What are the procedures for a California MCLE Audit?
The California State Bar randomly audits thousands of attorneys every year. It is important to be prepared to be audited and if you audited it is important that your first priority is honesty. You do not want to give the California State Bar the impression that lying comes easy to you. If you can lie to them, who else will you be dishonest with? Clients? The court? The consequences of not fulling your California MCLE requirements is much less severe that lying about it.
It also important to actually comply with the audit. In many years, dozens of lawyers are referred to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel or serious compliance failures. This includes some who will be placed on administrative inactive status for ignoring requests to comply with the audit. These are attorney who were contacted multiples times by mail, email and phone calls. Do not become part of this statistic.
Let us now look at the details of the rules and procedures for California MCLE audits:
Every year, the California State Bar automatically conducts audits of the compliance group that most recently filed its MCLE compliance reports.
Audited attorneys who are unable to produce records proving that they completed the required 25 approved credit hours may be subject to a formal penalty.
If they still have not met the California MCLE requirement by November that same year, they will be formally placed on administrative inactive status. As every attorney should know, if you are on inactive status, you are not eligible to practice law.
False declarations of compliance could lead to even more severe discipline depending in the circumstances.
Receipts are Not Sufficient. You Must Send Actual Proofs of Attendance
A receipt is not sufficient as proof of California CLE course completion. If you are unable to locate your course completion certificates, you must contact the provider and ask them to provide certificate proves California MCLE course completion.
Providers are required to maintain proof of attendance for four years. Contact your provider to obtain your certificates of attendance and exhaust all possible avenues to find your attendance records before completing additional courses. Submitting out of period coursework may result in your audit file being referred to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel for further investigation and/or disciplinary prosecution.
Being Audited for a Compliance Period in Which you Were Exempted
If you were in exempt status for any period of the compliance period, you need to complete the MCLE Online Summary Log by selecting "Yes" in the Exempt box and provide a letter from all of your supervisors specifying your titles and dates of employment during the MCLE compliance period.
You must also include an MCLE Audit Submission Cover Sheet.
Make sure you respond by the deadline.
If you also have a proportional requirement, you should additionally submit the correct number of certificates of Californian MCLE course completion.
Failure to Have Completed the Required California MCLE Courses by Deadline
If you have been audited and failed to complete the California MCLE requirements during the compliance period, you must make up the deficiency.
You will be required to submit all required hours to the online log and then mail in the proof of compliance. You will also need to send the required audit submission cover sheet, a cover letter detailing the reason that you were unable to complete the California MCLE requirements during the compliance period and the $200 deficiency fee for California MCLE non-compliance by the stated deadline.
Audit Response Deadline and Non-compliance Fees
The deadline to provide proof of California MCLE course compliance is stated on your MCLE Audit Notice communication.
If you do not submit the required proof of compliance by this deadline, you will be assessed a $75 penalty for late compliance, and you will also be sent a formal Non-Compliance Notice. You will be given a date that is 60 days out by which you must respond.
If you do not send required proof of compliance and pay the stated late fee within that time period, you will be placed on Not Eligible to Practice status until you submit the needed proof of California MCLE course compliance, pay the assessed $75 non-compliance fee, and pay an additional $200 reinstatement fee.
Sending Certificates after a Notice of Deficiency
If you have received a formal notice of deficiency and are able to find the relevant certificates for courses taken within the compliance period, you must mail or submit them via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is required to include the MCLE Audit Submission Cover Sheet and a letter of explanation whenever replying to a Notice of Deficiency.
Proving Attendance by Providing Certificates of Attendance
Upon request via audit, you send the certificated via email to email@example.com.
You should enter your State Bar Number in the subject line of the email. Your certificate of attendance or any other documentation should be attached as a single PDF attachment.
Inability to Find Certificates of Attendance
California MCLE providers are required to provide certificates to attendees upon request. If for any reason you are unable to find your certificates of course completion or are unable to open them, you need to contact your provider to obtain a copy of the attendance certificate or a physical printout.
Administrative Inactive Status
As mentioned above, this indicates that you are not entitled to practice California Law. Your public State Bar records will have a permanent note that you went through period of not entitled status. Practicing law while not in active status is a serious ethical breach.
Locating your Provider
If you are having a hard time locating your provider, the State Bar website has a list of approved providers that can be searched. The address of this list is: http://members.calbar.ca.gov/search/cert.asp
A common mistake CLE students make is that forget what email address that they used to sign up with the provider. Make sure you check all of your emails for correspondence from your provider. It is also common to use multiple emails with a single provider so be aware of that as well.
State Bar of California - MCLE Certificates
To receive a copy of your certificates of completion for California State Bar courses, contact:
The State Bar of California
180 Howard St
San Francisco, CA 94105
Note that all California Bar Journal courses are self-study and this should indicated on the online summary log as well as your personal self-study log.
If Two People Take a Course Together but There is Only One Name on the Certificate
If your name is not on the certificate, you can not claim attendance of the course. Do not alter someone else certificate to claim as your own. You may only submit unaltered attendance certificates issued directly by approved providers bearing your name and bar number.
Sending Physical Copies of Certificates
You do not need to send in the original document. You can make copies of certificates and send those in. You may also scan physical certificates to produce a PDF and then email that in.
More California MCLE Information