Journey2Civility: The Learning Curve

"teach" written on blackboard, apple, booksThis is the second in a multi-part series looking back at the work of the Commission on Professionalism in the weeks leading up the rollout of our new look and website. Last week I recalled that implementing our duties to review and approve professional responsibility CLE was an early challenge. Incorporating principles of adult learning to our review process and embracing technology revolutionized our approach to using professional responsibility CLE to increase professionalism.

In 2007, Donna Crawford joined the Commission. A trained educator and writer of curriculum, she also was proficient in technology-based initiatives. Donna shared the main elements of good adult learning: including content that is practical and skills-based, and utilizing delivery methods that draw on the expertise of the adult learners in the room. We quickly determined that this foundational information needed to be passed on to folks—almost exclusively lawyers not teachers—who were delivering professional responsibility CLE.

Effective Learning Experiences

In order to encourage courses that involved participants in active learning experiences, we developed and delivered facilitation training for presenters. These workshops gave presenters tools for engaging participants in analysis discussion of practice situations, getting them away from the “lecture by a single expert” format familiar to lawyers but shown by research to be ineffective in adult learning.

We incorporated these elements of quality adult learning into a new application for the approval of courses in the area of professional responsibility CLE. Instead of having providers send email attachments of reams of course materials for our review, we asked them to identify learning objectives, subject matter and delivery methods in a one page internet-based application.

We published CLE guidelines and other articles to assist providers in developing courses consistent with adult learning principles. We then produced a video to assist CLE providers in developing interactive programming for adult learners.

Lawyer Mentoring

Finally, we began to develop a pilot program of professionalism education in the context of lawyer to lawyer mentoring. Most of us who have practiced law appreciate the wealth of wisdom and knowledge that is passed from seasoned to newer attorneys during the process of mentoring. We studied the various models available from organizations across the country and asked the 17th Judicial Circuit to pilot a lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program for new attorneys.


As Deputy Director and, subsequently, as Executive Director, I was involved in all sorts of educational programs, assisting in course development as well as acting as a panelist and presenter. I enjoy being a facilitator and encouraged facilitation rather than lecture as a delivery method. Before numerous groups of lawyers, I spoke about professionalism as a core value and ideal to strive for above the floor of acceptable conduct established by our ethical rules. As I often exhorted my fellow attorneys, “Merely avoiding receiving a complaint to appear before the disciplinary authorities does not make anyone a paragon of professionalism!”

As I traveled, I came to appreciate the vastness of our state, the sheer numbers of lawyers, and the divergence of perspectives within our legal profession. Some lawyers attended CLE programs but appeared to be involved physically or mentally in activities unrelated to the program going on in the room.

Yet, in most attorney groups, I felt a thread of commonality. A sense of engagement. A hunger and hope for the promise of civility and professionalism that was strong despite being veiled by intellectual skepticism and uncertainty. An abiding question in my mind became: How can we connect with and nurture that hunger and hope for a greater purpose for our work and higher satisfaction with our career choices? And does professionalism CLE truly provide that window?

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