Should I Lie About My Credits?


QI’m a fairly new attorney. I graduated in 2009, did my time in document review, and am now working relatively happily at a mid-size firm in the Midwest. Unfortunately, since I’ve been licensed since 2009 I have to report CLE credits next year and I’m about 25 credits short. I also don’t have time to attend 25 credits worth of CLEs and bill for what’s expected of me in the next six months.

When I talked to a more senior associate about my problem, she told me to get the firm to pay for the courses, show up to pick up the books and sign whatever you need to sign, and then head back to the office to work. Easy peasy, she said. I told her that’s probably unethical and she said that, “well, every attorney I know has been doing it for years.”

True? Does everybody lie about their CLE credits? Should I just do whatever everyone else does and lie about mine?

AProbably unethical? No, Pinnochio, it’s unethical. You shouldn’t even need to look up a model rule for confirmation. Or review the attestation line of whatever you sign that says you actually attended the CLE. Key words? Actually attended. As in you sat there and read a memo and played Bouncy Mouse while the speaker reviewed text on a Powerpoint. Which, come to think of it, is not much different than showing up and taking off.

So, sure, every attorney I know has probably fudged the numbers a bit, having ducked out early from an all-day CLE and still reported all the credits. And there are more than a few attorneys who do what your senior associate pal recommends: sign in and run out. It’s probably the most popular scam going on in the legal profession but, to be honest, it’s a pretty unimpressive and stupid scam.

Bottom line: you can do what’s harder but right. Or easier but wrong. Your choice. I’d say your attorney license is on the line but, to be honest, CLEs and CLE reporting is kind of a joke anyway.

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Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

1 Comment

  1. Kelly

    January 8, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Every time I have attended a CLE, they make you sign in at the beginning and turn in a form at the end, for this reason. No ducking out early.

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