Do You Know What MCLEs Your Paralegal Needs?

Victoria Newman, PACE Registered Paralegal

canstockphoto16428507Every paralegal knows the MCLE requirements and reporting period for his or her attorney. They are familiar with the various ways attorneys earn MCLE—attending live seminars, webcasts, webinars, in-house programs, or self-study—and who the MCLE provider is.

As an attorney, are you aware if mandatory continuing legal education requirements apply to your paralegal?

Take this true/false quiz to test your knowledge (Answers are at the end):

  1. Paralegals are required to attend mandatory continuing legal education programs.
  2. Paralegals are required to have four hours of general/specialized law every two years.
  3. Paralegals are required to have four hours of legal ethics every three years.
  4. The State Bar of California tracks a paralegal’s MCLEs in the same manner as it does for an attorney.

Business and Professions Code §6450 et seq. which regulates paralegals, became effective on January 1, 2001. B&P §6450(d) specifies the mandatory continuing legal education requirements, including the hours needed, the areas of law (general/specialized/ethics), who is responsible for tracking the hours and how to report the hours to the supervising attorney.

Next time your paralegal or legal assistant comes to you to ask about attending a MCLE event, say “Yes!” Your attorney’s fees request may just depend on it.

Courts are now awarding paralegal fees only if the paralegal meets the qualifications set forth in B&P §6450. Some courts are even requesting copies of the paralegal’s MCLE log, as well as the certificates of attendance, as proof the paralegal is in compliance with MCLE requirements.

The current reporting period for most senior paralegals (that is, those who were working as paralegals on or before January 1, 2001, when the code section was first enacted), is January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016.

For paralegals who entered the profession after the date the statute was enacted, their reporting period begins from the date of completion of their paralegal program and entry into the job market as a paralegal.

So, the next time your paralegal or legal assistant comes to you to ask about attending a MCLE event, say “Yes!” Your attorney’s fees request may just depend on it.

Answers: Business and Professions Code §6450(d) provides the following regarding mandatory continuing legal education for paralegals and/or legal assistants:

  1. True. Paralegals are required to obtain mandatory continuing legal education, in the same manner as the attorneys, that is, from a pre-approved MCLE provider.
  2. True. Paralegals must have four hours of general/specialized law every two years.
  3. False. B&P §6459(d) was amended in 2007 so that the legal ethics reporting period coincides with the general/specialized law reporting period making it easier for paralegals to track and report their MCLE’s. Paralegals must have four hours of legal ethics every two years.
  4. False. Every paralegal is responsible for tracking and reporting his or her own MCLE hours to his or her supervising attorney.

About the author:

Victoria Newman, PACE Registered Paralegal® has over thirty years of experience in the areas of estate planning, probate and trust administration.  She currently serves as chair of BASF’s Paralegal Section.