Continuing Legal Education

This afternoon, I will have the great pleasure of lecturing in Paris on UMKC’s CLE Abroad program,* along with my good friend and colleague Micah Wells.  Micah is one of those legal entrepreneurs you’re always hearing so much about, but with a decidedly unique arena: economic development across Africa.  He really is a juggernaut, and to be listed on the same bill with him is a high honor.  Y’know how James Bond’s boss, M, is always saying something like “contact our man in Hong Kong”?  Well, Micah is our man in Germany.  And Switzerland.  And Djibouti.  (You cannot make this stuff up.)

Our presentation topic is truly too broad for a single hour’s worth of CLE ethics credit, but we’ve focused the discussion on a few points that are applicable not just to guys like us whose practices cross borders, but any lawyer in North America whose clients’ issues cross borders.  And I’m here to tell, you, that’s everybody in the practicing bar.

Issue 1:  Be competent.

Yes, yes, we all know this one.  A traffic lawyer shouldn’t be handling a murder case, and a public defender shouldn’t draft his neighbor’s new LLC operating agreement.  But those are simplistic examples.  A divorce attorney has to serve her client’s husband wherever he is, but she also must understand that she can’t serve the guy in Mexico by mail.  She might need to outsource that function in order to actually be competent in the representation.  [See MRPC 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a)(2), and 2.1.]

Issue 2:  Take reasonable fees.

If it takes a patent litigator four hours to research how to extract evidence from an offshore third-party, but still can’t make it happen, is it reasonable to bill her client for that research?  Maybe, maybe not.  But if she brings in someone better versed in the proper procedure, the cost to the client could be significantly lower.  [See also Issue 1… and MRPC 1.5.]

Issue 3:  Collaborate (or… know when to refer out, outsource, etc.).

This is a tough sell for litigators of all stripes– especially Mr. Incredulous Big Firm Partner from an earlier post (The Golden Opportunity of Efficiency).  The simple fact is, unless the attorney handling the case deals regularly with transnational issues, the client’s best interests are likely better served by bringing in a hired gun.  Just make sure it’s done properly, and with the client’s knowledge.  [See MRPC 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 5.1, 5.2, and 5.3.]

Issue 4: Supervise Your Foreign Colleagues Effectively

Sooner or later, you will have to have somebody in another country handle something for you.  That creates a huge challenge of trust, but often one that cannot be surmounted, but if Singaporean law is going to govern how something gets done, your performance on the UBE may not fulfill your competency requirement (Issue 1).  You don’t have local counsel in Singapore?  Fine– call around.  Hit up Google for some assistance.  Know that U.S. diplomatic missions keep a list* of local, U.S.-friendly attorneys who have indicated a willingness to help.  [See MPRC 5.1.]

Notice the common thread here… outsourcing.  It all ties together with outsourcing.

Simply put, Atticus Finch*** could handle the breadth of most litigation in 1930’s Alabama.  He’d know better today.  Saul Goodman in the modern era, well… I wouldn’t bet on it.  Mr. Finch nowadays would readily recognize the need to rely on outside experts, even if his case is heard in a small town courtroom before jurors in overalls.


* Yes, a shameless plus for UMKC CLE Abroad and the concept more generally, but this really is a great way to explore the world while fulfilling a licensure obligation.  I highly recommend it, no matter your practice area.

** Found on each U.S. Embassy website– including the one for Paris.  Simply go to the respective Legal Assistance page and scroll to “Attorneys”.   Many lists indicate not only practice-area specifics, but also whether that foreign lawyer is admitted here in the U.S.  I’ve had pretty good luck finding top-flight colleagues this way.

*** Mockingbird Atticus, not Watchman Atticus.

Glasgow Central Station.  They all meet under the clock, just like we do in Kansas City.  Or at least, like we did when we traveled by train.

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks at the Hague Law Blog– I just returned last weekend from a lengthy trip to Québec, England, and Scotland; and it was a doozy.

For lawyers who haven’t had the opportunity, I’ll say again that foreign lands are the best possible place to get your CLE hours.  Take one of your favorite humans along (daughters take mothers and vice versa, wives take husbands and vice versa… one guy who traveled to Turkey with us a few years ago brought his whole family).  Visit places you’ll never get to see on the regular tour.  Connect with colleagues from back home and abroad.

Insert here yet another shameless plug here for my alma mater, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and its overseas CLE programs.  That’s how I got to Oxford.

The House of Commons, Palace of Westminster (official photo).

And it’s how I came to stand in a place that has witnessed greatness so many times that they’ve literally stopped hyping it.  Before the majority side despatch box (yes, it’s spelled that way) in the House of Commons.  Where Gladstone and Disraeli battled each other, in alternating stints as PM.  Where Thatcher rallied a country ’round the first war I remember.  Where Tony Blair fostered hope and later disappointment.  Where Winston Churchill talked of the blood, toil, tears, and sweat necessary to defeat Nazi tyranny.  How ironic that my visit there came just days before the sadness of Charlottesville and the renewed rise of fascist apologists.

Yet even that sadness does not wholly diminish the joy of the trip.  I was able to see old friends in Glasgow after more than two decades apart, I had a pint in the birthplace of Bilbo Baggins, and I sat in a chair occupied by justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

To top it off, I learned a whole lot, met people face-to-face that I work with regularly only via the internet, and satisfied quite a bit of intellectual curiosity.

All that said, it’s good to be home.

St. Edmund Hall, Oxford. Founded in A.D. 1226, the oldest college at Oxford University and the site of our CLE conference.
The view from the Justices‘ seats, UK Supreme Court.
The Eagle and Child, Oxford. The place where J.R.R. Tolkien concocted the world we know as Middle Earth.
The Coloseum.
The Colosseum.

The Hague Law Blog isn’t just about nuts & bolts lawyering.  A bit of a deviation today… with an offer you can’t refuse.  At least, not if you like to travel and fulfill your licensure requirements at the same time.

In Missouri and Kansas (and, I’m sure other jurisdictions), this is Continuing Legal Education Crunch Time.  Our credit year ends next Friday, June 30th (with reports due July 31st), and lawyers across both states are scrambling for hours.  They needn’t stress, really, because a cottage industry has been set up around the year-end rush; the CLE office at my alma mater, UMKC Law,* not only offers a host of live programs throughout May and June every year, but webinar and web replays as well.  (See here for the full range.)

But why stress about it at the end of the reporting year?

Why scramble?

Why not get a full year’s CLE hours and see the world at the same time?

Join us in Italy this November.

Peggy and me in Venice during UMKC's 2015 Rome CLE. Did I mention the free days in the middle?
Peggy and me in Venice during UMKC’s 2015 Rome CLE. Did I mention the free days in the middle?

Seriously.  CLE Abroad is the best possible way to do it.  In the morning, a few hours of classes and court visits, led by American and Italian practitioners and scholars, and in the afternoon, a few hours of ruins, museums, and the best cuisine Italy has to offer.

I’m not joking.  This really is the best way to get your hours (I even give a live-version lecture of topics from this blog), see the world, and save a few bucks** in the process.

See program details here.  (And then email Peggy to sign up.)

Vieni e unisciti a noi, amici.

* Full disclosure:  my wife is a professional program coordinator at UMKC’s CLE office, and I worked there during law school (and that first excruciating year after).  This plug is not only shameless, it’s issued with pride.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without having had the opportunity to work there, and I get the good fortune of traveling every year because of it.
** Group travel rates keep the price tag down, of course.  And the question always comes up: “can I deduct this?”  My answer:  “I don’t know.  Ask your tax guys.”