Legal Niche Attorneys and California Law

Most lawyers in the state of California must engage in continuing education related to their legal specialty. Minimum Continuing Legal Education, known as MCLE, must include credits from courses that delve into ethical issues, mental health, and abuse of substances, plus those pertaining to the attorney’s area of practice. Participation in California MCLE courses must be reported every three years. This training is valuable and keeps lawyers sharp and aware of current legal matters.

About Niche Practice

Many attorneys began their careers ready to assist the world in many legal matters, but over time realize that it is better for them and their clients to be involved in a specific niche. Similar to a physician who focuses on one specialty, legal niche practice is grounded in the knowledge and practice of a specific sector. While some attorneys identify their niche early on in their careers, others stumble across it quite by accident. Focusing on just one or a couple areas of the law can result in more recognition and greater profits.

Large firms may often utilize attorneys that specialize in specific areas as part of an offshoot of the firm. Small niche areas, such as patent law or trademark and copyright law, may not generate enough business for an entire firm but can bring in clients that may then utilize other services the firm offers.

It is easier than ever to begin a niche practice because the Internet has made advertising and locating clients much easier. Many attorneys create a niche as part of their current practice to relieve boredom and bring in extra income.

Minimum Continuing Legal Education (CLE)

The state of California has a minimum standard set for ongoing education credits. Usually, active lawyers need to complete twenty-five hours of continuing education every three years. The State Bar requires four hours of ethics, an hour regarding eliminating bias in the field, and an hour of coursework pertaining to mental illness or substance abuse.

All requirements must be met to avoid being considered inactive. The Bar also audits a certain number of attorneys to ensure that false reporting has not occurred. Those attorneys who falsely report credits could face disciplinary measures.

Attorneys who are required to participate in MCLE include all those who are actively practicing, even if they only work pro bono. Those who are exempt or were not active do not have to complete CLE coursework but must report their status. However, members of the Bar who are on voluntary inactive status will not have to report. Even those who have been suspended are still subject to MCLE requirements. Reporting deadlines vary based on the group that the attorney falls into. These groups are organized by the first letter of the attorney’s last name.

MCLE Resources

The California State Bar provides a list of providers of continuing education courses. Other resources can be located through a local bar association or legal newspapers or magazines. For niche lawyers, publications related to the specific area of practice are good ways to locate specific educational opportunities. Beyond the required hours of ethics, bias, and mental health/substance abuse, there is a myriad of opportunities to explore that are related to specific areas.

Attorneys can fill part of their hourly requirement with self-study. County law libraries are excellent resources for tapes and other approved self-study resources. Completing self-assessment tests offered by the State Bar or researching and writing a legal article that is published can also help meet self-study hours. Attorneys who teach law courses can use some teaching hours for MCLE credits. Lawyers may choose to earn additional credits beyond the minimum.

For niche lawyers, ongoing education strengthens their knowledge of their area of expertise. Ongoing education can also reassure clients and show that the attorney is qualified and has the knowledge necessary to assist them in their case. New attorneys benefit from ongoing education in multiple ways, including increasing their know-how and helping them find their niche if they have not discovered it. Continuing education is not only required but is one of the best ways to stay current on trends in any legal niche.