Every California lawyer knows what these letters stand for… Mandatory Continuing Legal Education. Some attorneys dread it. Yes, sitting in some hotel ballroom listening to non-professional speakers drone on and on can be tiring. As the years have gone on I have learned to really appreciate MCLE.
I remember sitting in a session, as a new attorney, down in Coronado. Could practically see the big blue bridge from the conference room windows! I was with my mom who also is an attorney. Want to hear something even scarier… my dad was an attorney too! I’ll tell you about that some other day. Anyway, my mom and I were at at the Southern California Tax Institute which generally has high level speakers. However, this was about 1995 and I was a newbie attorney. Oh boy, some of those presentations were over my head! However, I learned then that you get what you can out of each presentation. Sometimes I would walk away with only a little and sometimes a lot.
Fast forward 15 years and I have taught MCLE courses on probate. I am a certified specialist in this area of law and now some young buck gets to be the one who doesn’t understand it all! In addition to teaching I go to a large number of MCLE courses a year.
Well anyway, today I am going to a couple of MCLE presentations. I have a three hour session on recent developments in estate planning and probate law which is one that most specialists go to every year. The other three hour class is called “Practical Problems in Trust Administration.” Of the two I am more excited about the second but they both should be good.
By the way the State Bar of California does not let you get cheapie “hours” either. The actual presentation time is three hours AND fifteen minutes with a 15 minute break. Hours equal hours with the State Bar!
The recent developments class can drone on as the lawyers presenting it typically tell you about each new case, and other law, which might effect you this year. They tend to flip through a course book and almost read, word for word, out of the book. The laws tend to be pretty obscure although the new no contest laws will probably be discussed which is good as they are confusing to all!
The second presentation sounds very interesting. The problem with trust administration is that people (clients and also attorneys who do not practice regularly in this area of law) think it’s easy and often, mistakenly, think they don’t need an attorney. Though a properly drafted and funded trust should be much less costly than a full probate to administer there still can be costs involved. An experienced probate and trust lawyer knows what needs to be done to make a trust administration run smoothly. Anyway, I am excited about this one. Oh my, it sounds funny to say but really I am excited about it.
So how many hours of MCLE does an attorney do a year? The current requirements, in California, are 25 hours spread over 3 years. I have always exceeded that number. On top of that as a certified specialist I have a minimum of SIXTY hours, every five years, in MCLE courses specifically approved by the state bar for specialization credit in estate planning, trust and probate law. Many courses, even if on topic, do not qualify. Only the high level programs count!
So, every lawyer does about 12 hours a year. However, as a certified specialist I basically double that number each year! Plus, as one who takes pride in being the best I can be I exceed the number I am required to do! Your lawyer should too!
In my opinion, any lawyer that says that don’t need MCLE because they already know everything is flat out lying to you. Even when I teach an MCLE course I learn stuff… in fact, that’s when I learn the most because no presentor wants to be caught flat footed with a room full of attorneys! Sincerely, I pick up something from just about every MCLE class I go to. Sometimes I am reminded of something, sometimes I learn a new practice tip, and sometimes I here other attorney’s analysis of a new law. In total I think MCLE is great and am glad that we are required to do it!
Ok, ok I better get back to work as I only have a couple hours this morning in the office before heading off to class. The bottom line is you should work with an attorney that exceeds their MCLE requirements rather than one that just meets it!
Have a great day!