Last week, I attended Continuing Legal Education (CLE) in Manhattan, Kansas. This is not to be confused with the Manhattan borough of New York City. They are quite different. For instance, we might consider how to find each. The old joke about Manhattan, KS is that you travel west out of Kansas City on I-70 until you smell it, then turn north and continue until you step in it. Manhattan, NYC, on the other hand, draws with its gravitational pull. You can control your descent into it, but only if your will allows.
For me, the difference is much simpler. Manhattan Island, unlike Manhattan, Kansas, has some redeeming qualities (with apologies to JMo, you know I love you, buddy).
I attended this particular CLE because I needed it, not because I necessarily wanted it. They offered, in one 2-day seminar, 12 total hours of credit (2 of which addressed Professional Responsibility). Wonderful. I can get the requirement for FY 2011 knocked-out in two days. I do so applaud efficiency.
I knew no one, nor did I expect to see any familiar faces. I wasn’t particularly social in law school, and I haven’t socialized in Kansas for more than 20 years. So, I saw no reason to encounter any semblance of familiarity. To pass the time, I eavesdropped and people-watched, all in blissful anonymity.
This was the first CLE seminar I’ve ever attended. Prior to this year, I was exempted from CLE requirements due to my military service, and the military classes/seminars I attended in years past consisted of a relatively homogenous group of lawyers.
What I heard and saw was interesting. The younger (pre-40) lawyers did little talking. Mostly, they consumed energy drinks and fiddled with electronics. The middle-aged crowd socialized in very niche groups. You had the cleancut-civil-law-types in one corner talking about the amusing (only to them) arguments in their latest pleading. The beatnik/burnout crowd all gathered in another corner and bitched about their income and the last time they got their ass handed to them by the pre-40 crowd. The personal injury folks pranced around each other dressed in their Bernie Madoff duds, and the CDLs all sulked at their seats looking like their breakfast consisted of rice crispies pissed-upon by a government official.
Then there were the old folks. This CLE had a large contingent of AARP brethren whose purpose in attending was to maintain their law license. Most didn’t practice, or practiced in a very limited fashion. They clung to their licenses for their own reasons. Most, I suspect, wanted to feel relevant. After all, each of us has a bit of Willy Loman hiding in the back of our soul.
They talked and talked. They arrived early and gathered in groups of 2-4, talking about what was on their minds. They talked about the same thing.