Knowledge is indivisible. When people grow wise in one direction, they are sure to make it easier for themselves to grow wise in other directions as well.”
—Isaac Asimov, author
This is why I want to join the Texas Bar College—to grow, to be a better and more capable attorney. The issue I run into is that nobody knows what the Bar College is. Too often, when I go into a job interview and state my desire to join, it’s met with ignorance, of not only the organization but also of why one would want to join it.
The Texas Bar College is one of a kind. Its motto, Professionalism Though Education, is an objective I think we all should strive for, in and of itself without regard to the benefits of joining. Even a bad lawyer will learn something on the job, but it takes a good lawyer to choose to set himself or herself apart. Joining the Texas Bar College and setting yourself apart shows your employers, your clients, and your peers why you’re the one to choose.
How does one join? Simply by earning more CLE hours: 45 in one year or 80 over three years. Each year after the first, one must earn 30 hours rather than the usual 15. An attorney might normally use the required CLE hours to focus on his or her field. You can use the second half of the 30-hour requirement to branch out into fields that allow you to grow, recognize opportunities, and head off problems for your client. Or you can use the extra hours to lay the foundation for expanding or switching into new practice areas or to test the waters before undertaking the pursuit of a legal specialty. If you’re a recent bar passer, why not keep learning all that you can? There are no grades this time. If you’re unemployed or employed, why not show that you’re keeping busy improving your legal knowledge and skills on your own. Once you get into the habit of earning the extra hours, it’ll be second nature, and you can take pride in knowing that you’re holding yourself to a higher standard.
Consider the possibility of a long-time client coming to you to figure out what to do about a problem in a field that you don’t practice in. Your clients will be grateful and will still see the value of an attorney able to get the ball rolling on their matter even if you do pass it on to another attorney. Or, if you have the time, second chair it.
Take CLEs offline and in-person to meet other attorneys and network a bit. Take advantage of the college-sponsored DVD CLE that membership in the college allows you to set up, host your fellow attorneys, and help them earn the CLE hours everyone needs.
Besides, now that the occupation tax on attorneys is gone, there is no reason not to invest it in yourself. Join at texasbarcollege.com.
Tony Peterson is a recently minted lawyer and South Texas College of Law alum.