Plumbers must take as many hours of education as lawyers

In an article I wrote for February 2009 issue of  The Bottom Line, the publication for the Law Practice Management & Technology Section of the State Bar of California, I discussed the continuing education requirements for lawyers as contrasted with others such as plumbers, et al. The article was a follow-up to piece to comments I have made here on June 12, 2006 (MCLE whining)  and November 22, 2005 (Plumbers get more education than lawyers), all of which focus on the complaints lawyers have made about their education requirements to retain their licenses.

Bruce Crist, a C.P.A. in Northern California, read the article and wrote me a note, suggesting that I was in error about the requirements of other professions and trades. So, I went to check further. He was right … and wrong. Here’s the skinny:
•    Electrical contractors must get 7 hours per year in many states with 10 hours required in Ohio
•    CPAs must get 40 hours per year in many states
•    Physicians must get 25 hours in California and many other states, with 50 hours required in MA, MI and others

Oh, and lest I forget, plumbers must get 12 hours per year in MA (just a tad under the 12.5 hours required for attorneys in California). While not so many hours are required of plumbers as compared to lawyers, plumbers tend not to hold the fate of one’s very life or economic well-being in their hands, either, not even Joe, the Plumber.  Lawyers do.

A primary point of my article, as well as previous blog posts, is that education is essential for both lawyers AND their staff. NAM recommends that its manufacturing members set aside 3% of their revenue for education. Let’s take the average billable hours requirement as our metric, rather than dollars, just for the purpose of this discussion. Large law firm associates are expected to bill 1800 hours per year. Three percent of that would be 54 hours per year in education for lawyers … Just think, how much better skilled would your staff and your lawyers and you be if you actually devoted that much time to formal continuing education … education in the technical aspects of your profession (tax, labor, etc.) as well as in the management of your practice (client relations, computer skills, organizational behavior, etc.).  Wow.  We might even become an effective business and serve our clients the way they want to be served! Too bad Bar associations don’t see this connection!

A word to the wiser among us: Those who do value the education and do spend the time to enhance their skills will leapfrog over the rest, especially in these challenging times.  They will survive. They will thrive!


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