Monday, January 05, 2004


(Warning: possibly boring post about attorney education ahead--but at least it's a fairly short one...)

I rarely take stands on anything because I'm a wimp (I'm not a litigator--surprise!) and have few strongly-held convictions. So why did I come out against mandatory CLE's for attorneys? (Besides plumping up our paltry e-mail correspondence and setting off critics on on other blogs). Well, because it seems to me that the requirement is based on a mere assumption that it will promote the goal of creating better lawyers. Since I'm not aware of any empirical research that supports the requirement, one more anecdotal opinion (mine) has just as much stature as the pro-CLE opinions. They're all just opinions.

Common ground: There are lots of qualities that are necessary to be a good lawyer and I agree that one of the most important is the possession of current legal knowledge.

But it's not obvious to me that mandatory CLE's are a good way to accomplish this. First of all, they're often expensive (typical cost is $200 to $300 each, with a 2 to 3 class per year pace required), both in terms of out of pocket costs and time taken away from one's practice and other legal obligations. There are good legal newsletters that cost this much for an entire year. But most important, there's no guarantee that attorneys actually learn anything. We aren't required to attend classes in our field nor are we tested on the concepts we are exposed to in the classes we do attend. Visit a CLE and check out how many attorneys are reading a newspaper or looking over a brief ... and then skipping out early.

On top of the question of how effective mandatory CLE's are at improving the quality of lawyering, there's a possibility that our energy and will to punish bad lawyers is sapped by the very existence of the huge CLE system. Ferreting out bad apples is always a wrenching process and I worry about the temptation to simply rely on "re-education" of the wayward as a cure.

But that's just an opinion...


Post a Comment