CLE: Not To Be Taken Lightly

Oct 12, 2012 | Blog, California State Bar Defense

Let’s face it, no one loves continuing legal education except the providers who charge a fortune for it.  There are ways to make it interesting, sometimes really fun classes you can find, but if the Bar abolished the CLE requirement, none of us would shed a tear.

The problem is, no matter how much we may dislike it, CLE is a mandatory part of being a Member of the Bar.  It’s one of our obligations, and there are valid reasons for it being in place despite our whinging.    Take the right classes, and you can learn valuable skills and shore up weaknesses.  You can often find courses on topics you’ve wanted to learn about but never had an opportunity to focus on.  No matter what you choose to take, compliance with the CLE rules is compulsory.

Members are going to start taking notice of these requirements more than ever before.  The State Bar has just announced the filing of disciplinary charges against three attorneys who allegedly falsely declared their compliance.  The Bar is expanding their CLE audits and will be filing more charges in the near future.  This year they are auditing 5% of reporting attorneys, and next year it will be 10%.

As Members of the Bar, we are held accountable when we sign a declaration that says we complied, and for the attorneys who are alleged to have falsely declared, the Bar is levying charges of moral turpitude.  Having moral turpitude involved ups the penalties, including putting disbarment on the table.

The requirement is really quite small — only 25 hours of CLE every three years.  That averages out to less than ten minutes a week.  Ok, so we don’t do it in ten minute increments, but that’s all the time we’re talking about.  Cost is another issue, with courses like PLI being beyond the reach of some small and solo lawyers, but there are many low-cost and even free options out there, so long as you aren’t waiting until the week before your deadline to cram in all 25 hours.  If you plan to avoid disciplinary charges, be sure to put CLE on your calendar regularly.  Keep it a part of your regular routine, getting a couple of hours in every few months, and you’ll be sure to be in documented compliance long before your deadline nears.

In a follow-up post, I will discuss some of the low-cost and free opportunities for CLE.  We can’t avoid it, so we may as well find ways to make it affordable.