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"But thou, when thou renewest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door...." - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
"But thou, when thou renewest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door...."

You really want to hear about what lawyers do after they enter thy closets and hath shut thy doors. Right?

"... thou shalt report thy pro bono publico to thy Chief Administrative Judge, which is in secret."

That's how I spent much of my Saturday morning- after spending almost all of the previous Friday finalizing my education so my practice of law will be street-legal for another two years.

Yesterday, first.

We have to attend, and certify attendance at, 24 hours worth of continuing legal ed every two years. Almost to a one, the subjects are boring, the formats dull, the venues uniformly inconvenient and uncomfortable. (Unless you're rich; then you can earn your CLEs on cruise ships and beaches, usually while lobbying or being lobbied by assorted interest groups.  I do not travel in that rarified air.)  So for the rest of us, the live presentations mean hotel ballrooms and bar association lecture halls.  Someone actually gets paid to drape the attendee tables in these rooms in black crepe paper; I want that job.

The younguns among the attendees all bring their laptops, allegedly to take notes, but mainly because their slavedriver senior partners expect them to be in constant communication with their offices all day.  Thus, the complimentary wifi was clogged and useless.  At least one of the whippersnapper boys in front of me was on some kind of database site for most of the lecture on jury selection; my best guess is he was assembling his NFL fantasy team for the weekend. Actually, this is a hair away from being perfectly appropriate, since many of the same concepts apply in jury selection, particularly the gambling component.

None of this is cheap.  Except for some one-or-two-credit freebies occasionally offered by courts, the going rate for achieving these credits is between $25 and $50 an hour; the rack rate for yesterday's seven-hour extravaganza was $350.  Mine was comped, as "payment" for having presented for them earlier in the year- a better deal than the roughly five bucks I'd have made off of each attendee's $350 fee for the seminar I did.

And nothing's included beyond the words and materials, the butt-hurting chair and the black crepe hanging on the tables, and some really bad coffee.  Lunch? "On your own." Parking? Whatever you can get- and the hotels happily charge rapid double figures.  Me, though? This is my town- and I know the secret strip of two-dollar-all-day parking meters barely two blocks from the hotel check-in desk. So do a lot of other people, though, and when I got there before 8:30 yesterday morning, here's what the second-to-last of them read:

Yup, dEAd like a dEAd thing.  And don't think for a minute they wouldn't ticket. So I pulled back to the final and furthest space in the Cheap Parking at the End of the Universe, threw in my eight quarters, and headed off to be exquisitely bored.


That, once ended, got me to 25 credits, which allowed me another privilege of paying for my own livelihood.

The Uniform Court System charges us $375 every two years for license renewal, tied ever so kindly to your birthday.  The paper form, with instructions, is eight pages of blinding black-with-a-little-red type, plus two additional pages I'll get to in a second.  For I think the first time, you can now do it online, and I just did.

Good thing I'm an attorney, because this thing is full of pitfalls and multiple things to get wrong: a third of one page is a checklist to make sure you've done the eleven things (ten was apparently taken) you need to do, or at least consider doing. Including putting a stamp on the return envelope; courts are nothing if not skinflintingly cheap.

Online, it all went faster, and it saved me two stamps.  Why two, you ask?  Bono question.


A reading from the Book of Rules:

RULE 6.1.
Voluntary Pro Bono Service
Lawyers are strongly encouraged to provide pro bono legal services to benefit poor persons.
(a) Every lawyer should aspire to:
(1) provide at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services each year to poor persons; and
(2) contribute financially to organizations that provide legal services to poor persons.

Note some words in there: "Voluntary" and "aspire," to be precise.  So naturally some genius bean-counter got round to trying to quantify it, for each and every attorney registrant, and the last time I engaged in this nonsense looking back to 2012-2013, I was shamefully required to report that I had rendered fewer than that goal.

Apparently some of the big-pots in the practice didn't like the shaming- many of them, I fully expect, having literally nothing to put down on their forms- so they did what big-pot lawyers do, and complained about it. And so this year's registration required certifying only that the attorney had reported his or her hours and dollar contributions on a separate form. Mailed in anonymously. (Thus, the second stamp.)

Online, it went a little differently: I had to put in my hours (still woefully short, but I had some) and my dollar contributions in a ticky-box range. Also, optionally, I was allowed to key in my hours and dollars of non-legal charitable time (attending church wouldn't count, but serving in a soup kitchen would).  But, I was told, my answers on this point of the registration were solely for mass-data-accumulation purposes and would be "severed" from the remainder of my registration form and not stored about or ever made traceable back to me. And if you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn with surveillance cameras and cell phone tracking devices I'd like to sell you.

But, gods bless, it's done.  Now would you like to hear about the two different standard methods of jury selection?

6 comments or Leave a comment
stress_kitten From: stress_kitten Date: December 5th, 2015 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hah... no, but I would like to know if it's true that lawyers tend to automatically pass over teachers for jury selection. It's a common belief around these parts. My assumption has always been that teachers, at least here, are trained in clear communication, in bullshit detection, are articulate, and not generally inclined to be emotionally led by either prosecution or defense, making us not helpful for the weaker side in a trial.
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: December 6th, 2015 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've heard that once or twice, but I've heard more often that trial lawyers don't want ANYONE on the jury who, by temperament and/or profession, is likely to take control of the room. That's why lawyers and even their employees and their spouses, are rarely picked, even without a substantive reason for doing so. If I'm remembering right, Eleanor's been called twice since we've lived here and got tossed both times the first day once she said she was married to a lawyer.

In NY, lawyers are subject to being summoned, and somehow I've never been (but watch- with all this talk, I'll get one this week). I'd love to do it- once- but I doubt I'd last a day.
weebleswobble From: weebleswobble Date: December 5th, 2015 08:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
that sounds like a lot of hoops to jump thru! glad thats all done for the year!
ellettra From: ellettra Date: December 8th, 2015 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
We do a lot of CLEs online or on mp3. Is that an option for you? I'm finished with mine for the year. I don't (obviously) have the same requirements that you do as a lawyer, but the paralegal certificate does require a certain number of hours, and my firm encourages us to take advantage of as many as we can each year. The ones I picked this year all ended up being cruelly boring, but at least I was either at my desk (and thus able to do other things) or at home.

Edited at 2015-12-08 12:58 am (UTC)
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: December 8th, 2015 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
We can- at least "experienced" lawyers can (n00bs have to do theirs in live format)- and I did my last-before-this-one that way, but they're not much cheaper and require more motivation for awake-staying. Also, since the bar associations don't trust us, we have to stay alert for codes they embed in the recordings to prove we paid attention.

One of my pet peeves about bar associations is they exist to serve the models of their leaders, who tend to be big-firm muckymucks. When CLE became mandatory in the 90s, bar leaders told us that their seminar revenue actually went down- because the big firms all obtained provider certifications and took most of their credit hours in-house.

Hence the fairly high per-credit charges, even for members. There's a very useful two-hour one Friday, which Bankruptcy Court is heavily promoting, but they're at their usual price point of $25 per credit for non-members, reduced to only $20 per for us. Quickies like this used to be free as a service to members and to help out the courts by educating the stupid; now it's all about the Benjamins.
ellettra From: ellettra Date: December 8th, 2015 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's very depressing, and ridiculously disgustingly sneaky that they embed the codes within the presentation. I guess it has to be that way, but uuuuugggghhhh. I feel your pain.
6 comments or Leave a comment