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JULY 6 It has not escaped my attention that a lot (and I mean a lot) of people around here have been talking about “getting CLE.” Until recently, however, I thought that CLE was some sort of variation on the BLT, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why one got credit for eating them. So, I went to my usual source of information. “Paula,” I asked my secretary. “Do you know what CLE stands for?” “Hmmm,” she pondered. “Can’t Lawyers Ever … never mind.” Just when I was on the brink of ordering a CLE-on-rye from the corner deli, I finally got around to reading the personnel department memos explaining that CLE stands for “Continuing Legal Education.” Now, all I had to do was figure out what that meant. The task required concentration, so I sat down with an outrageously overpriced Grande Frozen Mocha Java-cino from the coffee shop and a copy of the New York CLE rules. The first shock was that CLE is not a one-off thing; I would have to earn CLE credits for every “biennial” reporting cycle (practice tip: every time the Whitney puts on a show, take a CLE class). In crystalline prose, the rules explained that an attorney must accumulate 32 credit hours — unless he or she falls within the 24-credit requirement, unless, of course, it was one of those cases where 12 credits would do. The requisite hours would have to be composed of a predetermined mix of professional practice, practice management, skills and — drum roll please – ethics. The good news was that it was possible to get an exemption from the CLE requirements. The bad news was that I would have to join the Army to avail myself of the exemption. I finished my coffee and took myself to the Personnel Department where an extremely patient woman explained the CLE rules to me in plain English. I couldn’t believe my luck: I only had to complete 12 credits and unbeknownst to me, I’d already earned a credit through an in-house training program. The personnel assistant showed me glossy brochures from various CLE providers, and before long, I’d settled on an all-day seminar that promised to supply me with ample “professional practice” credits. “What about ethics?” I asked the personnel assistant. She consulted a chart. “Oh, you’re class of ’92. You don’t have to worry about ethics!” I was so happy to be relieved of ethics that I briefly contemplated a raid on the supply cabinet. JULY 7 TO AUGUST 14 Frankly, not much happened in this period, except, of course, my growing sense of anticipation at entering the brave new world of CLE. In fact, I became slightly obsessed by the idea. One day, a colleague turned to me at lunch: “Hey, did you hear? The firm bought one of those machines for CPR.” CPR, CPR: I racked my brains. “Continuing Professional Responsibility?” “No, Adam, I mean, the firm bought a defibrillator.” A machine that stops you from fibbing? “Thanks anyway,” I said knowingly. “I was told not to worry about ethics.” AUGUST 15 The day had finally arrived. At 8:30 a.m., I took my seat in the classroom. This particular course was offered by a well-established CLE institute. It was impeccably organized with various panel discussions, a stack of course materials as big as a phone book, notepads, complementary coffee and danish. The panelists were seated in perfect boy-girl order, and each of them wore a high-tech clip-on microphone. This was obviously the cutting-edge in legal education. The panelists launched into their discussion and — was this my imagination? — they appeared to be speaking almost entirely in acronyms. I checked my schedule. Had I wandered into an advanced class? Had I missed some vital prerequisite? No, I was in the right class. But everything, even the jokes, went flying way, way over my head. It sounded roughly like this: “NASD, SICA CRD?” “PIABA!” “Ha, ha, ha, you old SRO you.” During the morning session, one of the panelists left the classroom to get coffee from the pantry. Unfortunately, he forgot that he was still wearing his clip-on mike. What the audience heard was something like this: “SEC ODR JAMS?” “Is that one decaf?” “NYSE CMA CPIH.” “No, no, no. I wanted half-and-half with that.” During the afternoon session, one of the light fixtures somehow detached itself from the ceiling, fell several feet, and remained dangling in sword-of-Damocles fashion a few feet above my head. Finally, one of the panelists made a joke I could understand (but still managing to work in an acronym): “Anybody here do PI work?” I spent the rest of the afternoon nervously staring at the light fixture and playing mental Scrabble with the various acronyms I’d learned that day. At 5:30, the class ended and I was issued with a certificate, suitable for framing, reciting the credits earned. AUGUST 16 This morning I happily toted up all my CLE credits. Sure, I had braved falling light fixtures and acronym overdose, but I was now an Educated Lawyer. I added the numbers, checked my figures and consulted the CLE rules. I stared at the result in disbelief: I was still three credits short of my quota. Paula saw the look on my face. “What’s wrong?” “Could you get the defibrillator?” Adam Freedman is an eighth-year associate with Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP.

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