For most lawyers, CLEs are a necessary, but oftentimes tedious, part of maintaining their license to practice law. In theory, CLE seminars are intended to keep lawyers up to date on their practice areas and other topics relevant to the practice of law. Reality is quite a bit different, however.
The practice of law is a time-consuming endeavor and lawyers are understandably reluctant to interrupt their busy day-to-day practice in order to sit still and listen to what isn’t always a very engaging legal seminar. In other words, sometimes CLEs are boring.
But it’s not always that way. On occasion, we find ourselves engrossed in a seminar focused on a timely topic or interest or one presented by a particularly engaging speaker. And now that many jurisdictions like New York and Florida have expanded their required CLE requirements to include topics such as legal technology and diversity, there are increasing opportunities for more interesting seminars.
Because engaging CLEs are typically so few and far between, I decided to research this issue and report on my findings as part of my continuing 2-part blog post series. This time around I asked the following question of my online network on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn:
Other than substantive law topics, what CLEs have you taken that were most useful?
The responses ran the gamut and provided an interesting glimpse into the CLE offerings that resonated the most with my fellow lawyers.
One area of focus that cropped up a few times was the attorney grievance process. One lawyer explained that he’d recently attended a very helpful seminar on “the nuts and bolts of attorney discipline” and another mentioned that CLEs on the “grievance process” ranked high for her.
Their interest in this topic makes sense since ethical compliance is a must for all lawyers. Given the nature of the practice of law and the extremely confidential information that our clients share with us, it’s essential that lawyers understand and comply with applicable ethical regulations.
Of course, sometimes lawyers cross an ethical line in the sand, whether intentionally or inadvertently, and as a result are faced with a grievance complaint.When this occurs, it’s an understandably stressful process to face. So it’s not surprising that a CLE focused on learning about the ins and outs of the grievance process works ranks high for some lawyers.
Maintaining the technical skills that are the bread and butter of law practice is a necessity. Of course practice areas vary greatly and as such, the particular skills needed to thrive within a particular practice will likewise differ. But regardless of practice area, maintaining the skills that you use on a daily basis in your law practice is of paramount importance.
For that reason, a number of my online colleagues shared that legal seminars designed to help them hone their professional skills ranked high on their list of favorite CLEs taken. For example, one lawyer found that a CLE on “the art of cross-exam was one of the most useful CLEs.” Another cited a “5-day program for young lawyers focused on trial techniques – from start to finish.” For another attorney, the most useful CLE recently taken provided tips and advice on effective contract drafting.
Legal technology and law practice management
And last, but certainly not least, a number of lawyers reported that legal seminars that helped them run the business end of their law firms were the most useful. This trend was not unexpected given that most law schools fail to prepare graduates for the realities of practicing law and running a law firm. And, given the rapid advancements in technology over the past decade, many lawyers are struggling to keep up – and legal seminars are a great way to fill the gap.
One lawyer shared that she found CLEs on “law practice management” to be particularly relevant. Another type of seminar that was cited as particularly useful was “understanding discovery in the electronic age.” Finally, a recurring CLE favorite of a Texas attorney was “60 Apps in 60 Minutes,” an annual seminar that “focused on top apps, new apps, and emerging apps for law firms and corporate legal departments.”
So there you have it: the 3 categories of CLEs most-valued by my online lawyer network. Any you’d add to the mix? Next week I’ll share feedback from my colleagues regarding the types of legal seminars they wish they could take, but aren’t typically offered. So, keep an eye out on social media so that you can provide your feedback and then check back next week for Part 2 of this blog post series over at Above the Law.