Minimum Continuing Legal Education (free MCLE) refers to the approved continuing legal education required of California attorneys. By law, attorneys are required to complete a total of 25 hours of approved credit every three years. But not every lawyer, no matter how well paid he or she is, is interested in returning to the university from which they earned their degree. To be sure that all lawyers receive quality legal education, even a free MCLE, the State Bar Association will approve free MCLE providers that offer courses and educational activities. They may receive instruction on California legislative history research, California statuatory history, California legislative intent services and more.
There are a few caveats pertaining to the activities that may be approved by the State Bar for free MCLE credit. Factors include directly relevant material, significant or current professional or practical content, instructors or presenters must have professional or academic experience relating to topics discussed, the audience must be members of the State Bar Association (paralegals do not qualify), and lastly, all materials, written or electronic, must be easily understood.
There are a host of activities that do not qualify for free MCLE credit. Some of these activities include any legal subject taught to non lawyers or attorneys, activities designed to teach marketing to new clients as a way to increase profits, jury duty, grading the California Bar Exam, acting as a supervisor in the State Bar Law Office Study Program, conducting roll call or connecting to a teleconference, chat room discussions, acting as judge pro tem, mediator or arbitrator or settlement judge, business courses on writing and managing, informal discussion groups, activities promoting moral issues facing society, activities regarding mentoring new attorneys, etc.
Of course, there are plenty of activities and courses where attorneys can earn free MCLE credit. They include docket control, malpractice avoidance, improvement of attorney communication skills with current clients and improvement in the attorney client relationship, among others. Attorneys, including those who are exempt, are required to report compliance to the State Bar through My State Bar Profile to verify that they have complied with their free MCLE requirement.
California’s attorney membership is divided into three compliance groups. Compliance periods for the three groups are staggered so that each group reports compliance in a different year. Compliance periods are 36 months (three years) in length.