Job Search Strategies: A meaningful CLE class

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.

In last week’s posting I commented that CLE programs often are not directly instructive to our specific areas of law, but that we sometimes sit through them just to comply with the CLE hourly requirement.

In contrast, the Continuing Legal Education conference titled “Ethics in the Movies Presents Michael Clayton” at The John Marshall Law School I attended last week was pertinent, instructive, and enjoyable. You can find more information at http://www.jmls.edu/cle/index.shtml

The Professional Responsibility requirement of the Supreme Court Rule prescribing CLE requires a minimum of four hours of instruction in professionalism, diversity issues, mental illness and addiction issues, civility, or legal ethics.

Just about all of these issues are covered in the movie Michael Clayton.  Cliff Scott-Rudnick, director of continuing legal education and assistant professor at The John Marshall Law School, presents an engaging and illuminating program centered around this movie.  Attorney and movie expert Richard Adler contributes with a detailed and fascinating look at the symbolism in the film.  Entertainment attorney Hal “Corky” Kessler provides useful commentary as well.

The program begins with a discussion of the concept of professional responsibility and of the New Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct effective January 1, 2010.  Scott-Rudnick provides handouts to facilitate the discussion:  “The New Rules Guide – Rule by Rule” from the ARDC, “Highlights of the New Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct,” and a comprehensive “Redline Comparison of the 1990 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct to the 2010 Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct.”

Selected scenes from the movie are then discussed in the context of ethical breaches by the characters and of the professionalism Rules that are being stretched, or violated. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that in a couple of the scenes, dialog or actions that seem to be violations of the Rules, are not.

Presenting the CLE topic within this format is highly effective because specific Rules are illustrated by particular scenes in the movie and guide the discussion.  The drama in the scenes, the human motivation revealed and the moral dilemmas are compelling and therefore, memorable.

For example, the failure to timely confront and deal with a senior partner’s mental illness results in a cataclysm for all parties involved in the case.  Should I ever encounter a colleague suffering from a similar affliction, I think the pertinent scenes in this movie would quickly come to mind, reminding me vividly of the reason and necessity for the Rules. Illustration is a powerful tool in the learning process.

This excellent program, through its creative format, promotes learning in a painless and memorable way.  And, if you haven’t seen Michael Clayton, watch it. I guarantee you will be moved and will find it meaningful in your practice of law.

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