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CLEs are typically regarded with some level of disdain by most lawyers. Who has the time or the mental space to sit through dry, law school-style lectures or online slideshows when there is real legal work to be done? Most lawyers begrudgingly (and half-heartedly) complete these credits—after all, they have no choice in the matter and must log the credits in order to keep practicing.
With the availability of online CLE courses, many attorneys absentmindedly click through the prompts while doing other work—essentially getting credit for the session without really paying attention or absorbing the information. While this behavior is certainly understandable (we’ve all been there), it’s obviously not ideal; the law is constantly changing, and it’s beneficial to both a firm and its lawyers for the attorneys to keep up on the latest legal developments. Firms seeking to keep their attorneys engaged must circumvent the boredom typically associated with CLEs by promoting content interesting enough to hold the attention of busy, overworked attorneys.
Though most small and midsize firms may not have the capacity to “host” CLEs in-house, many still scour the web for the month’s most interesting or useful CLEs and then circulate an email with the month’s top hits—or better yet, provide an online portal that is regularly updated with links to interesting or helpful courses.
The good news is, CLE offerings are slowly starting to expand beyond that of typical substantive content, and many states are now allowing less mainstream topics to count for CLE credit. To keep attorneys interested in pertinent CLE content, try promoting off-the-beaten-path topics such as attorney discipline (i.e. how to navigate the grievance process), topics that fall under law practice management, legal technology or technical skill building—all of which are eligible for CLE credit, depending on your state or jurisdiction.
According to Lawline—a company that specializes in CLE courses according to state requirements—the most popular CLE courses of 2018 were:
• An Overview of U.S. Immigration Law (What Every Lawyer Should Know)• Taking the High Road: How to Deal Ethically with Bullies Who Don’t Play by the Rules• Advising Your Clients on Aging: How to Plan Ahead Parts I and II• An Introduction to Video Gaming Law• Ethics and Legal Writing Update
You’ll notice that most of these topics skew a bit toward the unconventional, yet interesting. For example, an overview of U.S. Immigration Law might be both interesting and helpful to attorneys who don’t necessarily practice immigration law, but understand that immigration law can touch other aspects of law, such as privacy litigation. A broad understanding of practice areas not necessarily in an attorney’s specific wheelhouse might prove beneficial to the attorney’s collective understanding of the law. Plus, learning something completely new is always going to hold one’s attention better than a CLE that goes over niche legal changes an attorney is likely already familiar with.
It’s important to remember that attorneys may receive CLE credits in a variety of ways outside of the traditional online course. These avenues include writing legal articles, performing pro bono work, judging law competitions and attending conferences. As mentioned above, it can be helpful to provide an online portal (or even quarterly email updates) about interesting opportunities that are eligible for CLE credit. Many of these avenues are particularly interesting to attorneys since they can double as resume builders.
Though many CLEs are indeed mind-numbing, interesting topics and unconventional avenues for obtaining credit are becoming more readily available. Gathering the most interesting and pertinent topics and opportunities available in your jurisdiction and providing them to your firm’s attorneys is an easy way to keep them engaged and up-to-date on educational content and best practices.
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