Something like the following has been heard by virtually every young attorney who has studied the subject since “reading for the law” went out of style:
“What do you mean you don’t know whether [insert inanely complicated and/or naive question] is legal? Didn’t you go to LAW school? Didn’t they teach you any LAW there? Why do they call it LAW school if they don’t teach you the LAWS? How can you call yourself a LAWyer?”
These encounters cause any lawyer (or even law student with more than a month of Paper Chasing under her belt) to roll her eyes so far back that she’d be staring down her own throat if it weren’t so dark in there.
Much of the non-legal world (especially including non-lawyer parents of law students) seems to think that the study of law consists of memorizing the contents of thick books that list The Laws. Lawyers, they must think, run through some internal multiplication table sing-song of laws until they hit the right one, then spit it out to answer any legal question, much as a third-grader has to babble “1 times 3 is 3, 2 times 3 is 6, 3 times 3 is 9 — 9!” to get the answer to 3 times 3.
Nope, law school, we’ve all been told, teaches us to think like lawyers. There’s a rich vein of speculation that we’ll leave for another time. Meanwhile, it’s odd to reflect that lawyers who’ve long since graduated do thereafter have to attend classes that more closely resemble what Dad thought law school was like, i.e., being taught black letter law.
These classes are called CLE or Continuing Legal Education. I suppose the original concept was to keep lawyers up on changes in the law.
There could still be an element of that, but the schmoozing and trolling for new clients often seems to eclipse the educational material, which suggests that CLE could also mean Client Lookout Expedition.
The Florida Bar requires us all to earn a minimum number of CLE hours every three years, known as “the cycle.” If you happen to be certified in some area of the law, the number of CLE hours increases dramatically and the cycle changes. Actually, it doesn’t change, you just get to add another one with a different number of years to layer over the basic one, which makes CLE a Confusing Logistical Effort.
A lot of winter travel to warm places and summer travel to cooler places goes under the guise of attending CLE conferences. Despite the allure of vegetating in a resort conference room while someone drones on about the incredibly interesting case law developments in your field in the past year, a lot of lawyers choose another route: They put it off as long as possible. This leads to a frenzied effort to listen to 30 hours of recorded droning in the car, in the shower, while you sleep, whenever. That makes CLE into a Cramming Learning Experience.
Why the panic? Well, if you don’t have those hours, you can get yourself in trouble with the Bar. Mess up badly enough, and they’ll pull your ticket. It’s just not that hard to count to 30 and to stick a reminder in your calendar that you have to get there by your anniversary date. The Bar sends you reminders and a helpful catalog of courses you can buy from them.
You could even do it like this: “… 8 times 3 is 24, 9 times 3 is 27, 10 time 3 is 30 — 30!”
Some folks still manage to muff it and some so badly that the reminder doesn’t come from the Bar — it comes from opposing counsel.
Opposing: “Your Honor, my esteemed opponent can’t count to 30 and is not permitted to practice.”
Judge: “Counsel, didn’t they teach you that you have to keep up your CLEs?”
Humiliated Lawyer: “Can’t Learn Everything.”