California Bar Journal
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MCLE review
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judges, are constitutional.

Heilbron said the commission is considering conducting a survey of the state's lawyers about the MCLE program.

Two of three respondents to an informal survey by the California Bar Journal in June said they believe continuing education should not be mandatory. At the same time, 60 percent said that even without a requirement, they would continue to educate themselves in the interest of professionalism.

There was widespread opposition to the special requirements and to exemptions for retired judges, law school professors and elected state officials.

Bar President Andy Guilford said he hopes the MCLE commission will focus on comparing California requirements with those of other states, and requirements for lawyers with those of other professions.

Guilford cites his dental hygienist "who said with a smile and some pride that she's required to take a substantial amount of education and she's happy to do it." Although he's realistic enough to not expect a similar reaction from California's attorneys, Guilford said he wants the commission to make a serious comparison of lawyer requirements with other professions.

Both Guilford and Heilbron acknowledged that the quality of courses is sometimes an issue. "I don't know if you can call it a problem," Heilbron said, "but certainly [MCLE's] ultimate success depends in significant measure on how good the program is. That's a matter of great importance to the commission."

Admitting that quality control "is a difficult task," Guilford said attorneys who attend classes can improve quality "by carefully selecting their courses and attending high quality programs. The market can perform a quality control function to some extent.

"There are a lot of excellent programs out there, it's just a matter of finding them."

Following the Supreme Court ruling and the dues legislation, the bar board of governors approved revised MCLE requirements and deadlines for compliance (see chart on page 1).

The new 25-hours-in-three-years requirement includes at least four hours of legal ethics, at least one hour of prevention, detection and treatment of substance abuse and emotional distress, and at least one hour of elimination of bias.

Up to, but not more than, one-half of the required hours may be claimed for self-study activities during any compliance period.

Because attorneys in compliance group two (last names H-M) got a reprieve from a year 2000 deadline, some in that group have raised questions about how to fulfill their requirement.

Those who will have completed 25 hours by the original Jan. 31, 2000, deadline can apply credit for hours completed after Feb. 1, 2000, to the next compliance period.

Those who have not met the old deadline were simply given an extra year and have until Jan. 31, 2001, to complete the new 25 hours. However, the next compliance period for group two runs from Jan. 31, 2000, to Jan. 31, 2003. Another 25 hours must be completed by that time.

More detailed information about compliance requirements is available on a pre-recorded message at 415/538-2100.