Late night thoughts after an intoxicating CLE

Mark Levison, The Levison Group

I was fortunate enough to be elected to my state bar's governing board more times than any other lawyer in the state's history. This had a couple of side effects. The most notable one was my wife was always mad at me because we constantly had to go to bar meetings for days on end at locations that she didn't particularly appreciate. The second, more positive effect was there were a lot of Continuing Legal Education (a/k/a CLE) opportunities at these meetings, so I didn't need to spend much time independently seeking out opportunities for legal enlightenment. However, since I quit the board of governors a couple of years ago, all that has changed. Now every year as the deadline approaches, I suddenly realize, "Whoops, I haven't attended the necessary CLEs."

This year I resolved to start early, so I would not be stuck in the last days before the mandatory CLE period ran, listening to a day-long recap of general practice issues I didn't give a hoot about. So, as I perused potential CLEs, I found an advertisement for a CLE to be taught by Tom, a lawyer friend of mine, who had started his own microbrewery. I guessed that the CLE was going to be about beer, brewing, brats and bar(flies), or some such obviously legal topics. In fact, Tom's "little" business had grown to be one of the top 100 breweries in the entire country, so I was sure he must have learned lots of legal lessons that would be invaluable to me. The CLE appeared to be my cup of tea or more appropriately, my pint of polemics.

Before you get the wrong impression, I do not want you to think that this CLE was a half-cocked endeavor. It was extremely educational. I learned that beer is the result of sugar's conversion into alcohol from a grain, whereas wine is a result of sugar's conversion into alcohol from a fruit. That is important legal stuff. You certainly wouldn't want to have a client accidentally label a stout a pinot grigio. I also learned a lot of things about the struggles of a microbrewery, including one that required my friend to draft his own legislation and push it through the state legislature. I learned about antitrust issues and their impact on the little guys' battles to compete with "Big Alcohol." Most importantly, I received some sage wisdom from Tom through quotes he had infused (brewer's talk) into his presentation. One of the thoughts he imparted to his audience was "The trombonist starts when the saxophonist runs out of breath." I'm not sure what that meant, but think it may have had something to do with the art of chugging. Tom also drew upon the wisdom of noted legal historian, Yogi Berra, as Tom discussed the founding of his yeast-dependent business: "If you don't know where you are going, you have to be careful because you might get there." These thoughts were well received by the seminar attendees, perhaps in part because included in the course materials on the legal intricacies of brewing craft beers, were samples of the speaker's craft beers.

Because I was so happy with my beer CLE, I decided I would write my next column about other interesting CLEs. I asked my research staff (my secretary) to do a little digging and to figure out what other "novel" CLEs were out there that I could write a scholarly piece about. As it turned out, there are lots of "unorthodox" ways to earn CLE, including the ethics of skeet shooting with judges, roller derby drafting, fly-casting instruction (perhaps in the direction of jurors), antique roadshow CLE, and concealed weapons permit courses taught at shooting ranges. The trouble is, my able researcher discovered the discouraging fact that a few years ago, some other writer, surely not as witty as me, had already written about unusual CLEs. So, since I never copy other people's thoughts if I think I am going to get caught, I was forced to change directions. I am now going to write about starting my own groundbreaking CLE.

Therefore, I hereby officially announce the CLE seminar I will be teaching during the next great migration of the wildebeest, known as the "Four Corners of the Continent" CLE. You see, I am an avid traveler to the African continent, and finding a way to convince the government that these trips are tax-deductible, while getting paid for talking about things I love seems like a legal slam dunk. You all are familiar with, and may have taken, a CLE on interpreting the four corners of a contract. Why not do that with a continent?

My "Four Corners" seminar will start in North Africa, which is dominated by Islamic law. I will teach the difference between American statutory law and the law of Sharia with special case matter on understanding when those differences might cause you to lose a finger. The meeting room for the opening session of the CLE will be conducted in Rick's Café in Casablanca. Next we will move to South Africa. Johannesburg is a little rough these days, but Cape Town is pleasant enough. Lectures will appropriately deal with civil rights issues, such as the Fourteenth Amendment, Apartheid and the current hot topic of voter suppression. The CLE will include a tour of Robben Island and its unfortunate lack of amenities compared to Alcatraz.

We will them move to West Africa. Although I've been to the continent about ten times, I've not been to West Africa, so I don't really know what the syllabus ought to include. Nevertheless, given it's the West, I'm presuming the speakers will concentrate on the right to bear arms, individual liberties, rigged elections and perhaps coup d'états.

Finally, the "Four Corners" seminar will conclude in my favorite location, East Africa. There we will walk in the steps of Mary Leakey, while searching for the birth place of man in the Rift Valley, and as long as we are there, we'll take a side trip to look for the birth place of President Obama.

The final days of the symposium will be conducted on the savannah, in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, where I will personally lecture on the Law of the Jungle. The seminar, like the skeet shooting and roller derby seminars, will be interactive and will include sleeping in tents, picking off ticks, using elephant dung as campfire fuel, swimming with crocodiles and generally learning important East African laws. Attendees will learn that when an elephant flaps its ears at you, he's not saying hello, he's saying goodbye (so you should leave), and it's generally not a good idea to stand between a lion and her cub. These ancient Laws of the Jungle will prove very helpful to practitioners when they get home in dealing with both judges and their spouses.

Course materials will include copies of "The Lion King," and optional Ebola vaccinations.


© 2016 Under Analysis, LLC. Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Mark Levison is a member of the law firm of Lashly & Baer. Contact Under Analysis by e-mail at

Published: Fri, Nov 11, 2016