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In 2011, the State Bar of California began taking an aggressive approach to auditing lawyers for MCLE compliance. In 2012, 5% of lawyers, about 3,000 to 4,000, were audited and in 2013 10% will be audited -- between 7,000 and 8,000 lawyers.
You may, or may not, be in California, but regardless of where you live, if you are an attorney, you have MCLE responsibilities you must maintain in order to remain in practice.
The best way to survive and maybe even avoid an MCLE audit, of course, is to be in compliance with your requirements. Here are five tips which will help you get and stay compliant and might keep you out of the Bar's sights.
1. Take the Darn MCLE Classes
Make sure you stay up to date with your MCLE classes, and more importantly, if you take a class make sure that you will actually get the credits you need. You must be sure that the class you are taking is approved in order to get the credits. If you have questions about whether you will get credits for a given class, contact your state bar association before taking the class.
2. Keep Records
This is the easy part. You know that little certificate you get when you complete an MCLE class? Keep it. So simple. If anyone should know the importance of a paper trail it's an attorney.
3. Be Sure ... Really, Really Sure
Are you really exempt? Did you double check your math counting hours? Do you have the right amount of hours in the appropriate class categories? Ask yourself these questions and be positive that you can back up everything that you're reporting.
4. File on Time
Yes, deadlines are the hallmark of everything we do, and this is no different. File your application for compliance on time. Now is not the time to procrastinate.
5. Don't Lie
Don't. Ever. Lie. You'll be taking a small problem, and making it into a huge problem. As Jerome Fishkin, a legal ethics attorney stated to The Daily Journal: "You cannot be disbarred for failure to take MCLE, ... but you can be disbarred for lying about it."
MCLE requirements exist for a reason. We're doing ourselves, and our clients, a disservice when we're not in compliance. If you have any questions on how to stay compliant, contact your state bar association.