Justice Should Be Blind, Not Dumb - Continuing Ed For Lawyers

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When people talk about how important continuing education is to society at large, the example that usually comes up is the medical field. There is no way to overstate the importance of doctors, nurses and therapists staying abreast of changes in their fields, as health care is of primary concern to everyone. The availability of online continuing education has had a tremendously positive impact on public health, but another socially important area benefiting from the technology is the legal profession.

Next to their staying healthy, staying within the law in their personal, professional and business activities is about the most important consideration for people today. With new laws going on the books every year, online continuing legal education is no longer an option, but a necessity, for every practicing attorney. It is equally important that prospective clients know that the lawyer they are using, or going to use, is up to date on the law.

State by state, district by district

Every one of the 50 states in the U.S. has oversight agencies that certify professionals in a variety of specialties - medicine, law, accounting and so forth. Being "admitted to the bar," in fact, is something that lawyers must do on a state-by-state basis, as there is no single "federal bar" that comprises all the states. In fact, being accredited to practice in the federal court system (which would include U.S. possession such as Guam, the Virgin Islands, etc.) would constitute a 51st detail for any legal eagle who wants to practice across the country. (However, there is no record of any lawyer ever being admitted to practice in every state in the country.)

Because laws differ so greatly from state to state, as practices and procedures also do in such varied legal specialties as criminal law and probate, the curricula of the various online colleges would be specific to individual states. Even for attorneys admitted to the federal bar, an online continuing legal education would have to cover the different court districts around the country. Each district has its own legal precedents and case law, so practicing law in federal districts has to be mastered individually.

With Internet-based distance learning, lawyers (like other professionals) can continue a full-time workload and serve their clients while scheduling their online continuing legal education with great flexibility. In this way, the Internet helps to keep the gears and levers of the justice system functioning, even as the gear-pullers and lever-handlers of the legal profession stay abreast of current legislation and court decisions.