J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Education Week and Continuing Legal Education: a Not-So-Secret Combination

Keith Pickard is a Nevada family law attorney and an Assemblyman in the Nevada Legislature. Keith graduated from BYU in Construction Management, and entered law school in 2008. Keith’s legislative accomplishments include a substantial re-write of Nevada’s child custody statutory scheme. Keith is married to Nevada Juvenile Hearing Master, Hon. Margaret Pickard, and they have seven children in their blended family.

I entered the legal profession in a rather unusual way. First, I was a litigant–an unwitting participant in a rather ugly custody battle. But in 2007, after spending 20 years in the construction and development industry, we all went off the economic cliff and I found myself in need of a new profession and went to law school. In law school, I was in classes such as contracts, constitutional law, property, and others, where nearly every day I would have an “aha” moment. In times past, I would read long paragraphs in construction or development contracts and wonder why on earth we had to say so much. Now, I would sit through a lecture or read a section of a text and find myself saying “so THAT’S why we do that!” But what followed law school was all the more rewarding.

I graduated and fell into a family law firm where I seemed to find my calling. I’m one of the peculiar few that enjoy family law; in part, I suppose, because I have lived it, and also because I can be the lawyer I always wanted. I am able to take people through a difficult time and be of help to them at a very personal level. It’s not just business, it’s fundamental to them. So when I get their desired results, it comes with great personal satisfaction. I expected that. But an aspect I did not anticipate was the delight that comes with regular attendance at the Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) program at Education Week.

As attorney and former BYU Athletic director Rondo Fehlberg, mentioned in his comments in this newsletter last year, the CLE credits at Education Week are the “cheapest CLE on the planet.” $35 plus the cost of registration will get you all of the CLE credits one needs for the year. Even more rewarding is the comradery–indeed friendship–that comes from participating with so many of the same attorneys each year. Another pleasant aspect is the stable of thoroughbred presenters that retired BYU General Counsel, Gene Bramhall, brings to the program. With rare exception, the lectures are relevant and interesting. Particularly interesting are the presentations on issues important to the LDS Church today–something we rarely hear about in our various practices. Each year, we hear about different topics, many of which have immediate application in our disparate practice areas.

Education Week 2017

This year we listened to 13 classes including one ethics, one civility and 17 hours of general credit. Two presentations were multi-hour panel discussions – one being “Mediation: Dealing with Difficult Parties, and Techniques to Break the Ice in a Divorce and Post-Divorce” and the other “International Challenges to Religious Freedom” by preeminent experts in the area. One presentation from a perennial presenter and favorite, Ken Jennings, Sr., entitled “The Law of Emerging Technologies: From Horse and Buggy to Big Data” was particularly entertaining. Rondo Fehlberg presented on negotiations, with practical suggestions emanating from his decades of experience negotiating international-scale oil deals or NCAA Conference-creating deals with universities and ESPN. His experience with duffel bags full of pantyhose when negotiating with former-Soviet governments was enlightening.

Fundamental Matters

Each year, counsel for the Church present on topics relevant to today’s Church issues. This year, Alexander Dushku presented “Religious Liberty Challenges, Priorities, and Fairness for All”–an interesting discussion on the intersection of principles of religious liberty and today’s political realities. Turning then to a similar reduction of abstract theory to practical reality, Justice Thomas Lee of the Utah Supreme Court presented “Finding Original Meaning: 21st-Century Tools for Interpreting Our 18th-Century Constitution.” For those of us that are still intrigued by the academic banter of originalism and textualism v. pragmatism and “the evolving constitution” theories, this discussion was particularly engaging.

Foundational Discussions

Several classes were “nuts-and-bolts” approaches to certain practice areas: Judge N. Randy Smith of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals presented “What Issues Do You Face in Appealing Agency Cases?” For those of us that rarely, if ever, deal with government agencies, this class was informative. Jeffrey Young presented “What Every Attorney Needs to Know About Annuities,” a practical review of the differences between insurance and investment vehicles and the strengths and weaknesses of each type of product. Richard Lambert gave a two-hour class on “What Every Attorney Should Know About Dealing With Prosecutors”–a survey of a wide range of issues in dealing with criminal law and those trying to enforce it. William M. Jeffs presented on the fundamentals of “Guardians and Conservators for the Everyday Practitioner.”  He explained the similarities and critical differences between the two and how they intersect other practice areas. Two non-lawyers, family therapists and spouses Jan S. Scharman and S. Brent Scharman, presented “Stepfamily Awareness: A Powerful Tool for Your Practice.” Though not focusing on the legal aspects of parenting plans and step parenting (as presented by Nevada Juvenile Hearing Master, Hon. Margaret Pickard, in 2014–yes, a shameless plug for my amazing wife), the Scharmans provided the underpinnings to understand litigants in domestic cases who struggle with the practical realities of blended families. This understanding can be crucial to finding resolution in domestic relations matters and possibly many other areas of the law.

Functional Responsibility and Personal Accountability

Finally, we had two great presentations on the two special topics we all need and have a hard time finding: ethics and civility. BYU Law Professor James Gordon lectured on “Ethics and Honesty,” and David Jordan spoke on “Civility in a Time of Division”–a discussion of the need for civility in spite of, and because of, today’s divisive rhetoric in the public square. Both of these discussions were meaningful and instructive. When viewed before the backdrop of Elder Lynn G. Robbins’ Devotional talk on personal agency, accountability, and responsibility “no matter what,” we all left the conference with a deeper commitment to maintain the utmost integrity, respect, and civility in our personal practices.

In Sum

In all, when combined with the renewed friendships and acquaintances, the varied classes were both enjoyable and worth every penny. The CLE put on by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society (and I might add the lunch provided by the BYU Law School for the second year in a row) were a wonderful continuation of the high-quality education to be found on this campus. I too am an “Education Week junkie,” to borrow from Mr. Fehlberg’s title. I am certainly coming back next year, and I hope all of my friends I see each year do as well.

By Keith Pickard

Posted: September 26, 2017