California Bar Journal
CBJ - December 2012 #05.
MCLE audit results encouraging, but some attorneys still face discipline
The California LawyerDecember 2012MCLE audit results encouraging, but some attorneys still face disciplineBy Laura ErndeStaff WriterAttorneys performed better overall in the second year of a State Bar audit of compliance with Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements, a recent report showed. Even so, about 4.6 percent of lawyers failed the audit and face possible disciplinary action as a result.
This year the bar audited 2,600 attorneys, or 5 percent of those who were required to report their MCLE compliance by Feb. 1. The audit revealed problems for 349 lawyers, or 13.4 percent. That was a decline from 21 percent last year.
"Attorneys who were paying attention took heed," said Robert McPhail, who supervised the audits for the State Bar, in his comments to the State Bar Board of Trustees at its November meeting.
Some attorneys had done the required 25 hours of coursework over three years but ran into trouble for not taking enough participatory classes or missing credits on the subjects of legal ethics, detection and prevention of substance abuse and elimination of bias in the legal profession. Attorneys were largely able to resolve those kinds of minor problems.
McPhail estimated that 121 recalcitrant lawyers will be referred to the Office of Chief Trial this month for serious compliance issues. That includes about 27 lawyers who will be placed on administrative inactive status for failure to comply with the audit, despite being notified seven times by mail, email or a phone call. The referrals represented 4.6 percent of those audited, which was about the same ratio as last year's audit.
About a third of people with audit problems were either solo and small firm practitioners or attorneys without active practices, McPhail said.
To assist attorneys, the State Bar is developing an online CLE tracking tool, said Pam Wilson, director of the Office of Section Education and Meeting Services. Soon, lawyers will be able to sign into My State Bar...