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Defining the Rules: California Elimination of Bias

By Meredith Cohen on Jan 24, 2018 2:00:00 PM |

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By January 31, 2018, California attorneys whose last names start with the letters H through M must complete and report their 25 MCLE credits. One of the requirements that many attorneys frequently have trouble fulfilling is the one credit hour of Elimination of Bias, which must be completed every compliance period.

To assist with this sometimes troublesome - but always important - credit, check out our guide to California’s Elimination of Bias requirement.

What is the Elimination of Bias requirement?

California requires attorneys to complete at least one hour of education in each three-year cycle that deals with recognizing and eliminating bias in the legal profession and in society as a whole. Ultimately, the goal is to get California attorneys to recognize and fight against internalized biases that contribute towards systemic discrimination.

The legal industry, in particular, has a known problem with diversity. For instance, according to the ABA, women currently make up only 36% of the legal profession, and minorities make up just 29.8% of the industry (as of 2008). These studies don’t even touch on the many other bases for discrimination, such as physical ability, national origin, sexual orientation, religion - the list goes on and on.

What types of biases are we talking about?

The California Rules on Continuing Legal Education specify that the focus of these programs should be aimed at eliminating bias as it relates to sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical disability, age, or sexual orientation. The rules do note, however, that this list is not exhaustive, so courses that deal with biases against other groups may also qualify.

What are some example course topics that qualify for Elimination of Bias?

It may seem daunting to try to find course topics that qualify both for MCLE - aka, courses that are specifically geared towards attorneys and are related to legal subjects - and for this specific Elimination of Bias requirement. But courses in this area can actually be extremely relevant to the practice of law. Some examples of Elimination of Bias courses in California include:

  • Insurance Issues for Transgender Persons. This course focuses how to recognize and eliminate bias and discrimination against trans people in private insurance matters in order to provide adequate representation to transgender clients. That’s one example of how a course can aim to reduce biases both in the legal profession and in society at large, while still focusing on actual legal practice.
  • Overcoming Age Bias In the Legal Profession, With a Discussion of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g). The goal of this course is to help attorneys recognize biases against both older and younger attorneys, and provides techniques to help legal organizations combat age discrimination. There’s even a discussion about the unique challenges that older women face within the legal profession. Even if you’re not involved in the hiring process at a firm, there’s plenty of practical applications to attorneys’ day-to-day operations.
  • Implicit Bias: The Bias You Didn't Know You Have...But You Do. Implicit biases exist in all of us, whether we want to admit it or not, and this course aims to help attorneys recognize the biases they may hold and mitigate them using practical solutions. One of the more broad Elimination of Bias courses that Lawline has to offer, the goal of this course is to not only reduce bias within law firms, but also within society as a whole.

Whether you’re a California attorney who’s due to complete the MCLE requirement this January or not, it’s always a good idea to be reminded of the unconscious biases you may be holding, and to learn as many methods as possible to eliminate them from your legal practice!

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Meredith Cohen

Written by Meredith Cohen

Meredith is the Director of Customer Experience at Lawline but has taken on a number of diverse roles within the company over the years, and has handled just about everything from managing customer databases to doing post-production work on courses. Since joining the Lawline team in 2012, she has gotten her MBA online, done some world traveling, and hand-fed an ostrich. She loves singing off-key in the car, shouting out the questions on ‘Jeopardy!’ and eating dessert first.
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