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Spoonful of sugar entices lawyers to CLEs

Call it the Mary Poppins approach. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” the magical nanny famously sang in our childhood.

Lawyers who grudgingly attend 12 hours of annual required legal education sometimes need a little sugar to help them face the task of sitting through the lectures.

Board members of the Roanoke Bar Association hoped to spice up a two-hour ethics session last year by merging education with visits to wineries and a brewery.

Mary Poppins

Her advice is going a long way with CLE programming.

“We just thought it would be kind of fun,” said Powell W. “Nick” Leitch, one of the planners.

Ultimately, however, the one-of-a-kind ethics and ethanol project was parked when too few lawyers signed up for the $150 excursion. “I think it’s just an idea whose time has not yet come in Roanoke,” Leitch said.

Adding entertainment as dessert after the educational main course may be catching on elsewhere.

Virginia CLE – the bar-sponsored provider of legal education – knocked it out of the park with a trial skills program paired with a Washington Nationals baseball game on July 22. The organization sold out the meeting room at Nationals Park with 70 attendees.

And more sports action is on the way.

Lawyers can get three hours of guidance for serving military service members and veterans before enjoying a Nationals game on Sept. 9.

Then, on Halloween, lawyers can wear their costumes and learn about the ethics of legal advertising before watching the Cavaliers take on Georgia Tech at Lane Stadium. (We made up that part about costumes. Let your conscience be your guide.)

If sports is not your thing, how about Shakespeare? On Oct. 8, Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” at the acclaimed Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton is followed by two hours of trial advocacy education.

Virginia CLE combines setting and subject Sept. 17 with an “immersive CLE experience” into the “words, thoughts, and governing philosophy” of George Washington. The inaugural “Constitutional Institute” will be held at Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, followed by a candlelight tour of the mansion.

The Mount Vernon event is already essentially a sellout, said Va. CLE executive director Raymond M. White.

“I haven’t seen responses like this to programs since I’ve been here,” White said.

He said lawyers have remarked on the value of the social networking aspect of the “experience” element, but he said the education part is not forsaken.

“We take that part seriously. We just want to add a little something extra.”

Updated Feb. 5 to add comment from White.

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