A recent e-mail from the Multnomah County Bar states that a 'rainmaking' seminar designed to 'grow client base' and develop 'marketing' skills has been accredited with 1 MCLE hour.
I don’t argue for a moment that attorneys in private practice and their firms might benefit from learning these skills. However, the accreditation standards of MCLE Rule 5.1(a) state that an accredited activity must deal primarily with 'substantive legal issues, legal skills, practice issues or legal ethics and professional responsibility.' If 'rainmaking' is a 'practice issue' worthy of MCLE credit, are golf lessons, Toastmasters and Blazers games far behind? They, too, can lead to an increased client base.
The purpose of CLEs should be to improve our legal skills, not our bedside manners.
James H. Van Dyke
Joining the Ranks
The trial panel has spoken. The Oregon Supreme Court has spoken. It is with some measure of pride that I join the ranks of the 'disciplined' in the Oregon State Bar.
My offense was charging a client $67.50 to respond to an unfounded bar complaint. That charge was recently deemed 'illegal' and 'excessive' by our Oregon Supreme Court under DR 2-106 (Fees for Legal Services).
But here is the 'rest of the story' the Oregon Supreme Court decided to leave out of their decision:
1. I had won the trial for the client.
2. I had voluntarily and altruistically reduced my fee by $4,000 prior to any dispute with the client. I did this because the trial had been bifurcated by the court over two days, a month apart, and I just felt sorry for the client having to pay for trial preparation twice.
3. I withdrew from the client’s case because the client did not pay my 'reduced' bill after the case was appealed. I filed for an extension of time with the Court of Appeals and furnished the exhibits to the court without charge. After the client still would not pay my bill, I discounted my fee even further including the $67.50 charge that was deemed excessive.
4. I was charged with charging an 'excessive' fee by the Oregon State Bar. The Trial Panel (made up of two prosecutors) found me guilty of charging an 'illegal' fee (a fee in violation of a statute), of which I had not been charged. The Oregon Supreme Court decided not to address this issue.
5. The Trial Panel is supposed to render their opinion within 21 days of the trial. This panel, despite no complications, took four times the allotted time to render their decision. This was okay with the Oregon Supreme Court.
So now I join the exalted ranks of the Oregon lawyers who have been publicly ridiculed, tainted and disgraced. So why do I feel so good about it? Because I finally got the Oregon Supreme Court to take one of my cases.
Regarding Diane L. Gruber’s second letter objecting to mandatory diversity CLEs (August/September 2003):
1. Ms. Gruber’s comparison of the OSB to Taiwan under martial law is difficult to reconcile with the publication of two of Ms. Gruber’s vehement letters in the OSB Bulletin and Ms. Gruber’s recent election to the House of Delegates. The anger level in Ms. Gruber’s letters is also difficult to reconcile with her complaint about CLE instructor Peggy Nagae’s alleged anger and negative view of life.
2. Being required to take instruction in diversity issues is not 'thought control,' any more than child abuse reporting or ethics. It is an attempt to give attorneys the tools necessary to understand those of different cultural backgrounds, as part of giving good legal advice and according respect to all persons in professional settings. Ms. Gruber is free to think and say whatever she wants.
3. If the diversity CLE were not mandatory, I would not have taken it. Like probably most other lawyers, I think of myself as culturally competent, especially since I grew up in the South regularly interacting with (though educationally segregated from) African Americans. I was mistaken. It is only after taking the mandatory diversity CLE that you realize you are not as culturally competent as you thought. That is why it needs to be mandatory.