Mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) is required for California paralegals. This came about as part of AB 1761, signed by then-California Governor Gray Davis in September 2000. The law, subsequently known as Business and Professions Code Sections 6450-6456, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2001. It defines the term paralegal/legal assistant as an attorney-supervised individual who must meet certain educational criteria and complete continuing education. As of June 2010, California is the only state with such legislation.
Every two years, each working California paralegal is required to certify completion of four hours of continuing education in legal ethics and four hours in either general law or an area of specialized law. Legal ethics topics include the unauthorized practice of law, conflicts of interest, client confidentiality, regulation of the legal profession, advertising, solicitation and fee sharing. General law includes topics such as history of the law, classifications of law, sources of law, constitutional law, due process and the judicial system. Areas of specialized law include administrative law, bankruptcy law, business organizations, contract law, criminal law, estate planning and probate, family law, litigation, intellectual property, personal injury, Social Security disability, alternative dispute resolution, immigration, elder law, employment law and real estate law.
All paralegal continuing-education courses must meet the requirements applicable to attorney MCLE. The State Bar of California is responsible for establishing and administering the MCLE program for attorneys and has a searchable online listing of approved MCLE providers. Specific examples of approved providers with paralegal-oriented continuing legal education include the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations and the Orange County Paralegal Association. Further, the State Bar itself offers approved online continuing legal education. Other providers that offer State Bar-approved MCLE include The Paralegal Mentor (“Let's Get Ethical...Let's Get Technical”), LexisNexis (“Paralegal Certificate of Mastery”) and the University of San Diego Paralegal Program.
Certification of MCLE and Record-keeping Requirements
A paralegal certifies continuing education hours to his or her supervising attorney. However, the paralegal—not the attorney—is responsible for keeping a certified record of those continuing legal education hours. Several California paralegal association websites offer a downloadable log upon which a paralegal may track MCLE hours and certify those hours to a supervising attorney. They include the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations and the Orange County Paralegal Association. There is no governing body to monitor the continuing education of California paralegals.
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