Monday, September 15, 2008

Judicial Imagination-- Making Believe We Are Competent

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with a friend and former Chief Judge of a State Supreme Court. I was disappointed because, Illinois State Supreme Court that had apparently fought the politically correct position of adopting a mandatory CLE requirement had succumbed a few years ago.

I mentioned to my friend the fact that mandatory CLE was in my view a pointless exercise designed by the State Supreme Courts to avoid criticism for lawyer incompetence. Put another way if they adopted mandatory CLE they could avoid having to seriously address the issue or even think about it.

To my surprise, my friend readily agreed that mandatory CLE was a joke. Anyone hiring a lawyer who relies on the fact that the lawyer is up to date on his mandatory CLE is making serious misjudgment.

One has only to visit those CLE classes held between Christmas and New Year’s and look at the partially awake, well partied lawyers reading the paper, most of whom never had and never will practice estate planning to get a real a picture of the “well, it is got to be done” CLE.

Then there is the let’s make the best of it CLE, where tax planning in definitely a prime focus. You check in at the Royal Hawaiian, looking down the corridor at the blue Pacific and think to yourself, that a little torts and civil procedure is well worth the deductibility just for the view—not to mention that it is snowing back home. What this profession will do to insure they are fulfilling the public trust is remarkable.

Judges—do you really want to insure the public has cost effective competent legal service—competition is the answer—not mandatory CLE. Reduce artificial restrictions on access to practice and competition will solve the problem. In addition you will eliminate the administrative costs of monitoring CLE compliance.

-Larry Salibra
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