Lawyers must continue their formal legal training no matter how long they have been practicing law. The California State Bar Association requires lawyers to attend Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes and monitors or audits lawyers' records to ensure they have attended the necessary number of hours. This is true even for lawyers, like me, who teach other lawyers about how to defend driving under the influence cases.
CLE is important for two reasons. First, lawyers have to keep up on changes in the law and there isn't any better way than to attend classes taught by experts in their field. Second, CLE is a great way to continue to be energized about the practice of law. It's exciting to attend a conference and talk to other lawyers about how they are defending their cases. Attending the conference and listening to other defense lawyers is one thing but discussing your particularly difficult cases with other defense attorneys in a consultation is really exciting. It's like having a law firm of the best of the best working together to put a winning strategy in action.
I recently attended the Capital Case Defense Seminar. Nearly 1000 other criminal defense lawyers were brought together to learn, discuss, and work towards eliminating the death penalty in California. During the conference Barry Scheck gave a very informative talk on Forensic Evidence. Of course, Barry Scheck has worked tirelessly through The Innocence Project to free many wrongfully convicted innocent defendants. Finding out how he helped to free an innocent man after 26 years of imprisonment in Texas was inspiring. Listening to him speak makes me want to be a better lawyer.
I left the seminar a better, more informed lawyer, but more importantly I felt rejuvenated in my profession. I am even more determined to uphold the highest standards of our profession and our mission to protect our clients from the government. It reinforced my pride in being a criminal defense lawyer and a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law.