Continuing Legal Education

What do you think – should paralegals be required to pursue continuing legal education once they are out in the work-force?

The Thinker at the Rodin Museum, Philadelphia.

Canon 6 of NALA’s  Code of Ethics provides:
A paralegal must strive to maintain integrity and a high degree of competency through education and training with respect to professional responsibility, local rules and practice, and through continuing education in substantive areas of law (emphasis added) to better assist the legal profession in fulfilling its duty to provide legal service.”

NFPA’s Model Code of Disciplinary Rules and Ethical Considerations EC-1.1 (b) is much more specific – it provides  “A paralegal shall aspire to participate in a minimum of twelve (12) hours of continuing legal education, to include at least one (1) hour of ethics education,every two (2) years (emphasis added) in order to remain current on developments in the law.”

Let me review New York’s mandatory CLE rules for attorneys and then you can ponder whether you would favor a similar system for paralegals.   (I’ve had CLE on my brain lately because I just filed my biennial Attorney Registration Form and paid the $375 fee to maintain my license to practice).

New York attorneys must earn twenty four hours of continuing legal education credit every two years.  The twenty four hours must be completed within 30 days after our birthdays, every second year. Four of the hours must be related to legal ethics.

There are various methods of earning the credit.  We can attend live lectures, purchase DVD’s of live lectures or watch lectures streamed over the net.  Some lucky lawyers get their CLE in-house from their employers.  Moneybags lawyers can take CLE cruises or ski vacations with their families and some outstanding attorneys  earn their CLE by presenting CLE lectures to others.

In New York City, the live lectures usually are conducted in ginormous hotel ballrooms that hold hundreds of people, all jammed in at long tables. The sessions can last for an hour or two, or they can run all day or even over several days.  The prices vary wildly, depending on the provider of the CLE.

On one hand, it is difficult to quibble with the CLE requirement – who would want to retain an attorney who graduated with my class in 1979 but had never updated her legal knowledge since then?  On the other hand, sometimes it seems that some lawyers don’t take the requirement very seriously.

Click for source

A weird aspect of mandatory CLE is that the rules don’t require the education to be in the area of the attorney’s specialty. So an attorney who specializes in probate can satisfy the requirement with 24 hours of securities law CLE. What’s more, CLE providers cannot force people to pay attention so often you will see attorneys at CLE lectures reading a newspaper or working on their computers or even sleeping, because they have no interest in the subject matter – they just need some hours at the last moment.

I try to take Estates, Trusts and Wills CLE’s annually and I try to spread the education out so I’m not jammed up in in July, my birth month.  This reporting period, I had twenty three and ½ hours completed months early.  All I need was that last half hour (of ethics) and I lucked on to one of the most interesting CLE’s I’ve ever taken!

The CLE, was the first in a series called “Trials and Errors – Behind the Headlines of America’s Most Controversial Cases” sponsored by Pace Law School and Fordham’s Forum on Law, Culture and Society.  The famous trial of the evening was the Casey Anthony trial!

The tattoo Casey Anthony got two weeks after her daughter (who most believe she killed) died. Click for source.

The speakers included Jeff Ashton, one of the prosecutors on the case, Cheney Mason, one of Casey’s lawyers, and the impossibly handsome Judge Alex Ferrer  (whose show, “Judge Alex” I now try to watch on channel 5 at 1:00 PM). The foreman of Casey’s jury was scheduled to appear as well, but “his family made him back out” because they feared for his safety.  There was such anger at the jury after their not-guilty verdict that signs went up saying the jurors were not welcome in some Orlando restaurants!

The speakers did cover that 30 minutes of ethics I needed too!

Here was the issue they discussed:  In Jose Baez’s (another of Casey’s lawyers) opening statement, he alleged that Casey’s father sexually abused Casey however he never put Casey on the stand to testify about the alleged abuse. Mason, her other lawyer, said Baez “knew from day one that Casey was not going to testify”.  So the question becomes, was it ethical to allege abuse knowing that the only witness who could testify about it wasn’t going to take the stand?  What  rule in the New York  Rules of Professional Conduct  governs this issue?  What do you think, did Baez act unethically or acceptably zealously?

Mason thinks that the jury returned a not guilty verdict because it wanted a definitive medical cause of death and there wasn’t one.  He believes that shows like CSI have raised our forensic expectations to unrealistic levels.

One of the best parts of the evening was the clip of Nancy Grace doing her “tot-mom/the devil is dancing tonight” bit.

Click for source.

What do you think about Nancy Grace?  Is she a credit to the legal profession?  One of the panelists called her “Nancy Dis-Grace”.

For more information on the Casey Anthony trial, Pace is offering all of the handouts from the evening for free .

In case you have decided that paralegal CLE is a good idea, you should join me at the next two famous trials they will be presenting – OJ Simpson and Sean Combs!  Stayed tuned for dates and times.  You don’t have to be a lawyer to attend the series and attendance is free if you don’t need the CLE hours.

For other paralegal CLE opportunities, you should check out the New York City Paralegal Association website and seriously consider joining this excellent organization that offers regular paralegal CLE opportunities.


2 Responses to “Continuing Legal Education”

  1. 1 Ryan September 14, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    There are lot of online video available regarding CLE credits. One of my friend have got idea through It has dons of video.

  1. 1 The OJ Simpson Trial CLE Tomorrow Night – September 6, 2012 – Free for Students! « The Dearly Departed Trackback on September 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm

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