Friday, November 7, 2008

Professional education

Continuing Legal Education (CLE) is a requirement imposed by the Maine Bar Association.  The problem with CLEs is that most attorneys only do the bare minimum to satisfy the requirement.  It is very rare these days for attorneys to do more than the 10 CLE credits per year.  However, at NIELSEN & BLY, we believe professional education is an integral component of a criminal defense firm and is in harmony with our philosophy of providing the very best defense for all of our clients.

This year I have been to Maryland for an SFST student course.  Dallas for a course on mastering scientific evidence in OUI cases.  Harrisburg PA for an SFST instructor course.  Boston for a 2 day nation DUI seminar and a local criminal defense seminar hosted by the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  This year alone I have attended in excess of 100 hours of training focused on OUI defense.

However, the training doesn't stop with me.  Attorney Nielsen has been busy as well.  In October, Attorney Nielsen became one of the first attorneys in the country to attend a course devoted to understanding and dealing with Police Drug Recognition Evaluators (DRE).  This was a 24 hour intensive course that will prove invaluable to Attorney Nielsen's clients who've been charged with Operating Under the Influence of Drugs.

In addition, Attorney Nielsen is flying out to Houston Texas next week to attend a national seminar hosted by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers on defending drug cases.  This course deals with all of the unique issues that arise in State and Federal drug cases such as wire tapping and surveillance methods, drug identification, confidential informants, criminal forfeiture issues, sentencing issues, money laundering, effective cross examination of the Government's expert witnesses and lab issues.

Both Attorney Bly and Attorney Nielsen have a full agenda planned for professional education in 2009.  Attorney Bly will be attending a blood course in San Diego CA as well as the DRE course in PA.  Attorney Nielsen will be attending a student SFST course as well as numerous federal drug education courses throughout the country.

Professional education doesn't end with a course work.  Rather, professional education is an ongoing, life long process.  A good attorney should continually read and educate himself about the law and science behind police work.  CLEs shouldn't be looked at as a ticket to punch or a dreaded requirement that has to be fulfilled so that the lawyer can practice law.  Rather, CLEs are just one part of the educational process that is ultimately utilized to the benefit of the client.

If you are in the process of trying to find an attorney to represent you in your criminal matter, interview that attorney and find out all you can about his/her qualifications.  Ask the tough questions about experience... education... and dedication to the practice of law.  You'll be surprised by some of the responses (or lack thereof) you receive.