So You Finished Law School, Passed The Bar, And You Still Have To Go To School? Understanding California's MCLE
If you were one of the students who sat through the lectures on the minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) requirements without paying too much attention, you may be starting to wonder how many you need and by when. Here is a bit of information that may help you stay in compliance for the next few years. After the first time, you go through the requirement cycle things should be much easier.
How Many MCLE Credits Do You Need?
In the state of California, active lawyers must complete 25 hours of continuing legal education every three years. Of these 25 hours, 19 may be spent on general law information, 4 need to be used studying legal ethics, 1 must cover the elimination of bias in the legal profession, and the last hour must cover topic concerning substance abuse (also called competence issues). However, as a new lawyer, you may not need this many for your first 3-year cycle.
Deadline for MCLE Reporting
Here is when it can become a bit tricky if you have not been an active lawyer for three years yet. Attorneys are assigned a compliance group according to their last name. There are three compliance groups, each having a different deadline year. The groups are A-G, H-M, and N-Z. The deadline date is always February 1st, however, it is the year that will be important to you. For example, this 3-year cycle has the first group's deadline as February 1st, 2016, meaning you are just now starting the new cycle and have three years to meet the requirement. Group 2 needs to have their hours completed by February 1st, 2018, and group 3 has until 2017. However, if you will not have been an active lawyer for the 35 months prior to your group's deadline, you will not have to have all 25 hours completed. There is a proportional scale that runs from 5 months of being active requiring only four hours, up to 35 months and full requirement.
One of the first things you should do after passing the bar and becoming an active lawyer is to determine how many MCLE hours you need and by when. If you fail to meet the requirements, you will be put on an administrative inactive status. This means you will be unable to practice law until such a time you have been put back on active status. Practicing law while inactive could result in time in jail and a fine. You just spent all that time and money getting your degree and passing the bar, be sure to stay in compliance with the MCLE requirement.