Bench-Bar Conference

Most King County Bar Association CLE programs are organized around very specific areas of practice: family law, probate, arbitration, aviation, employment & labor law, etc. While those targeted sessions are well received, they are understandably attended by lawyers and judges who focus primarily in those areas. What’s missing from that approach is the ability of attorneys and judges to check-in about the legal system more broadly, to talk with judges about the issues facing our courts, get to know practitioners in many different areas of law, and to engage in policy discussions about law-related topics of significance to the bar and bench.

We meet on Veterans Day each year for one main reason: the courts are closed for the holiday, so judges can attend without impacting the court’s docket. And key to this program’s success is having as many judges in attendance as possible. We traditionally see over twenty judges attend this program each year. Most of these judges are not on panels but sitting in the audience with lawyers – what a great opportunity to chat with a judge outside the formal courtroom environment!

Beyond the draw of so many judges in attendance, the program sessions themselves have something for everyone. For example, we traditionally hear from the Chief Justice of the Washington Supreme Court and the Attorney General of Washington. They will update us on major initiatives underway in their offices, and more importantly take audience questions about any issue of interest to you. That could make for an interesting phone call later with a client, right? “I was at a program with the chief justice the other day about a problem just like yours…”

We also hear the presiding judges from all of our trial and appellate courts, both at the state and federal levels, including judges from the Washington Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for Western Washington, as they share updates on the latest rule changes and technology issues that impact the bar. Another regular panel is an in depth “litigators’ roundtable’ that features a plaintiff and defense trial lawyer, along with two judges, giving practice tips about how to best serve your clients whether in the motions or trial stages of proceedings – plus judges will learn how their colleagues approach trial management issues. Even if as an attorney you don't find yourself regularly in court, it should prove helpful to have some up-to-date understanding of the best way to present your case.

The conference often includes an ethics panel and/or a current judicial-related public policy topic each year.

Once registration opens each year for this program, check out the detailed program by clicking on the "register here" link above.