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Posts Tagged ‘mandatory CLE’

There was an apocryphal story — meaning it was likely bullshit — told by a law school professor about a 1-L engineer. As the story goes, the engineer turned wanna-be lawyer quit law school his first year because he was frustrated with the Socratic Method; the insufficiency of bright line rules; and the seeming poverty of absolutes in Law. For someone trained to give answers with an engineer’s precision, “it depends” was never going to be good enough. The Law may be a jealous mistress but it’s also an inconstant one.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5c/The_Scientific_Method_as_an_Ongoing_Process.svg/583px-The_Scientific_Method_as_an_Ongoing_Process.svg.pngThe point of the tale was clear. Empirical mindsets flee law schools. The scientific method is displaced by what’s called the legal method. One lawyer blogger observed that lawyers invert the scientific method, adding, “Luckily for attorneys, law is not science; it is not defined by reference to a pre-existing reality, and it is not limited to formulations that are consistent with this pre-existing state.” Precisely.

An “epidemic” of substance abusing lawyers.

So it was hardly a surprise that the lawyer commentariat would sigh with collective angst as soon as The New York Times published “The Lawyer, the Addict” subtitled “A high-powered Silicon Valley attorney dies. His ex-wife investigates, and finds a web of drug abuse in his profession.” The essay was penned by Eilene Zimmerman.

THE SKY IS  FALLING!!!

It wasn’t long after publication that the legal blogosphere ramped up, for example, here and calling it “an epidemic” here. Predictably, the-sky-is-falling.

One over-heated hand-wringer, a 2017 SMU Law grad even blogged at “In A Punishing Profession, Too Many Lawyers Are Paying The Ultimate Price,” “I hope law school candidates, law students, and lawyers take Zimmerman’s message to heart . . . the difference between heading the warnings and missing the signals can be life and death.”

As though all lawyer reputations needed further blemishment for the life choices of a few.

Just Say No.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/20/NRJUSTSAYNO.jpg/160px-NRJUSTSAYNO.jpgThere are 1.3 million lawyers in the United States and like most of society, they are a cross-section of all that reduces and elevates the human condition. But thanks to the much disseminated tragic tale of the Silicon Valley lawyer’s drug overdose death and the accompanying quotes in the article from two recovering lawyers, the public might reasonably albeit illogically conclude that the million plus member profession is racked by addiction. Why not paint all lawyers with the same broad brush? Do we need a Nancy Reagan for lawyers?

To be fair, the story takes a stab at empiricism mentioning a Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and American Bar Association (ABA) 2016 report that concluded “that attorneys experience problematic drinking that is hazardous, harmful, or otherwise consistent with alcohol use disorders at a higher rate than other professional populations.”

Data deficient conclusions.

Unfortunately, in their haste to pronounce knee-jerk remedies based on an incomplete sample size, the following cover your analysis (CYA) paragraph in the report is apparently being given short shrift. Could it be because it doesn’t buttress the narrative of a widespread drug and alcohol problem among lawyers?

“Our study is subject to limitations. The participants represent a convenience sample recruited through e-mails and news postings to state bar mailing lists and web sites. Because the participants were not randomly selected, there may be a voluntary response bias, over-representing individuals that have a strong opinion on the issue. Additionally, some of those that may be currently struggling with mental health or substance use issues may have not noticed or declined the invitation to participate. Because the questions in the survey asked about intimate issues, including issues that could jeopardize participants’ legal careers if asked in other contexts (eg, illicit drug use), the participants may have withheld information or responded in a way that made them seem more favorable. Participating bar associations voiced a concern over individual members being identified based on responses to questions; therefore no IP addresses or geo-location data were gathered. However, this also raises the possibility that a participant took the survey more than once, although there was no evidence in the data of duplicate responses. Finally, and most importantly, it must be emphasized that estimations of problematic use are not meant to imply that all participants in this study deemed to demonstrate symptoms of alcohol use or other mental health disorders would individually meet diagnostic criteria for such disorders in the context of a structured clinical assessment.”

Glossed over, too, is what the researchers declared was “the need for greater resources for lawyer assistance programs, and also the expansion of available attorney-specific prevention and treatment interventions.” Greater resources? I know of at least one Arizona lawyer assistance program volunteer who would agree. See “The Arizona Bar has no Member Assistance Program. They just want you to think they do.”

For mandatory bars, compulsory CLE is always the answer.

https://i.imgflip.com/10t4ve.jpg?a416544But instead of recommending comprehensive, objective evaluations to assess the need and efficacy of existing lawyer assistance programs, state bar associations instead look to more of the same: non-data driven ‘solutions.’ When legal elites perceive a problem, widespread or not, they do what lawyers do best, they impose rules. And the favorite option is imposing rules and regulations on others based solely on hasty generalizations. Verification or proof by observation are beside the point. Better to leap to a conclusion — not by data — but by guess and by golly.

The Bar’s easy fix is to write new rules to compel all lawyers, even the sober and abstinent to take a continuing legal education class in substance abuse and mental health awareness whether they need it or not. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more” — but armed not with might — just an hour of untested mandatory CLE.

Nevada, for instance, was one of three jurisdictions requiring all active Nevada attorneys to take a minimum of one CLE hour once every three years on substance abuse, addictive disorders and or mental health issues. But as of January 1, 2018, Nevada will go everybody one better by increasing the total number of CLE hours annually required from twelve to thirteen, to include ten hours of general education, two hours of ethics, and one hour in the area of substance abuse, addictive disorders and/or mental health. Nevada Justice Kris Pickering, however, dissented stating, “I would expect evidence showing the efficacy of mandatory annual CLE on these issues for 100% of the bar, as opposed to more intensive measures targeting the 20% of the bar that is afflicted with them. Yet, there appear to be no peer-reviewed studies that examine the impact of MCLE classes on attorney alcoholism or substance abuse rates.”1

In the forced march history of CLE, there’s never been empirical proof much less data verifiably demonstrating that continuing legal education classes make lawyers more competent, more ethical or more professional. Will mandatory CLE make lawyers more sober? The only real certainty is that mandatory CLE has an indispensably salutary impact on a state bar’s bottom line. No wonder the legal establishment’s cognoscenti deem mandatory continuing legal education the answer to virtually every problem.

In the end, lawyers can always count on mandatory bar associations to impose further impingements on their liberty interests. It’s how they roll. Therefore, is it too extreme to conjure up what might be next? Specimen collection and random drug tests anyone?

 

 

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1 Nevada Supreme Court Justice Kristina Pickering’s dissent concerning the 13th mandatory substance abuse CLE hour is worth reading:

“Studies suggest that 20% of lawyers suffer from alcoholism or other addiction. This quintile of the bar accounts for more than 50% of the court’s bar discipline docket. These numbers, and the human and professional cost they represent, led me four years ago to approve amending SCR 210 to require one hour of continuing legal education (CLE) every three years on addiction and mental health issues. Directing that one out of the total 36 CLE hours required over a three-year period address these subjects seemed a modest imposition on the members of the bar if doing so accomplished this: ensuring all lawyers know about the help available free of charge through the Nevada Lawyers’ Assistance Program and the separate and entirely confidential Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers program.

“Today’s amendment to SCR 210 goes significantly further. It raises the number of mandatory CLE hours from 12 to 13 hours per year and specifies that the additional hour address addiction, substance abuse, or mental health.’ The cost of this increase to the 5,083 bar members who are subject to Nevada’s mandatory CLE requirements has not been calculated, or even acknowledged. Assuming a cost of $175 per hour for time not working and $25 per hour for tuition, both low estimates, we are looking at over $1 million in added annual expense. For that, I would expect evidence showing the efficacy of mandatory annual CLE on these issues for 100% of the bar, as opposed to more intensive measures targeting the 20% of the bar that is afflicted with them. Yet, there appear to be no peer-reviewed studies that examine the impact of MCLE classes on attorney alcoholism or substance abuse rates. And, while 18 states allow CLE credit for education on substance abuse and mental health issues, and three states have rules requiring an hour of substance abuse/mental health CLE once every three years, I have found none that have made it an annual requirement. As recognized by the states that make such education optional, not mandatory, there are other issues besides substance abuse and mental health on which CLE, chosen by the individual lawyer according to his or her interests and needs, is appropriate.

“While I share my colleagues’ concern with substance abuse and addiction in our society, generally, and in the legal community, in particular, I have true reservations about the wisdom and efficacy of today’s rule amendment. I therefore respectfully dissent.”

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Credits: Mad Scientist Photo Booth, by Zlaxfish Photography  at Flickr Creative Commons; Scientific Method, by ArchonMagnus at Wikimedia Commons, Share-Alike Attribution; Drawn live on January 23, 2010, by René van Belzen, Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike; Nancy Reagan speaking at a ‘Just Say No’ Rally in Los Angeles, California. 5/13/87,” Wikimedia Commons, public domain; Puppet master meme generater at Imgflip;“Surprise,” by Erik Cleves Kristensen at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

 

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If a petition submitted last year by Nevada’s Board of Governors is approved by the state supreme court, it’s going to cost lawyers a wee bit more money to practice in Nevada. Currently, Nevada lawyers are obligated to complete 12 hours of annual continuing legal education to keep their licenses. But if the state bar’s governing board has its way, a 13th hour will be tacked on to the annual requirement.

At an average cost of $40 per credit hour, this means that the 5th highest cost to practice mandatory bar in the U.S. will just be that much more expensive. Nevada will top out at just over $1,000 per year between mandatory annual fees of $490 and soon, 13 hours of mandatory continuing legal education.

The original petition asked that of the current 12 required hours of continuing legal education, 1 CLE credit be mandated in the area of “substance abuse, addictive disorders and/or mental health issues that impair professional competence.” Somewhere along the way, however, there was an increase in the total hours required. It became a petition that increases annual mandatory hours from 12 to 13 with the new required hour in the aforementioned areas.

Petition ADKT 0478 was filed with the Nevada Supreme Court in January 2016 with oral argument last June. Unfortunately, the chance to either complain or to applaud has come and gone. It’s only a matter of time now for the Court to issue its Order for ‘lucky’ No. 13. To quote Hank Jr., “It’s all over but the crying.”

Gobsmacked.

I really must crawl out from under my desert boulder. How did this newest imposition, this latest cost to practice burden slip past? The gobsmacking news came by way of the Nevada Bar’s “Message From The President” in the April 2017 Nevada Lawyer magazine.

I rarely read the dull bar magazine except for checking the Bar Counsel Report each month to see if anyone I know has been pierced by the sword of lawyer discipline. For some reason, I read Nevada Bar President Bryan Scott’s presidential epistle in April where he briefly mentioned the mandatory bar bureaucracy’s latest ‘feel-good’ do-something impediment. Scott also helpfully offered that “Supplementing this petition, the state bar has enhanced its curriculum to ensure attorneys have access to quality CLE programs related to these important topics.” Well, that’s no surprise. CLE is big business for state bars.

To be fair, in reply to my ‘ how dare you’ email query, Scott said, “We did not do this as a money-making venture. In fact, should the Court issue an order, we expect to offer a CLE on this topic at no charge.” Let’s see how long that lasts.

No proof CLE does anything.

I won’t paraphrase Roger “Verbal” Kint but the greatest trick ever pulled was convincing the legal establishment that forcing lawyers to take continuing legal education classes would make them more competent, more ethical, more professional or in the latest wrinkle in Nevada — more sober. The fact is there’s never been empirical proof that CLE delivers more competency, ethics, professionalism — or sobriety. As a matter of fact, there isn’t even the most rudimentary form of subject matter assessment since CLE participants are never tested to see what they have learned. The testing demands are greater getting a speeding ticket dismissed via a defensive driving course.

As for tutoring the trait of improved sobriety, the petition does a terrible job of explaining why a mandatory CLE in abuse, addiction and mental health issues is necessary. To be fair, there’s a talking point Scott sent that mentions studies from the 80’s that “have shown a connection between the legal profession and higher rates of mental health issues and related addictive disorders.” The same reference adds that “In February of this year, a more definitive study was released showing attorneys display addiction levels of dependent drinking at 20.6 percent as compared to 11.8 percent of a generally highly educated workforce.”

If that’s true, the rest of the population is in even worse shape. Should the Nanny State start requiring everybody take a class in sobriety? According to a Newsweek report, 30 percent of Americans have had an alcohol-use disorder. Citing a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, the article states: “America has a drinking problem, and it’s getting worse. A new study shows that 32 million Americans, nearly one in seven adults, have struggled with a serious alcohol problem in the last year alone. It gets worse if you look at numbers across people’s entire lives: In that case, nearly one-third have suffered an “alcohol-use disorder.”

https://cdn.someecards.com/someecards/usercards/630ae40facf324702bf98d936c73f348eb.pngBut even if you take at face value that lawyers are worse on substance abuse/mental health than the rest of the population, where’s the proof a one-hour class does anything to fix the problem? Then again, if there’s one thing lawyers are good at is reaching their conclusions.

So appropriately, under “Conclusion,” the petition jumps to the conclusion that because the board of governors’ purposes include “upholding the honor, integrity, professionalism and dignity of the profession of law and the enhancement of the professional competence and ethical conduct of members of the bar . . . mandatory education in abuse, addiction and mental health is necessary.” And it’s also “essential to public protection.”

More lawyer shape-shifting in the offing.

In September last year, the Florida Supreme Court approved a rule amendment granting Florida the dubious distinction of being first to require lawyers to take at least three hours of CLE in an approved technology program as part of the 33 total hours of CLE that Florida lawyers are forced to take over a three-year period. More than half the states have adopted the duty of technology competence for lawyers. It’s only a matter of time before other jurisdictions follow Florida and start demanding mandatory CLE in technology courses, too.

The ABA is the organization we have to ‘thank’ for these new recommended mandates, including mandatory substance abuse CLE. And it now has one more recommended lawyer transformation encumbrance in the works. Be on the look out for mandatory diversity continuing legal education.

Not satisfied with approving a new diversity policy for itself directing its ABA CLE program panelists be diverse, last June the ABA passed Resolution 107.  It asks “licensing and regulatory authorities that require MCLE to make diversity and inclusion programs a separate credit, but without increasing the total number of hours required.”

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Photo credit: “Surprise,” by Erik Cleves Kristensen at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license; “the view from below” by David Long at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

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In April, the Nevada State Bar’s Board of Governors blast emailed members a third-party confidential survey asking for their “opinion on the CLE and annual license fee exemptions currently offered to members older than 70.” The survey is apparently driven by proponents who want to eliminate that age exemption. Others want it left in place. Will the survey decide the matter? I rather doubt it. In any case, the results are supposed to be published online and/or in the Nevada Bar’s magazine.

Currently, there are 412 Nevada lawyers age 70 or older actively practicing. But those silver legal eagles better start worrying. Once the age exemption is eliminated, those 412 lawyers, representing less than 5% of Nevada’s 8,818 active lawyers, will each sustain about $1,000 in new higher annual costs to practice.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/62/H_Pierre_Am_richtigen_Fleck.jpg/335px-H_Pierre_Am_richtigen_Fleck.jpg

Base annual dues in Nevada are presently $450. In addition, there’s a separate yearly $40 paid to the Nevada CLE Board. This amounts to $490 in total mandatory annual fees. And with the average cost of an hour’s worth of Bar CLE at about $45 multiplied by a mandated 12 annual CLE hours — tack on another $540 to the annual tariff. Wine may improve with age — but not it seems the bottom line for Nevada’s older lawyers.

As far as the Bar’s concerned, however, the news would be positive. Assuming the 412 septuagenarian lawyers satisfy their CLE requirements through the Bar, the projected fiscal impact for the Nevada Bar will to the sunny side of potentially over $400,000 in higher annual revenues based on the infusion of new dues-payers and CLE potentially totaling $1030 in fees X 412 active senior Nevada attorneys.

Right now, millenials outnumber the 75.4 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. But the bad news for those 18 to 34 year olds is that many Boomers aren’t retiring. So as Baby Boomers, including lawyers, continue working past retirement age, it’s not surprising that mandatory bars are trending toward revoking senior lawyer age exemptions. After all, the bureaucratic maw must be fed. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘the bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.’

Holidays 496Some mandatory bars like the State Bar of Arizona eliminated their age exemptions years ago. As a matter of fact, in the Grand Canyon state, aging lawyers who take retirement status still pay bar dues. The only way to stop paying is to resign in good standing or to rest in peace beneath the ground. And in Texas, on April 28, 2015, the Texas Supreme Court amended its Bar Rules to eliminate its longstanding MCLE exemption for so-called emeritus attorneys, those aged 70-years and up.

Understandably, it’s a bit unseemly to ascribe money grasping reasons to these moves. So look instead for overused policy dodges dressed up in public protection apparel to justify eliminating the age exemptions. Doddering dinosaur lawyers who fail to keep abreast of the law may pose risks to consumers is how the argument goes. But unfortunately for proponents, there’s never been proof or any empirical evidence that continuing legal education makes lawyers of any age more competent, professional or ethical.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/33/A_jolly_dog.png/163px-A_jolly_dog.pngIt seems “Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with old age,” according to the late Abigail Van Buren. “Nothing does – except wrinkles. It’s true, some wines improve with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place.”

Finally, paraphrasing Francis Bacon, “Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust,” — and for mandatory state bars, old lawyers to tax.

 

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August 11, 2016 at 10am PT / 1pm ET

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Wyoming State Bar

Wyoming Bar Members and Guests (registration required)

Running an Efficient Law Firm (webinar)

July 27, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED

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Wyoming Casemaker: A Complete Guide (webinar)

August 9, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for more information and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED

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Laws, Rules and Practices Governing OSHA Activities (webinar)

August 25, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED


Lawyer Fitness 101 (webinar)

August 26, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED


Going Long on Oil and Gas: Estate Planning Tools to Maximize Mineral Interests (webinar)

October 4, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED


Shared Custody Arrangements in Wyoming: A Challenging (and Challenged) Proposition (webinar)

Sponsored by the Children & Family Law Section

October 19, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED


The New Era of Proportionality (webinar)

November 11, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bios and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED

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Lexis Nexis University

Your Library is Your Portrait: Using Technology to Improve Accessibility and Effectiveness

  • Class Type: On-Demand Training
  • Product: LexisNexis® CLE and CPE
  • Run Time: 66 Minutes
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You are not Going to Believe This!: Deception, Misdescription, and Materiality in Trademark Law

  • Class Type: On-Demand Training
  • Product: LexisNexis® CLE and CPE
  • Run Time: 60 Minutes
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Credits: “Men of the Day No. 732: Caricature of Mr James Lennox Hannay. Caption read “Marlborough Street” by Spy in Vanity Fair, 22 December 1898, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain;”Am richtigen Fleck. Signiert. Öl auf Leinwand” via Wikimedia Commons, public domain; “A jolly dog,” by Currier & Ives, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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(1) there’s no empirical support that mandatory continuing legal education enhances lawyer competency or professionalism and;

(2) the state bar has a financial interest in CLE marketing.

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