What are the California MCLE requirements and rules for newly admitted attorneys?
Once an attorney has passed the bar exam, they are not automatically considered an active attorney in the State of California by the California State Bar. The attorney will not be deemed eligible for membership until have fulfilled all of the admission requirements. The attorney needs to sign into their account and view their admission status in order to figure out if they have met all of the California State Bar requirements and are now eligible to take the attorney?s oath. If you have not met all requirements, check to see what still needs to be done.
It is important to know that there are some special California MCLE requirements for newly admitted attorneys called the "Newly Admitted Attorney Training Program". Information about this can be found at the bottom of this article.
Only active lawyers may practice law in the state of California. Under the authority of California Rule of Court 9.9.5, all inactive licensed attorneys need to be fingerprinted prior to being switched to active status. As a result, before a lawyer can submit their Request to Transfer to Active Status form, they must review, understand and complete the fingerprinting rule requirements. This is only something that needs to happen once prior to the switch to active status. The status change to active will be effective upon the California State Bar?s receipt of the Request to Transfer to Active Status form and when the fingerprinting requirement has been met.
Regarding fee payments: If applicable, once the annual fees have been adjusted, payment should be sent in quickly. It is recommended to review the full fingerprinting rule requirements information.
Reporting California MCLE Compliance
There are no specific California MCLE compliance rules for newly admitted attorneys. The rules are the same whether you are newly admitted or not.
Note that compliance with California MCLE involves more than just completing the mandated activities. At the end of each reporting period, attorneys are obligated to file a "declaration of compliance" that that have fulfilled the California MCLE requirements.
This is done by going to "My State Bar Profile" and filing an online attestation of compliance. The attorney will then be sent instructions on how to create a profile upon assignment of a California bar number.
If a California attorney does not report California MCLE compliance it can result in the attorney being deemed ineligible to practice law in the state. This will be the case even if they have otherwise completed all of the California MCLE compliance courses.
The California attorney must keep certificates of attendance of California MCLE compliance courses for a minimum one calendar year compliance has been submitted.
It is possible that you will be audited, and you will be required to show these records.
Lawyers are required to complete their MCLE requirements on a three-year cycle. Once admitted, they will be permanently assigned to a California MCLE cohort group based on the first letter of their last name. If should be noted that changing your name does not change your group. For example, if you get married and change your last name, your compliance group does not change.
It should be noted that lawyers who have been licensed for less than four months within their compliance group period do not need to report compliance for their first period.
The requirement is 25 hours every reporting period. The reporting periods are every three years. The activities participated in must be approved California MCLE compliance courses. Courses are approved by of California State Bar and offered by approved California MCLE providers.
Note that the requirement is less if the attorney is not currently considered to be "Active" for three-year compliance cycle.
There are formal exemptions, but these are only relevant in very limited circumstances. Please view the Attorney Exemptions article for more details on this situation.
Newly admitted attorneys will probably have a proportional California MCLE requirement for their first California MCLE compliance period.
To illustrate this, a newly admitted attorney who went active in January 2022 with the last name Howard (H-M, or "Group 2"), and with twenty-five months on Active Attorney status, would then be required to attend a total of 18 hours of California MCLE compliance courses by Feb. 1, 2023.
The New Attorney MCLE Requirement
Newly admitted California attorneys are required to attend and complete the California State Bar?s "New Attorney Training Program".
This program is comprised of 10 hours of free online instruction that is only available from the State Bar. This course is comprised of the following components:
- 4 hours of legal ethics
- 3 hours of basic skills
- 1.5 hours on competency (substance abuse, mental health issues)
- 1.5 hours on recognition and elimination of bias in the legal profession
A newly admitted attorney may count the "New Attorney Training hours" towards the California MCLE requirements if they courses were completed during their compliance cycle.
Like those for established California attorneys, the California MCLE requirements for the Newly Admitted Attorney Training Program will include Legal Ethics hours, and two Elimination of Bias hours and an hour on Competence issues.
Newly Admitted Attorney Training Program Access
All newly admitted California attorneys must complete the entire online New Attorney Training Program. As mentioned earlier, this is a ten-hour program and is available on the California State Bar website.
The entirety of the training program must be finished upon one year of an attorney?s formal admission to the State Bar of California.
The Newly Admitted Attorney Training Program consists of a specific program of instruction created by the State Bar of California as is curated especially for new attorneys.
After finishing each individual course, newly admitted attorneys will be provided a certificate of attendance that can be saved to document completion of this program requirement. It is important to save an electronic or print version of the certificate of completion because course materials and program certificates of completion will be available only for 30 calendar days upon completion of a course. It is not possible to go back and obtain these documents after the 30 day period is past and attorney will need to take the course again.
Penalty for not completing the New Attorney Training
If a newly admitted attorney does not finish the required training by the year deadline, they will be fined a late penalty fee of $75.
If they fail to complete the newly admitted attorney training program by their next regular MCLE group deadline, they will be placed on involuntary inactive status. At that point they will be ineligible to practice law until the requirements are fulfilled and payment is made on any outstanding penalties.
Time to Complete
They are given one year from the last day of the month in which they were admitted the training program.
Accessing the Newly Admitted Attorney Training Program
New California attorneys can only access the online program on the California State Bar website after they have created their "My State Bar Profile".
At that point, they will receive instructions on how to set up training program profile prior to submitting their oath card.
Using the New Attorney Training Courses to Fulfill California MCLE Requirements
These courses can be used to fulfill the regular California MCLE requirements, if the courses are taken within the appropriate MCLE compliance period group cycle.
Keeping Records of Course Completion
Just like any CLE course, after completing each course, the attorney will receive a certificate that needs to be saved in order have documentation of completion.
Course materials and certificates of completion must be printed or saved within 30 days of course completion of the course.
New Attorney Training Cost
There is no fee to create a profile or to complete these courses. They are designed for and are only available to newly admitted attorneys who are required to take them. Other attorneys do not have access to this program.
More California MCLE Information