In many states in the U.S., minimum continuing legal education courses are required for attorneys to maintain admission to their state bar. As the name implies, these courses are intended to help attorneys keep their skills and knowledge as an attorney sharp through further education. Unfortunately, as most attorneys can tell you, not all MCLE courses are created equally. I’ve personally attended courses that encourage surprisingly poor professional behavior.
On one occasion, I attended a CLE presented by a New York-based attorney with (at least in my mind) mannerisms, cadence, and an accent that could be only described as Christopher Walken-esque. During one portion of the presentation, while ironically stressing the importance of treating other counsel with respect, he related a story in which after receiving a settlement offer that he deemed disrespectful, he hurled profanities at opposing counsel before telling the opposing attorney that he was “taking this case through trial” and that he would “[expletive] you and your client so hard in the [expletive] you’ll have nightmares about the day you disrespected me with this [expletive].” Indeed, throughout the course of the presentation, the speaker referred to the opposing counsel in extremely derogatory and offensive terms. As highly entertaining as the CLE was, the educational benefits of the course were extremely questionable. In some regards, I still consider this better than a few CLEs I’ve attended where I’ve barely stayed awake through the entire course.
But there are good ones out there. I’ve left CLE courses invigorated as an attorney and with many new ideas for ways to improve my practice. Some courses shine a light on important new statutes or cases and/or specific tips for improving your practice. In light of the fact that many CLEs aren’t free, there is no question that most of us would prefer a quality presentation with real substance. So how do you find good MCLE courses?
1. Ask For Recommendations.
Some of the best CLEs I’ve attended are ones that were recommended to me by my colleagues. Thanks to the growth in attorney participation in social media, you can even use services like LinkedIn Groups or Twitter to seek recommendations from other attorneys.
2. Select CLEs Specific to Areas That Interest You.
What classifies as a dud to one attorney may be electrifying to another. I’ve attended CLEs on topics like licensing in the music industry and terminating transfers of copyright that I found gripping. Attorneys in other practice areas probably wouldn’t have had such a good time. Chances are your interest will depend on how likely you are to put the skills to use in your practice.
3. Take Advantage of CLE Courses Offered During Conferences.
Nearly all of the CLEs I’ve attended in the past couple of years have been associated with conferences I was attending. For example, I attended SXSW earlier this year and attended all of the CLE courses that were offered as part of the conference. As an entertainment attorney in the music industry, the conference itself presented me with numerous opportunities to meet and interact with potential clients. The CLE courses in turn provided not only learning opportunities, but they also presented valuable opportunities to network with other attorneys in my field. Even if a CLE itself proved to otherwise be a waste of time, at least I was able to take advantage of the countless networking opportunities that they presented.
4. Try Before You Buy.
In some occasions you may be able to obtain the written materials to a conference in advance. In those situations you may be able to evaluate the value of the CLE by reviewing those materials. Similarly, Lawline, a service offering a huge selection of online CLE courses, allows you to view their entire database of CLEs free of charge. In order to receive credit, though, you have to pay for the course. Still, their setup allows you to watch a portion of the CLE before deciding whether you want to commit your time and money to viewing the whole course.
Have you attended a CLE recently that is worth recommending? Let us know in the comments.