Now that Continuing Legal Education is ensconced as a cottage industry, lawyers are deluged with brochures and e-mails assuring us that if we do not immediately enroll in a particular CLE course we surely will be consigned to the dustbin of legal history.
Amidst the deluge it is always refreshing to find a CLE program which is not only informative and useful, but actually enjoyable. I attended one last week and I strongly recommend it when it comes around next year.
For four days I attended an appellate practice program in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the American Bar Association's Council of Appellate Lawyers (I sit on its executive committee), the Appellate Judges Education Institute, and SMU Dedman School of Law. Hundreds of lawyers and appellate judges from across the country attended. Judge Eugene F. Pigott of the New York Court of Appeals was a member of a panel on how appellate judges approach decision making.
The program began on Thursday afternoon with two lawyers interviewing Justice Sonia Sotomayor for one hour, and it concluded on Sunday morning with a talk by Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith on the impact of war (including 9/11) on constitutional law. In between there were talks on developments and trends in civil and criminal law, a luncheon talk by Scott Turow on law and literature, panels on various aspects of appellate practice, and predictions by the attorneys involved in the challenges to the health care law regarding whether and when the Supreme Court would agree to hear the case (the predictions were accurate).
A fascinating topic was the impact of technology on appellate practice. I learned, for example, that iPads have been distributed to all the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the judges use them rather than carry around briefs and records on appeal. Does the fact that judges are reading from a screen affect how attorneys should write and structure their briefs? Should footnotes be avoided?
Next year this appellate "summit" will be held in New Orleans. It will be one of the very best CLE programs you can attend.