Attorney Exemptions

The following attorneys are Exempt, according to Rule of Court 9.31 and Business & Professions Code Section 6070 [Rule 2.54]

The exemption for retired judges was deleted from Business & Professions Code section 6070, effective January 1, 2000.

Members of all exempt groups are required to report (by online attestation through My State Bar Profile) every compliance period, indicating one of the following:

  • Exempt for the entire compliance period
  • Completed a pro-rated requirement based on the number of months during the compliance period that you did not hold an Exempt position
  • Completed the regular 25-hour education requirement, because as a federal employee or an employee of the State of California you practiced "outside the scope of your employment" and, therefore, lost your exemption from the education requirement for the entire compliance period.

Failure to timely report exempt status subjects you to the same sanctions imposed on those who fail to report compliance with the education requirement.

Additional information on exempt groups

Officers and elected officials of the State of California [Rule 2.54(A)(1)]

Examples (officers and elected officials):

Exempt Non-Exempt
Members elected to the California State Assembly and Senate District attorneys (county office)
The governor of the State of California City council members (city office)
Mayors (city office)

Full-time professors at law schools accredited by the State Bar, the ABA, or both [Rule 2.54(A)(2)]

To be exempt as a "full-time professor," an attorney must be a full-time teacher at a law school accredited by the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association (ABA), or both, regardless of the title given by the law school.

If you do not meet the criteria for an exemption, teaching at a law school qualifies as an approved education activity. Go to Law School Teaching for information on calculating credit hours.

Members employed by the State of California [Rule 2.54(A)(3)] or by the U.S. government [Rule 2.54(A)(4)]

The criteria used in the rules for these two exemptions is often misunderstood. Each term of the language is clarified below.

Attorney or administrative law judge

What if my job title is not "attorney" or "administrative law judge"?

Answer: For purposes of 2.54(A)(3) and 2.54(A)(4), attorneys are exempt who are required by the State Bar of California to maintain "active" membership status as a result of the duties they are required to perform by virtue of their employment with the State of California or the United States government.
Example of those Exempt: law clerks

Permanent or probationary basis

Do I have to be a permanent or probationary employee in order to be exempt?

Answer: Yes. Example of those not Exempt: annuitants and consultants.

Full-time employees (regardless of working hours)

Must I work full-time to be Exempt?

Answer: No, part-time employees can be exempt, as long as they are permanent or probationary employees who do not otherwise practice law. The words "those employed full-time ... who do ot otherwise practice law" in sections 2.54(A)(3) and 2.54(A)(4) refer to employees "employed on a permanent or probationary basis, regardless of their working hours, who do not practice law in California" except as employees of the State of California or the United States government.  

Acting within the scope of their employment

Do I lose my exemption if I do work "outside the scope of my employment?"

Answer: Yes, you lose your exemption for the entire compliance period, with the exception of "qualified" pro bono work (see details below).
Full-time employees of the State of California or the United States government are exempt under 2.54(A)(3) and 2.54(A)(4) only if the sole legal work done by the attorneys is within the scope of their employment.

If these attorneys engage in any legal activity outside the scope of their employment, including pro bono work (see below for exception) or legal work for the attorney personally, close friends or immediate family, such as drafting a will for a relative, or reviewing a contract for a non-profit association of which the attorney is a member and giving advice respecting it, they are not covered by the exemption of section 2.54(A)(3) and 2.54(A)(4) and must comply with the full MCLE requirements.

The exemption is lost regardless of whether or not the member is paid for performing such activities. An activity such as teaching law, however, would not result in the loss of the exemption. (For a further discussion of what constitutes the practice of law, see Rules of the State Bar of California, Division 3, and People v. Merchants Protective Corp., (1922) 189 Cal. 531, 535.)

Do I lose my exemption if I do pro bono work? [Rule 2.54(B)]

Answer: Members otherwise exempt from the continuing legal education requirement as employees of the State of California and the United State government may provide pro bono legal services through a qualified legal services project or support center receiving funds according to Business & Professions Code section 6210, et seq., provided that the sponsor of the pro bono project or support center ensures that members volunteering have received the necessary training or otherwise possess the necessary skills to provide quality service and maintain professional standards.

Examples (state and federal employees):

Exempt Non-Exempt
Law Clerks Attorneys employed by the University of California
Attorneys employed by the military services
(acting within the scope of their employment)
Attorneys employed by the State Bar of California
  County superior court commissioners and attorneys
  District attorneys and public defenders
  Annuitants and consultants (do not meet requirement of "permanent" or "probationary" employee)