Have you ever run across something so obviously dumb, you felt it necessary to do something about it; To reach out and correct the stupidity assaulting your sensibilities? But what if when you pointed out how dumb it was, no one you explained it to seemed to fathom the true depths of the stupidity? It makes you question your sanity. I mean, if no one else thinks it is dumb… maybe it’s just me.
Recently, I ran straight into the ‘Catch-22’ morass of the illogical that is the State Bar. Yes, the self same that exists in every state in some form. I have oodles of state bars at this point. What few friends I still have, joke that I am trying to collect all 50 states. By and large, in no small part based on the ABA’s model rules of ‘fill in the blank’, most rules of the profession you run into from one state to another are pretty similar. You will run into a few weird ones of course… in California (and a very few others) you don’t have to go to law school to sit for the bar, in Texas you are allowed to sleep with your clients, and then there is pretty much everything in Louisiana — because they like being different. There are lots of examples, but when you look at the big picture, the gestalt is relatively similar from one state to another.
Anyway, I entered a new state last year. Flashcut to a few months ago and I receive a strange letter from a non-profit threatening to revoke my law license unless I show up to one of their CLEs for new attorneys. Now, this is strange on 2 accounts.
Numero Uno: I’m not a new attorney. I’ve been out long enough at this point that… well crap. Read the blog. I’ve been out for a decent amount of time and I no longer qualify anywhere as a new attorney. (I wish the new attorney discounts still applied to me)
Proposition deux: How exactly is a 3rd party unaffiliated with the bar making threats against my continued bar license?
So, as with any good attorney with a question such as this, I called up the bar. First I called up the CLE department, because the letter was in reference to a CLE. I explained my predicament and how I am not a new attorney so why am I getting this. They said they were aware of the course, then said why don’t you call the non-profit and talk to them about it? I explained that I had a legitimate question related to my bar license, and I was not going to take the non-binding word of a 3rd party over the state bar who actually licenses me… in fact I think I am technically barred from taking such advice. Lord knows if you were brought up on ethics charges and used that excuse that some unaffiliated group told me to, they would laugh you right out of the profession. Plus, again, I am not a new attorney. There was silence for a moment as the words sunk in and they realized they (as the representative of the bar) had just suggested asking some random company about a bar license issue; and then they said “you have a good point, but…” it wasn’t their department because it was a condition of licensure… call the Board of Bar Examiners as they are the licensing body within the State Bar.
So I called them. I then went about explaining the same exact things. There was again that horrible pregnant pause while they mulled it over and they said “well.. you have a good point…” but — it wasn’t their department because it was enacted by the Supreme Court sua sponte as a prerequisite for new attorneys and was not itself related to their office. Plus mostly they did bar exam stuff so they had no idea (great). They then pointed me in the direction of the Supreme Court’s rulings related to the course (which I already had; because you know.. attorneys and research) and said that I should call the Executive Office of the state Supreme Court. Oh and did I need the number to talk to the CLE provider about this? (grrrr)
So up the ladder of the Bar I went. This time I talked to what amounted to the highest lawyer in the Bar outside the Supreme Court justices… They listened and I headed off the question trying to shunt me to the 3rd party CLE provider, then explained how I wasn’t a new lawyer. In fact, the Supreme Court rulings related to this course were quite specific that they were supposed to be for law students entering their first year of practice. That last part seemed to come as a surprise, which is shouldn’t because even this attorney referenced the holdings… apparently no one bothered actually reading them; they just liked referencing them and taking someone else’s word for what they contained. I was then informed they had been enforcing this CLE on anyone new in the state for many years, as opposed to only those new to the profession and they were surprised this issue had never been noticed before. They then said the words I had been dreading… “You have a good point… but… The only way to change this was to petition for a rule change directly to the Supreme Court.” I pointed out it wasn’t a rule change, it was merely enforcement of the rule as written as opposed to the expanded interpretation apparently taken by this CLE provider (who had also been given a monopoly by the bar to provide this one particular course).
To add insult to injury, I was then informed that regardless of the petition and decision, if I wanted to make sure to stay compliant, I would have to take the course because the petition wouldn’t be heard until later in the year. Well past when I was being told I’d have to take the New Attorney CLE. So I said fine. I’ll pay and take the CLE, and file the petition so no one else has to put up with this in the future. The CLE was exactly as worthless as you might expect, and I still have heard nothing from the bar as relates to the petition.
I get the feeling they have no incentive to change it, and could care less the inconvenience it causes to other people. My impression of the Bar in general has dropped significantly.