Letter from the President

Originally published in the printed bar journal, Communiqué (August 2017).

Education Addiction

Tami D. Cowden is Of Counsel with Greenberg Traurig LLP. Tami has more than 20 years’ experience as an appellate attorney with a focus on representations in the Supreme Court of Nevada and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Tami serves as President of the CCBA through December 2017. Contact her at cowdent@gtlaw.com.

By Tami D. Cowden, Esq.

This issue focuses on education, which is, of course, a very broad topic. In fact, when considering what to discuss in my column, my thoughts did not go to law as related to the field of education. Instead, the issue that came to my mind was continuing legal education.

Recently, in ADKT-0478, the Supreme Court amended SCR 210 to add an additional CLE requirement. Beginning January 1, 2018, all Nevada attorneys will be required to take thirteen credits of CLE each year, an increase of one credit per year. The required credits include ten general education credit credits, two ethics education credit, and one “substance abuse, addictive disorders, and/or mental health issues that impair professional competence.” (I will call that last one the “AAMH” credit.) The change means that instead of having to earn one AAMH credit every three years, one must be earned every year. Additionally, excess AAMH credits will not carry over from a prior year or be permitted to be applied to satisfy the ethics credit requirement. The Court also approved certain curricula for AAMH credit instruction.

The adoption of the new requirements was not unanimous. Justice Pickering dissented, noting that no other state has made AAMH CLEs an annual requirement. In fact, only three bars other than Nevada have made such credits mandatory at all, and only eighteen even allow CLE credit for the topic. Justice Pickering also conservatively estimated that the additional CLE requirement will add $1 million in additional costs to members of the Bar—based on $175 for the hour not worked, and $25 for the CLE credit. The Justice stated:

For that, I would expect evidence showing the efficacy of mandatory annual CLE on these issues for 100% of the bar, as opposed to more intensive measures targeting the 20% of the bar that is afflicted with them.

In re Matter of Amendments to SCR 210, p. 4 (Pickering, J, dissenting). The Justice did note that she had approved the current once-every-three-years requirement, considering that a “modest imposition” when it assured that attorneys were aware of the Nevada Lawyers Assistance Program (NALP), and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL), resources available for attorneys to obtain help for themselves and colleagues.

I have some sympathies with Justice Pickering’s overall view. As someone who has had probably fewer than a dozen alcoholic drinks in my entire life (and that is counting a single sip as a drink), and who has never engaged in any recreational drug use, I confess to feeling somewhat put upon to be required to take a CLE class warning about the risks of such substance abuse. I cannot speak for others who may feel the same, but I believe my own twinge of resentment stems from the fact that I grew up in a family with an abundance of substance abuse/addictive behavior issues, including alcoholism and drug addiction. That substance abuse by family members had assorted negative impacts on my life. So, as I explained to one colleague, the requirement for the AAMH credit feels like just one more way my father/stepfathers/sisters (none of whom are lawyers) have screwed me over. That is, of course, an entirely irrational attitude. And my feelings on the matter were obviously never strong enough to prompt me to respond when public comment on the proposed change was invited.

Anyway, despite my own somewhat irrational view on the issue, I am favorably impressed with information contained in the petition filed by the State Bar of Nevada seeking the amendment. Specifically, the Bar stated that the coordinators from Nevada Lawyers Assistance Program and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers reported the average AAMH CLE resulted in their receiving an average three to four calls from attending lawyers seeking help for themselves or others. That does suggest that the CLEs are doing a very good thing.

However, you might personally feel about the mandatory AAMH credits, they are required, and if you didn’t earn one in the last two years, you need one this year. So you can get a AAMH credit for this year absolutely free, by attending the August luncheon, which features Kelly M. Campbell, LCSW, discussing substance abuse prevention and treatment for attorneys. You have to pay for your lunch, of course, but it is at Cili’s, so you know you will enjoy the meal. See page 9 for event registration form.

Knowing about the success of past CLE’s, I’ll not only be there, but I’ll feel good about attending.

Note: This page is updated with the release of each edition of the printed bar journal, Communiqué.