"You'll Never See Ethics Quite the Same..."
Many lawyers dread CLE ethics seminars, and especially those that fulfill the "mental health" or "substance abuse awareness" requirements adopted by many states. The traditional program involves a lawyer--often an "elder statesman" of the local bar--behind a podium waxing eloquent about this or that Model Rule of Professional Conduct, and telling the occasional "war story." If you're lucky, there may be a PowerPoint presentation, or a panel discussion with a few judges, and maybe even a challenging hypothetical for a few minutes of theoretical discussion. (And if you go to a "video replay," you don't even have to worry about sitting in the back row to make sure you can complete that Sudoku, surf the Internet on your iPhone, or revise that legal brief that's due the next day.)
So, when we first developed ReelTime CLE, we thought that if we could make an ethics CLE enjoyable and engaging, we would accomplish something significant. We have nothing against the RPC, PowerPoint, judges, or elder statesmen of the Bar (we really do love 'em all!), but the reality is that presenting an ethics CLE is a monumental task. Few lawyers think there's much risk that they will actually commit a significant ethical violation, and thus it is often challenging for anyone to get their attention—especially when there is actual billable work to be done.
Call us foolish, or brave, but we decided to take on that challenge. And somewhere in the process, we had a flash of inspiration. Since most people love watching movies, and there are plenty that feature attorneys in challenging and entertaining situations, maybe we could build an interactive CLE experience around film clips. And perhaps we might just be able to bring a fresh angle to learning about ethics and professionalism.
To be worthwhile, though, a good CLE seminar should offer more than a good way to pass a few hours and fulfill a requirement—it needs to be of practical benefit to participants. And again, movies seemed to fit the bill, given the powerful impact that they can often have on the viewer. Most folks can recall classic lines or striking visual images from films they watched years ago. And the best movies go beyond mere entertainment, to stir something in the soul, the conscience, or the heart—be it an action/adventure film that inspires heroism, a romantic comedy that spurs on the quest for "true love," or a crime thriller that evokes passion for justice and redemption.
The ReelTime CLE format leverages that power of the movies to leave an imprint on the viewer's mind, and to provoke a response. The use of film clips as a discussion-starter increases the odds that a key concept about the interplay between ethical decisions and stress, or paying attention to the cumulative impact of daily choices, will be more deeply impressed upon the brain, because it is attached to a humorous line, or a poignant visual image.
For most practicing attorneys, ethics and professionalism are not played out in dramatic "Perry Mason moments," or the striking ethical proving ground navigated by Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. That's why ReelTime CLE seminars use films that we believe will resonate with attorneys regarding the real world issues and choices that they face every day.
Of course, even the best intentions mean little, without results. And on that score, the evaluations that we have received from hundreds of attendees have confirmed that we may be on to something here. ReelTime CLE Seminars consistently have received the highest marks from attorneys in North and South Carolina, for both enjoyablility and practical value. But don't take our word for it—see for yourself on our "Reviews" page.
We know, of course, that we cannot guarantee a life-transforming experience, or even a good time, for everyone who attends a ReelTime CLE seminar. Some of you may even decide to attend, but still sit on the back row and fiddle with your iPhones. And hey, that's your choice. But we do hope to make it a tough one for you.