Since January 1, 2007 paralegals have been required to certify that they have completed a certain number of hours participating in mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) workshops. According to Business and Professions Code section 6450(d), paralegals must complete the following MCLE hours every two years:
- 4 hours of legal ethics
- 4 hours of general law or specialized law
Unlike attorneys, paralegals are not required to submit their certifications to the state bar or any other overseeing entity. Paralegals are only required to provide those certifications to their supervising attorney. There is no specific format in which the certifications must be presented to the supervising attorney.
Given the lack of oversight over the paralegal certifications and the strenuous demands of a busy paralegal’s workload, it can become easy for a paralegal to not be in compliance with 6450(d).
There may be consequences for a paralegal who has not met all of their MCLE hours. For example, opposing counsel can dispute paying the firm’s professional fees for a paralegal’s billable time. Given that paralegals perform a majority of the tasks on his certain cases the amount of money that can be discounted from the professional legal fees, due to lack of certification, can be large.
Also, the local rules of certain courts require that fees requested for time billed by a paralegal must be supported by the attorney’s declaration regarding the paralegal’s compliance with Business and Professions Code section 6450.
In addition this issue may also come up if a well informed client disputes the paralegal’s billable time and decides that they don’t want to pay the legal fees.
Furthermore, many job postings looking to hire paralegals, indicate that candidates must be in compliance with Business and Professions Code section 6450, which includes the MCLE requirements of section 6450(d).
But most importantly given the way that the Business and Professions code is written, a paralegal is someone who is in compliance with the requirements of Business and Professions Code section 6450, which include subsection (d), and therefore, if a paralegal has not met the hours requirement, they can’t call themselves a paralegal.
Business and Professions Code section 6450(d) states: Every two years . . . a paralegal shall be required to certify completion of four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in legal ethics and four hours of mandatory continuing legal education in either general law or in an area of specialized law. All continuing legal education courses shall meet the requirements of Section 6070. Certification . . . shall be made with the paralegal’s supervising attorney. The paralegal shall be responsible for keeping a record of the paralegal’s certifications.
Although paralegals are only required to do a total of eight hours of MCLE within two years, it is advisable that a paralegal take as many MCLE courses as possible to ensure that they stay current on topics that are relevant in the fields that they practice in.