J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Confessions of an Education Week Junkie

Editor’s Note: This article was published in July 2016 and is republished in this issue as an invitation to our readers to attend Continuing Legal Education (CLE) at BYU Campus Education week August 22-25, 2017. For a CLE schedule, click here.
I remember as a young boy, one of the highlights of the year was my family’s annual pilgrimage to BYU Leadership Week. Back then, BYU seemed like the largest campus in the world and the musty aroma of sawdust in the old Smith Fieldhouse was the stuff of dreams. I did not know or care what my parents were doing all day, but my siblings and I were free to pick and choose from an almost infinite variety of sports and activity classes. And, despite my parents’ harsh rules – at least one class each day had to be in a classroom, with a desk – we kids found a lot to love about Leadership Week, which, by my teenage years, had been given the dangerous new name of Education Week.
In the decades since then, much about Education Week has changed, but the central proposition of opening the campus to the entire world each year for a week of spiritual, cultural, social, and educational stimulation is as extraordinary and compelling now as it was to my family in the 1950’s.  I am not aware of a comparable enrichment experience anywhere on the planet – at any price.


Continuing Legal Education

One of those changes has been to offer continuing legal education classes and credits as part of the Education Week curriculum. In 2002, retired BYU General Counsel, Eugene Bramhall, put together a CLE program to be offered on an exploratory basis as part of Campus Education Week. It was an immediate success. Each year since then Gene, with an assist from Judge Tony Schofield, has continued to assemble a remarkable program of CLE classes, ranging from nuts-and-bolts practice stuff to estate planning, law office management, and even the myriad of legal issues surrounding the early Church and the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. A perennial favorite has been periodic reviews by Church legal counsel of the increasingly complex issues faced by the Church as it grows and expands to every corner of the globe. 
Now a moment of truth and confession: I would probably return each year even if the topics were boring and the presenters were dull. Because, quite frankly, BYU Education Week is the cheapest CLE on the planet! And, since I am not one of the blessed few who can meet their annual CLE requirement through scintillating discussions of the product liability issues surrounding improper use of masks and snorkels at a lawyers’ retreat in Bora Bora, I go for ‘cheaper is better.’ There – I said it.

The CLE Experience

Now back to Education Week. Not surprisingly, much of the Education Week CLE curriculum is chosen because it is relevant to those in the practice – trial advocacy, appellate practice, legal writing, persuasion, mediation and, of course, the obligatory ethics and professional responsibility. Many presentations address topics that touch everyone regardless of profession – tax and estate planning, real estate, family law, and even cyber-security.  As noted before, any lecture with a title that includes Joseph Smith and/or early Church history is interesting not only to LDS lawyers, but it also draws many non-lawyers who are attending Education Week.  Some presentations have been so well received that they have been regularly repeated – with carefully crafted new titles to avoid scrutiny by the CLE police. As for paperwork, the Law School takes care of the necessary applications and approvals for Utah lawyers, while those of us seeking out-of-state credits are required to submit our own compliance information. For me, it has been a simple task in both Colorado and Texas.
I have found over the years it is dangerous to predict which classes I will enjoy the most by reading only the title and presenter’s description of the class. This is partially because there are so many areas of the law about which I know little and I am delighted to be given CLE credit for my personal voyage of discovery. It is also because so much depends on the presenter’s ability as a teacher, storyteller and lecturer. To be honest, some of the stuff is deadly dull and it is hard to imagine even a great storyteller like the late Rex Lee being able to breathe life into it. I just tell myself I am getting CLE credit and answer a few emails during those lectures. But then, when you least expect it, a presentation on some obtuse topic captures your imagination and the real-life stories and personality of the presenter lock it into your consciousness permanently. It is like the childhood memory of first seeing a little crocus in spring pushing up through the ice and snow. You don’t forget.

Valuable Associations

Another reason I have become a regular Education Week attender is because of the associations I have with so many Law Society alumni and friends who I see too seldom.  Their presence and the conversations we have about life and family and BYU Athletics during class breaks and over lunch have become more and more valuable to me over the years. Part of me still sees them as students, like me, trying to understand the parole evidence rule and part of me sees them as examples of lives well lived – of balancing family and career and Church service and unexpected personal or family heartaches and crises – and I am glad all over again that they are in my life.
So, while I come for cheap CLE credits, I leave each year replenished and renewed and grateful for my association with BYU and the Law School and this profession with which I have had a love/hate relationship for nearly 40 years. If you haven’t tried it yet and Bora Bora is not on next year’s calendar, I invite you to join me at Education Week.    

By Rondo Fehlberg

Posted: July 31, 2017