California Bar Journal
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...Because the odds are better over there

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Good lawyers always educate themselves

A conscientious attorney is going to opt to take continuing education courses voluntarily. The attorney who has little regard for his practice or his clients will benefit from neither mandatory or voluntary education. There will always be those few who will run afoul of the State Bar by failing to live up to their ethical responsibilities. These individuals are going to take the same paths whether they are subjected to mandatory or voluntary education requirements.

David St. Peter
San Bernardino

MCLE doesn't meet need

This is an era of more and more specialization. I happen to do exclusively probate and estate planning. Some years there are big changes and developments in this area which require a great deal of CLE. Other years have virtually nothing. To require a certain number of hours in a certain number of years does not make any sense.

Peter D. Pettler

Let dual licensees go on inactive status

Prior to and at the time the MCLE program was instituted, I was actively practicing law, keeping up with new developments and voluntarily attending those programs which I knew would be of significance to me and my clients.

Today it has been quite a number of years since I have been an active practitioner. Yet, I am unable to go on inactive status due to the fact that I have a real estate license and occasionally assist my wife, an active real estate broker, in a real estate transaction.

I have requested the State Bar to change its rules which require law licensees, who also are CPAs or real estate agents, to maintain active status, but the State Bar has shown no interest in doing so.

Therefore, I am required to maintain my active status and attend MCLE programs. These programs are meaningless to me and time- and money-consuming.

Martin F. Bloom
La Jolla

Keep MCLE, but reform it

I have no problem with the general MCLE requirement - 12 hours a year is hardly anything, and I frankly wonder how any practicing attorney can keep his or her knowledge current without participating regularly in some form of continuing education. I take anywhere from 30 to 60 hours of classes each year in order to keep current in my area of the law, and that doesn't count all the self-study time I put in.

Having said that, I think the system needs reform. There should be more credit given for self-study. The "specific subject area" requirements for elimination of bias, substance abuse/emotional distress and law practice management should all be eliminated.

I am concerned that if MCLE were to be eliminated entirely, the quality and number of continuing education courses available to us would be adversely affected. I hope MCLE can be retained and reformed.

Eric Holk

Malpractice is incentive enough for attorneys

Let me see if I understand the bar's position. Dues of $395 represent a reduction from $458 in '97 and $478 in '96. But aren't those dues amounts an increase from the $77 mandated by statute? And isn't the purpose of the dues bill each year to increase the amount from $77 to whatever the bar thinks is appropriate?

Enough already. Get the bar out of the MCLE business and do away with the MCLE requirements. All it takes nowadays is one unsatisfactory result and the lawyer is sued by the client. That should be incentive enough to stay current.

Aside from admissions and discipline, the bar should have no other function.

Stephen Glassman
Los Angeles

Stop whining: Laziness should not be our standard

I am tired of reading complaints and listening to the whining that the MCLE program is unfair because some members of the bar are exempt. It seems obvious that the purpose of MCLE is to protect the clients of practicing lawyers by keeping them up to date on the practice of law. There are no clients to protect from retired judges, state officials and law professors.

The holding by a court of appeals that MCLE is unconstitutional on account of these exemptions is equally ridiculous. Courts have certainly swallowed the argument that every official action or statutory scheme must apply with perfect symmetry to every man, woman and child - at least when it brings about the desired result.

It is a disgrace that so many lawyers work so hard at being irresponsible, selfish and unethical. MCLE has the virtue of making everyone go back to school. Now some lawyers want a vote on MCLE, a vote to make laziness the standard of the profession.

H.L. Young
San Diego

ALJs have bigger burden

As an administrative law judge, although required to be on inactive status by our agency, our agency still requires a mandatory MCLE requirement of its judges of between 32-36 hours per year. In addition, we have optional training of eight to 12 hours per year, in which most of our agency's judges participate.

Administrative law judges who complete approximately 100 hours of continuing legal education should be exempt from any State Bar requirement.

Hon. Marcus Max Gunkel
San Jose

Inexpensive bar classes over weekend were great

In order to impose MCLE requirements, the classes must be available at a reasonable cost. In the past, I have obtained the vast majority of my MCLE credits from the State Bar MCLE spring and fall weekends. Apparently, this spring the bar-sponsored MCLE weekend was not offered. Has this program been terminated?

I understand there are other inexpensive ways to obtain MCLE credit, however, I have found the bar-sponsored fall and spring weekend seminars extremely helpful.

Carl G. Ehmann
Lake Arrowhead

There was no spring Section Education Institute this year because of the fallout from the fee bill veto, but there will be an SEI in the fall in conjunction with the Annual Meeting, Sept. 30 - Oct. 3 in Long Beach.

Dump law practice management requirement

Why the State Bar need be concerned about how a lawyer manages his practice has perplexed me. In addition to getting rid of the practice management requirement, I believe that the ethics, substance abuse and elimination of bias requirements should be eliminated as well. You are not going to remedy a person's deficiencies in these areas with a few classroom hours of self-study tests; they are make-work.

Bernard Lemlech
Los Angeles

Voluntary = motivation Mandatory = resentment

If the vast majority of attorneys support continuing education of the bar, that is the best argument for making it voluntary rather than mandatory. The reason we so strongly support CLE is because we are not only one of, if not the, most intelligent groups of individuals, but we are also probably the most self-serving group.

The extreme competitiveness of our profession, our exposure to malpractice liability as well as to career-damaging sanctions and discipline, all serve to intensely motivate us to voluntarily educate ourselves. If this is not enough to motivate the few in our profession who don't voluntarily continue their legal education, making it mandatory isn't going to solve the problem and it only punishes the vast majority who willingly educate themselves.

Jack Allen
Pacific Palisades

An expensive exercise in tiptoeing for 4 hours

I am still fuming about the time I spent taking a course concerning stress/substance abuse. We spent four hours tiptoeing around the room, with our shoes off, and had some lady tell us how to sit in the lotus position and meditate. I flushed about $230 down the toilet, did not relieve any stress, but spent an additional $7 for parking and about $15 for food. Make sense?

Robert H. Gonzales
Laguna Niguel

Costs of doing legal business are crushing

If attorneys should be required to take MCLE, they should only have to take courses which deal with their area of expertise. As a solo practitioner, the costs of MCLE, in addition to State Bar dues, exorbitant student loan debts, E&O insurance, are crushing. Most people I know who did not go to college or get a formal education are better off financially than I am.

Joshua D. Mackenroth