Denver Bar Association
April 2012
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Supreme Court Changes Judicial Center CLE Rules

by Marshall Snider


he Colorado Supreme Court has amended its rules regarding Counselors’ Labor Exchange, or CLE, credits for the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, which is now under construction in Denver. As reported in the April 2011 issue of The Docket, because of budget shortfalls the court has for the past year required all licensed Colorado lawyers to contribute 10 hours of labor to the construction of the judicial center. However, unanticipated and unintended consequences of this requirement have led the court to make substantial amendments to this involuntary labor program.

Although thousands of Colorado attorneys pitched in to work on the judicial center project, it turns out that lawyers are severely lacking in construction skills. While members of the bar have gamely attempted to engage in ironwork, carpentry, electrical wiring, plumbing, and similar tasks, it soon became apparent that they were for the most part incompetent in all of these areas. Many of the initial efforts of attorneys laboring at the judicial center were so inadequate that their work had to be torn out and redone by professionals. The result was not a cost savings, as the court had originally envisioned, but a near tripling of the originally estimated construction costs.

Of even greater consequence was the high number of injuries the incompetent lawyers have caused to themselves and to their fellow laborers. While the attorneys were working on the judicial center, heavy tools fell off scaffolds and I-beams crashed to the ground with disturbing frequency. Hundreds of hammer-wielding counselors were admitted to area emergency rooms with self-inflicted smashed thumbs. The liability for all of the injuries caused by the lawyers on this job far outstripped any anticipated savings.

The court has not given up on the idea of lawyers contributing labor to this project. However, it became apparent to the justices that any attorney working construction needed to first receive adequate training. Therefore, although Colorado attorneys will continue to be required to contribute 10 hours of labor to the project each year, they will not be allowed on the building site until they have taken continuing education courses in construction skills. Attorneys will earn CLE credits for courses they take in areas such as dry wall hanging, beginner carpentry (starting with building their own tool box), high altitude ironwork, and sawdust sweeping.

The required courses will be provided by CLE in Colorado, Inc. (Not to be confused with the Counselors’ Labor Exchange.) CLE Executive Director Gary Abrams is excited about the prospect of offering such unique courses. Abrams told The Docket: “Of course, providing courses in the construction trades is very different than presenting programs on legal topics. We are looking forward to the challenge even though it takes us a bit out of our comfort zone.” Abrams said CLE in Colorado is already trolling the many trade schools in Colorado to recruit the necessary faculty. Upcoming trainings will be posted in Dates on the Docket. D

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