold water.  If you think that MCLE will be more beneficial to attorneys simply because its not mandatory, you are fooling yourself.

Unfortunately, too many attorneys have the attitude that when they get out of law school and pass their state’s bar exam that they know everything there is to know about the law.  However, the world is a changing place and knowledge is not static.  In the ten years since I graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law, society and the practice of law have changed dramatically with the advent of electronic discovery and Web 2.0.  If you are not taking CLE courses, how are you keeping up with this change?

Lawyers can complain as much as they want, but one thing is certain.  MCLE is here to stay, and it should only be a matter of time before it’s mandatory across the country … in some fashion or another.

End of the (MCLE) Year is Almost Here

The countdown has begun.  The end of the year is almost here … yes, only 66 more day until 2013.  It is pretty unbelievable – another year has come and is (almost) gone.

For many people the end of the year means holidays, Christmas shopping and hanging out with the inlaws.  For many attorneys, the end of the year means it’s time to get your CLE done!

That’s because there are a number of states that have December 31 MCLE deadlines.  Given the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, December 31 may not be the best time to set an MCLE deadline.  However, the end of the year deadline probably makes it easy for CLE regulators.

The following states have December 31 deadlines:

Here at Attorney Credits we try and help you fight CLE procrastination.   Why wait until the last minute??  If you sign up for online CLE courses right now, you would only have to take about 1 or 2 CLE courses each week until the end of the year.

Hey, it beats cramming in 10 CLE courses on Christmas Eve and Christmas!

[1] Pennsylvania has three compliance periods during the year: April 30, Aug 31 and Dec 31.

Should State Bars Limit the Amount of Online CLE?

As Director of Legal Education with at Attorney Credits, one of the trickier parts of CLE is dealing with the MCLE regulations and requirements of each state. Instead of one uniform CLE system throughout the country, each state sets different requirements for its own MCLE program.  That’s the reason why Nevada (NV) attorneys must complete 12 CLE units each year, while attorneys in Illinois (IL) must complete 30 CLE units every two years …. and attorneys in Massachusetts don’t have an MCLE requirement at all.

Some states even limit the number of online CLE courses that attorneys may complete each compliance period.  New Jersey (NJ) recently made MCLE mandatory for attorneys that practice in the Garden State.  New Jersey attorneys now must complete 24 MCLE units every 2 years.  However, without a valid exception New Jersey attorneys may take no more than 12 MCLE units through online CLE courses.

Again, courses taken through alternative verifiable learning formats shall account for no more than one-half of the total credit hour requirement per compliance period. BCLE Reg. 201:8 and 301:9

There are other states that require attorneys who take online CLE courses to have contempareneous contact with the instructor in order to qualify for credit.  And then there is a state like Minnesota that doesn’t even allow attorneys to take on-demand CLE courses online.  In Minnesota, online CLE courses must be live webcasts in order to qualify for CLE credit.

Luckily, the larger states like California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas do not limit the amount of online CLE that attorneys may complete.  In CA, TX, NY, IL, and TX attorneys may fulfill their entire MCLE requirement with online CLE courses.

With the greater acceptance of technology in the legal community – and better methods of online CLE delivery – it is our belief here at Attorney Credits these rules limiting online CLE will become a thing of that past.

What do you think?

Mandatory Substance Abuse CLE in Nevada???

Call it the legal profession’s dirty little secret – substance abuse. Stories and statistics may vary, but one thing is for certain … there is a definite substance abuse problem in the legal profession. By some accounts, more than 50% of all discipline cases are due to problems with substance abuse and dependence.[1]  Whether it’s alcohol, cocaine or pills, many attorneys turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with the stress of the profession.

California is one state that already has a distinct Substance Abuse requirement as part of its CLE program.  California (CA) attorneys must complete 1 credit hour of Substance Abuse CLE every 3-year compliance period.  Now, it appears as though Nevada is set to make Substance Abuse a mandatory part of its minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) program as well.

According to a Las Vegas Sun article, nearly 23% of those applying to practice law in Nevada in the last two years disclosed a history of substance abuse … and these are just applicants, not even practicing attorneys.  Currently, lawyers in Nevada (NV) are required to take 12 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) every year, Substance Abuse would become a mandatory course like legal ethics.

The State Bar of Nevada had previously set up a program for evaluation and treatment of substance abuse problems. However, there has been a lack of awareness by attorneys in Nevada and the program hasn’t been utilized as much as initially expected. Since knowledge is power, the Nevada Bar is now proposing the mandatory one-hour Substance Abuse CLE course to deal with these problems.

At Attorney Credits, we offer a full range of Substance Abuse CLE courses for California (CA) attorneys and attorneys around the country.  Once course in particular by trial attorney Gary Gwilliam can serve as an incredible Substance Abuse resource: Inebriation, Intervention and Insight: A Trial Lawyer Finds His Soul.

Will more states follow suit and make Substance Abuse a mandatory part of their CLE ciricumlum? Should attorneys be forced to take mandatory Substance Abuse courses as part of minimum continuing legal education?

[1] The American Bar Association (ABA) estimates that between 15 % – 20% of lawyers suffer from alcohol dependence or substance abuse compared with only 10% in the general population. And 33% of the attorneys will “experience either short-term or chronic symptoms of depression or stress.”

Rutgers CLE Program Hacked

The Internet was made for pure communication.  That’s why security was such an afterthought – it would hinder the flow of ideas.  But as the Internet and World Wide Web have transformed into an incredibly important global infrastructure, this lack of security has become increasingly troublesome. And making things worse, the potential targets for hackers are seemingly endless – from the Whitehouse and FBI computers to private companies and Universities.

One place you wouldn’t expect to get hacked would be the Rutgers University CLE program – but that’s exactly what happened on October 1. According to the New Jersey Law Journal, a ring of international hackers broke into 100 university websites around the world and posted personal data on more than 1,500 lawyers from the continuing legal education (CLE) program at Rutgers’ two law schools in New Jersey (NJ).

“We have set out to raise awareness towards the changes made in today’s education, how new laws imposed by politicians affect us, our economy and overall, our way of life. How far we have ventured from learning valuable skills that would normally help us be prepared in life, to just, simply memorizing large chunks of text in exchange for good grades. How our very own traditions are heard less and less, losing touch with who we truly are. Slowly casting the identities, that our ancestors fought to protect, into exile”[1] – Team Ghostshell

The group of international hackers accessed names, addresses, encrypted passwords, telephone numbers and email addresses and posted them online. The information has since been removed, but attorneys who were affected were urged to change their passwords on all accounts where they were using.[2]

A hacker group known as Team GhostShell took responsibility for the attacks that leaked over 120,000 records from universities worldwide. The international group hacked into the computers and leaked the information to protest rising education costs and student loan debt, and to provoke a discussion on the state of higher education.

Rutgers says it has responded by bolstering security on the website. Unfortunately for Rutgers and the attorneys whose information was leaked, this beefed up security is too little too late.

Luckily, when you take CLE courses with Attorney Credits you don’t have to break the bank.  We offer a number of one-click state bundles and other discounted packages for attorneys around the country.  By harnessing technology, we have been able to deliver a superior product at an incredibly reasonable price.  You would be hard pressed to find CLE at a better value and we always strive to create a stress free experience for our attorney clients.  Please visit our Attorney Credits homepage or one of our state landing pages for more information on CLE if you practice in New York (NY), New Jersey (NJ), Florida (FL), Illinois (IL), California (CA), Texas (TX) or a number of other states around the country.


[2] Hackers Post Lawyers’ CLE Info from Rutgers; Group Says It Accessed Data to Protest Education Costs

State Ethics Opinions & Resources

Legal ethics has taken on greater importance over the last few decades.  As the incidence of malpractice and the number of disbarments has increased, State Bars have tried to place greater emphasis on legal ethics – whether its though testing like the MPRE or mandatory ethics courses as part of the MCLE requirement.[1]

Florida is one state that supplies its attorneys with plenty of information on current ethical and legal trends.  Through Florida (FL) MLCE and other means, the Florida Bar has tried to educate attorneys on important ethical issues.  Further, now that we have the Internet at our disposal, much of the information is available online through the Florida Bar’s website.  The bar’s website featured articles on ethical issues, ethics opinions and an ethics hotline.

Here are a few of the ethics articles written in 2012:

Here are the Ethics Opinions written in 2012:

While ethics opinions are merely advisory and do not carry the weight of law, they are invaluable resources and they are given great deference by the courts.  They can serve to keep you current with important ethical topics and rules …. and keep you out of trouble with the state bar.  A number of other states also offer ethics opinions, including California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas

And states such as California (CA), Illinois (IL), New Jersey (NJ), New York (NY) and Texas (TX) also seek to educate attorneys about ethics through education via CLE and MCLE.  Education is imperative to preventative ethics and stemming problems before they occur.

Whether you practice in Florida or another part of the country you should consult ethics opinions in your state and other opinions around the country.  As the old saying goes – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

[1] “The Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) is administered by ACT on behalf of the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The MPRE is a 60-question, two-hour-and-five-minute, multiple-choice examination administered three times per year at established test centers across the country.”

MCLE in Texas

Every active member of the State Bar of Texas  must complete a minimum of 15 hours of accredited TX CLE during each MCLE compliance year.  Failure to report TX MCLE credit hours could result in a non-compliance penalty – and penalties range from $100 to $300.

Texas is considered a self-reporting state.  If you are an attorney in Texas you are responsible for ensuring that you are in compliance with the State Bar of Texas. However, the Texas MCLE department is responsible for ensuring that bar members are in compliance with the annual TX MCLE requirements.  As as service to our customers we report every Monday morning.

If you are an attorney in Texas, your Annual MCLE Verification Report will be mailed to you by the State Bar of Texas eight weeks before your birth month. You must review this annual report carefully for both accuracy and completeness. If the Verification Report shows that you have completed the required number of TX CLE hours, then you don’t have to take any further action.

However, if you have not completed – or reported – the minimum 15 credit hours by the last day of your compliance year, the State Bar of Texas (TX) will email and mail you a reminder Notice at the beginning of your birth month. This period is considered a grace period and you are given this grace period to comply with the MCLE requirements – without a penalty. If you do not complete and report at least 15 hours of TX MCLE by the last day of your grace period then you will be considered non-compliant and subject to monetary penalty.

If you need more information about MCLE in Texas please click here.

New York’s ‘Attorney Participation’ MCLE Rule

New York is the only state where the MCLE Rules and Regulations require that the faculty of a CLE course include at least one attorney in good standing who must actively participate in the MCLE course.  Most other states allow expert witnesses and other legal professionals to teach CLE courses who are not licensed attorneys in good standing with a state bar.

(4) The faculty of the course or program shall include at least one attorney in good standing, who shall actively participate in the course or program. [effective January 1, 2008]

The rationale seems pretty simple to me … although it is a bit misguided.  New York enacted this rule to ensure that attorneys are being taught continuing legal education, and not learning about non-legal topics like accounting or marketing.   The New York CLE Board feels that courses taught by attorneys will have some nexus to the law, while courses taught by experts and non-attorneys may stray into the non-legal realm.  And after all, the whole point of MCLE in New York (NY) is to make better lawyers … as the old adage goes, knowledge is power.

However, this does overlook the fact that training by experts in non-legal fields may be a valuable part of an attorney’s continuing legal education (CLE).  Doesn’t it seem that a course taught by an expert witness on how attorneys can properly manage experts at trial would be a valuable resource?  Or that a course taught by a forensic accountant teaching attorneys how to quantify damages,  prove fraudulent activity, or find hidden assets would be a valuable CLE resource?

What do you think?  Is New York’s prohibition against non-attorneys valid?  Or does this rule stifle continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys in New York (NY)?  If you have more questions about MCLE in New York, please visit our NY CLE FAQ.

Increased California MCLE Audits Lead to First Disciplinary Charges

All the more reason to properly complete and document your MCLE compliance in California.

The State Bar of California has made it no secret that they plan to audit many more California attorney’s MCLE compliance in the coming years. Since California is a self-reporting state, there is more leeway for falsifying compliance than in states who directly keep track of their attorneys MCLE compliance.

Now, the State Bar has filed disciplinary charges against three California attorneys due to this increased enforcement of the California (CA) Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements. According the State Bar of California, the three attorneys falsely reported that they had fulfilled the requirement to complete 25 hours of MCLE.

“It is truly unfortunate that we need to take this action against any lawyer … lawyers can easily avoid this problem by simply meeting the well-known MCLE requirements that have been in place for 20 years.”[1]

                                       – State Bar Executive Director/CEO Joe Dunn

Attorneys in California (CA) must take 25 hours of CA CLE courses every three years.  Out of those twenty-five units, attorneys must complete 4 hours of legal ethics, 1 hour of elimination of bias, and 1 hour of substance abuse credit. Lawyers must keep documentation of completion for at least one year after compliance period has ended.

Further, California attorneys must remember not to exceed the 12.5 unit self-study limit.  While attorneys may take all 25 units of participatory credit, attorneys may take no more than 12.5 units of self-study credits.  Attorneys have also been found to be in non-compliance because they exceeded the self-study limits.

The three cases are the first disciplinary action to result from increased MCLE audits. However, there are more charges expected in the coming weeks. A total of twenty-seven lawyers have been referred to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel due to last year’s random audit of 635 lawyers.

Further, the State Bar is not done auditing California attorneys for MCLE compliance. In all, then State Bar of California plans to potentially audit as many as 12,000 lawyers over the next two years.[2] 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.

[2] 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.