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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

To an Ethics CLE last night. In New York we are obliged to attend 24 hours of CLE every two years, and four hours of that has to be in Ethics. Non-lawyers think legal ethics must be fascinating stuff, and imagine that it's all "Law & Order" moral quandaries. It is not. Legal Ethics is about the stuff that other people can accuse you of that will get you in trouble with the state bar. Stealing from clients, poor record keeping, conflicts of interest-- that sort of thing. It is stomach turning stuff, even if you know it. In Robert A. Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" the narrator talks at one point about how part of boot camp training is instruction in the "thirty-one crash landings"- violations of the military code of justice that can result in the death penalty. Ethics CLE is like that, only worse, because you sit there racking your brain trying to think if you have somehow inadvertently screwed up. It isn't enough to be a good person- these are highly technical rules that are not particularly clearly articulated, and it is your ass if you screw it up. Usually I get my Ethics CLE in small bites as part of programs on other subjects, but this was three hours worth in one go, so I went for it. Next time I think I'll ask for a nice paper cut that I can pour lemon juice on.

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