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Transforming CLE

Over in Illinois, 587 attorneys have been removed from the state's "master roll" after failing to file the paperwork showing that they had completed the required 20 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) between July 2006 and 2008, reports The National Law Journal. At this time, it's not known whether these attorneys never attended the required CLE programs or did so but failed to document it. But as far as I'm concerned, who cares? From my perspective, mandatory CLE is a waste of time: Lawyers who want to stay at the top of their game will always take courses and read articles to stay current in their field, while those who have no interest in improving will take a nap or tap away on their BlackBerrys during a CLE program. The public doesn't benefit, but the for-fee CLE providers sure do.

Turns out that other bloggers agree with my position as well. Commenting on the Illinois suspensions at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield also criticizes CLE, in particular, mocking the quality of many of the courses:

CLE has turned into another crass business, with half the bar teaching basic skills to lawyers who were supposed to learn them before trying their hand at ruining the lives of real people. Not that many CLE instructors are any better at it than they are, but we know more people so we can get our numbers up by catching a few CLE gigs rather than having to pay to be bored in the audience. An hour of CLE generally consists of one axiom and 12 war stories. What a thrill, to listen to some old coot's tales of doing the exact same thing everyone else does. Yes, there are a few really good CLEs, with top notch speakers providing exceptionally useful information. But they are few indeed, The vast majority are a total waste of time, the commercial marketers sales pitch notwithstanding. Same for the specialty bar associations, for which CLE is a primary fund raiser.

Perhaps there's some relief from CLE torture. At Law 21, Jordan Furlong writes that technology will transform CLE in three ways. First, as more bloggers and Twitter-ers attend CLE, they're offering their impressions of the program -- often in real time -- online for all the world to see. This increases transparency and gives CLE providers more incentive to provide quality or risk the embarrassment of poor reviews. Second, technology is making the CLE market more competitive. Online CLEs and even podcasts now qualify for credit. Moreover, technology makes it easy enough for anyone -- heck, even a solo -- to create a program, qualify it for CLE and sell it on their own. With so many CLE products flooding the market, variety increases and prices come down. Eventually, lawyers may be able to find all the CLE they want online, for free.

Finally, technology is also transforming the way we learn. We're moving away from what Furlong calls the "standard long-table-podium-and-microphone" model to more casual, television-inspired settings. And as Web 2.0 ups our expectations for a personalized experience, we're seeing more interest in un-conferences, where content is driven by participants, not the other way around.

What future do you see for CLE? Please comment below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on February 6, 2009 at 04:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)


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