13 January 2011

The Little Program that Could

By Jeff Fromknecht, Juris Staff Writer

While most students are enjoying some well-deserved sleep on Saturday mornings, local attorneys file into the Duquesne Law School to attend the continuing legal education (CLE) program. The program began in the early 1990’s after Pennsylvania mandated that all practicing lawyers must participate in formal continuing legal education. With the support of then Dean of the Law School, John J. Sciullo, Professor Mark Yochum seized the opportunity and launched the Duquesne Law CLE program with the hope that it would stimulate attorneys to “reconsider the past, broaden their experiences and occasionally challenge their values.”

In 2000, the program was renamed to honor the legacy of Dean Sciullo, Dean of the Law School from 1982 to 1993. Professor Yochum explained, “Dean Sciullo was a master in the classroom, concerned not only with rigorous technical learning, but also with the values and ethical judgments that form the great lawyer. Forward thinking and creative, Dean Sciullo nurtured the Duquesne University School of Law Continuing Legal Education program from the beginning.”

“Once you finish school and are admitted into the Pennsylvania bar,” Professor Yochum noted, “you are required to earn twelve hours of continuing education credits a year, one of which must be ethics.” While the thought of having to attend more classes after graduating may be unsettling to some, Professor Yochum always keeps it interesting by offering a wide range of topics. This fall’s topics and presenters included:

  • Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs in Early Pennsylvania, presented by Eric W. Springer, Esq.
  • Unemployment Compensation Practice and Procedure, presented by Adjunct Professor Michael B. Simon
  • Positional Conflicts, presented by Professor Mark Yochum.
  • Contract Law for the 21st Century Practitioner, presented by Professor Dr. John E. Murray
  • Islamic Law, presented by Professor Susan C. Hascall
  • Chinese Law on Freedom of Information, Export Control and CCC, presented by alumni Heidi Zhang, Esq.
  • Bankruptcy: To File or Not to File? presented by alumni Gino F. Peluso, Esq.

As you can tell Professor Yochum taps into the assets of the Law School—its professors and alumni—when planning the series. “I try to go to professors who have interesting and unique academic interests,” said Yochum who also encourages alumni participation, “A great way to give back to the school is for alumni to do a CLE.” Alumni who are interested in developing a CLE course should contact Professor Yochum. Just as important as the speakers, Professor Yochum is quick to point out that the success of the program is largely due to the tireless efforts of Kathy Koehler, the person behind the scenes who makes sure everything runs smoothly. Kathy is there every Saturday to greet and register the CLE participates. This year attendance is at an all-time high; Kathy explained that “Each session averaged about 75 participants.” While all the sessions were well-attended, Kathy noted that Dr. Murray’s session was a sell-out crowd, with every seat in room 203 filled and even people sitting on the floor!

Professor Yochum credits the high attendance to a combination of factors including interesting topics, engaging presenters, and the program’s value; he affectionately refers to the program as the “no frills CLE program.” While there may be no continental breakfast, there are local and international experts presenting information on interesting legal topics.

The Spring 2011 series of workshops promises to be just as successful, with interesting topics taught by skilled instructors. Topics and presenters for the spring include:
  • View from the Office of General Counsel, presented by alumni Brain Walters
  • Climate Change from an Energy Law Perspective, presented by Gina Warren
  • A Pennsylvania State Convention: Pros and Cons, presented by Professor Bruce Ledewitz
  • Secured Transactions, presented by Professor Nick Fisfis
  • Legal Research and Writing CLE –The School of Law Project, hosted by Professor Tara Wilke (presenters will include students from her advanced legal writing course).
Professor Yochum welcomes interested students to attend these programs at no cost. For more information on the Dean John J. Sciullo Fundamentals of Law Continuing Education Series check out its webpage at http://www.duq.edu/law/cle/. If you would like to attend a workshop or have questions about the series contact Kathy Koehler 412.396.6282 or koehler@duq.edu.

Jeffrey Fromknecht is a third year evening student graduating in 2012. He is a staff writer for Juris, and serves as a junior staff member of the Duquesne Law Review, the Secretary for Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, and as a research assistant for Professor Mark Yochum. He is also a member of the Public Interest Law Association. Jeff received his undergraduate degree in Psychology Cum Laude from Allegheny College in 2004, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007. He can be reached at fromknecht@gmail.com.