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MCLE Self-Assessment Test

MCLE revisions keep hours at 25 for now, create new provider review system

By Laura Ernde
Staff Writer

The State Bar Board of Trustees adopted new Minimum Continuing Legal Education rules last month aimed at expanding course options and improving their quality.

However, the board deferred action on a proposal to increase the requirement from 25 hours every three years to 36 hours.

After holding a series of public hearings this spring, the board’s Member Oversight Committee recommended a series of changes, which were then sent out for public comment. The full board approved the new rules at its Oct. 12 meeting. They will take effect in July 2014.

The new rules will:

  • Expand the substance abuse education specialty requirement to include a broader "competence issues" requirement. Competence education would teach lawyers how to recognize and deal with any mental or physical issue — including dementia, mental illness or substance abuse — that could affect their ability to practice.
  • Establish a formal audit system for MCLE providers that would use volunteers to review courses and provide a process for attorneys to register complaints about providers.
  • Require written materials for MCLE courses that are an hour or more in length. Currently, materials are not required for programs that are one hour or less.
  • Broaden the elimination of bias specialty requirement to include courses on how to recognize bias in society, not just in the legal profession.

Most of the public comments concerned the proposed increase in hours from 25 to 36. The board directed the State Bar’s staff to further explore the idea and develop a proposal for consideration at a future meeting.

David Mann, a consultant for The Other Bar, a nonprofit that assists attorneys and judges with alcohol and substance abuse problems, told the board he was concerned that changing the substance abuse requirement would diminish its impact.

Trustees Loren Kieve and David Pasternak commended Mann for his work and said the change was intended to increase awareness of broader competence issues. The Senior Lawyers Working Group this year concluded that issues associated with aging may also impair a lawyer’s ability to serve clients.