A faculty member here at Illinois just sent out an informative email alerting us that the Illinois Bar Association enacted rules today making CLE mandatory and creating a mandatory "bridge the gap" type CLE program for new attorneys. Sigh.
Who argued for mandatory CLE with a straight face? In my experience (with Texas), mandatory CLE requirements simpy create an industry for CLE providers. Attorneys can choose to spend a lot on out-of-town CLE programs at nice hotels, perhaps in Cancun, Aspen, or elsewhere, or spend a minimal amount on an online CLE that streams audio and/or video through your computer while you pay rapt attention. Like any education, one can get either a lot or a little out of CLE depending on how much attention you spend choosing and attending the CLE, but most people I would assume get little out of it.
I would argue that mandatory CLE raises the cost of being in the legal profession without a commensurate benefit to either the profession or the public. I can understand how it could be hard to eliminate mandatory CLE once it is enacted, but I would like to know who in Illinois thought that after all these years, mandatory CLE would be a good thing. Are grievances lower in states with mandatory CLE than in states without it?
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1. Posted by Shag from Brookline on September 29, 2005 @ 13:48 | Permalink
MA does not have mandatory CLE for attorneys. However, there is a proposal pending regarding malpractice insurance that would require attorneys to notify clients if they do not have malpractice insurance. This may put a lawsuit target on the backs of attorneys who do not have such insurance. And there will probably be an attorney out there advertising for potential clients for such lawsuits.
2. Posted by PaulNoonan on September 29, 2005 @ 13:56 | Permalink
That was the only good thing about being down here, and now it's gone...gone...
That's it, I'm moving back.
3. Posted by Christine Hurt on September 29, 2005 @ 14:00 | Permalink
Shag, I think the reverse will happen. Lawyers like to bring lawsuits where there is insurance. If attorneys don't have insurance, then they are not attractive targets for lawsuits. I'm surprised that the LLP statute in MA does not require insurance or a reserve account or a net worth certification. Generally in order for a professional to avail him/herself of limited liability, you have to prove that there is a pocket somewhere, deep or not.
4. Posted by PaulNoonan on September 29, 2005 @ 14:12 | Permalink
Thanks for the sympathy.
I just informed my co-workers and they're all going nuts too. I wonder if there's some CLE company I can buy stock in. I suppose that if there is it's now too late.
5. Posted by Shag from Brookline on September 29, 2005 @ 14:18 | Permalink
Christine, Keep in mind that a lawyer without insurance can still be a deep pocket. And there may be the embarrassment factor. And there are real estate attachments. And limited liability entities do not protect an attorney's own negligence on a personal basis, as I understand it, as compared to an entity itself. Am I wrong?
6. Posted by Christine Hurt on September 29, 2005 @ 14:27 | Permalink
Shag, I guess coming from Texas, I know that any smart attorney can "go bare" and become judgment proof, and yes, of course, attorneys in an LLP are still liable for their own negligence.
Paul, read Rule 794 -- I think you have caught a break. The rules are phased in differently depending on your last name. I think you're in the N-Z group. (That is such a laughable system that I can't believe someone came up with that.) I think if I were licensed in Illinois that this alone might make me change my name to my husband's name, which begins with an S.
7. Posted by paul.noonnan on September 29, 2005 @ 14:41 | Permalink
That's a nice silver lining I suppose.
The second thing we did after swearing under our collective breaths was to start making fun of the poor people at the beginning of the alphabet. I wonder if I could just change my name every two years and avoid the requirement entirely.
I suppose they thought of that.
8. Posted by PaulNoonan on September 29, 2005 @ 14:43 | Permalink
Wow, I spelled my own name wrong on that last comment. Maybe I do need some CLE. Or maybe it's just been a long day.
9. Posted by Evan on September 29, 2005 @ 15:17 | Permalink
I'm an Illinois lawyer, but this seemed to have come out of nowhere. At least, I hadn't heard about it. I guess I haven't been reading the bar journals closely enough.
There were already plenty of CLE courses in Illinois. The nice thing about them is that they were cheap, at least in comparison to Missouri where I also practice and where CLE in mandatory. Now that CLE is mandatory in Illinois too, I expect the charges will be going up.
Meanwhile, new rule about the "basic skills course" states: "the Basic Skills Course shall be offered by CLE providers, including 'in-house' program providers, authorized by the Board after its approval of the provider’s planned curriculum. Courses shall be offered throughout the state and at reasonable cost." Rule 793(g).
My partner said we should open a college for new lawyers, the "Schaeffer & Lamere Institute" or something. We'd charge a reasonable amount that would still be very high, since our institute would be very good, but we'd also offer some sort of financial aid. After all, we can't let the "CLE providers" have all the fun!
10. Posted by John Steele on September 29, 2005 @ 15:23 | Permalink
Regarding CLE, the devil is in the details. In states (like California) where attorneys can readily become CLE providers, the content quality can be very high, the prices quite reasonable, and the courses quite accessible. In states where the program is run for the benefit of state bar employees and commerical CLE providers (I can name names if anyone wants to do something about it), CLE is an expensive racket.