MCLE whining — Too many hours of CLE are required!

Some lawyers complain about being compelled to take continuing education programs. Lawyers generally are required to take 12 hours of continuing education per year. California now requires its lawyers take only 8 hours per year. Certified public accountants in California are required to take 12 hours. And doctors are required to take 25 hours per year!  Good thing we’re not doctors! <g>

But, wait, did you realize that plumbers are required to take education programs to retain their contractors license? Why should lawyers complain about education requirements? As I note below, the good lawyers don’t complain. They take the programs; they teach the programs. In a misguided perception of listening to its constituency, the Bar believes that including management programs in the MCLE curriculum is onerous and unprofessional!

In an OpEd piece I wrote in the current edition of Los Angeles Lawyer, I suggest that law practice management education can be used to help us learn how to run our practice more effectively and to address the issues that are of real concern to clients … and thereby reduce complaints filed be clients before our Disciplianry Boards across the country.

In 1991, in California, I testified against creating a new program in California on the grounds that good lawyers already spend a lot of their time in furthering their education, that inept lawyers will attend but not learn and that sole practitioners and small firm practitioners will have a disproportionate share of their income allocated to a new expense that could not be passed on to the consumer.

I lost the argument, but time has proven me right! What I did not anticipate, however, is that certain individuals (and even Bar associations) would make tons of money from the education process. For example, one attorney I know changed his entire career to create a seminar company and made more money than he did as a lawyer. One Bar association went from nearly bankrupt to having more than $1 mil. cash in the bank over a ten year period! These are not isolated numbers.

Most States seem to have a bias against teaching lawyers how to "market" their practices. Marketing, in its best context, merely means teaching how to understand customers needs and providing them what they want.  Some States have, in addition, eliminated law practice management (LPM) programs as legitimate, mandated MCLE credit.

More than 60% of complaints to State Bar Disciplinary Boards can be labeled as management (or lack thereof) issues.  Many of these complaints could be addressed by LPM (including the broadly defined "marketing") programs.

The State Bar of California devotes 80% of  collected dues to pay for its disciplinary system. If law practice management courses were mandated, it is conceivable that many of the complaints against lawyers would be eliminated; if lawyers were taught how to avoid some of these challenges, the cost of the disicpline system would be reduced and dues could be reduced … The public would be better protected, the lawyers-members fees would be reduced and the Bar could focus on more productive challenges.

Yet, the Bar refuses to address this. Bar associations are in a conspiracy with Law Schools who make a ton of money from their professional schools (a building and a few profs and they charge huge tuitions — resulting in very large student debt)! Just try to get law schools to include management programs in their curricula. You haven’t seen a strong lobby until you attempt this.

No one wants to address the causes, only the symptoms …. Sounds to me a little like the tobacco industry … no one wants to address the behavioral modification issue (the root cause of cancer); they’d rather address the research issue so that research scientists-doctors can stay richly employed by the drug companies and the tobacco industry can continue to grow.

If we do not better address the issues of managing a law practice … and pay more attention to the wants of our consumers (clients), lawyers will be replaced by technicians who will.


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