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Why Do Lawyers Have to Be Forced to Take CLE?

by Carolyn Elefant on January 24, 2006 · 10 comments

in Ethics & Malpractice Issues, Gaining Competence, Legal Profession Trends

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This article, Attorneys’ education is an ongoing process (Business Journal of Phoenix, 1/23/06) reports on Continuing Legal Education (CLE) in Arizona, which has been a required since 1989.  The article talks about the importance of CLE and the bar’s flexibility in allowing the requirements satisfied through a variety of differently priced options.  But I’d have liked to see statistics, such as whether lawsuits or grievances based on attorney incompetence have declined or whether public perception of attorneys has improved, during the 16 years that the requirement has been in place.

Given that there are now so many low cost options available for CLE (and at least one more that I’ve proposed),
I can’t really object that it places an undue financial burden on solo
and small firm lawyers.  At the same time, the most valuable learning
for many solo and small firm lawyers comes not in the form of classroom
education, but from bouncing ideas off, and asking questions of more
experienced colleagues.  I know that’s certainly where I’ve learned the
most in my practice.

Also, I think it’s kind of silly that the bar has to force
people to learn more.  Staying abreast of your practice areas and
learning new ones will make your practice more competitive and keep
things fresh.  The fact that lawyers don’t realize the value of continuing to learn as much as they can doesn’t speak well of our profession.  And that attitude isn’t something that can be cured by forcing lawyers to sit in a classroom or in front of a computer participating in a webinar 15 hours a year.

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  • http://www.dornylaw.com Brett N. Dorny

    I personally like having an annual CLE requirement. I believe that keeping abreast of my practice area, learning more, and interacting with others in that area are very good things. However, with the many things I have to do, it can drop as a priority. (How many of us have magazines or other reading material we plan to get to?) My CLE requirement makes it a necessary priority.
    I agree that you cannot force people to learn. I do not believe that mandatory CLE will necessarily improve attorney performance overall. But it is a nice encouragement to do what I know I should be doing anyway.

  • http://www.dornylaw.com Brett N. Dorny

    I personally like having an annual CLE requirement. I believe that keeping abreast of my practice area, learning more, and interacting with others in that area are very good things. However, with the many things I have to do, it can drop as a priority. (How many of us have magazines or other reading material we plan to get to?) My CLE requirement makes it a necessary priority.
    I agree that you cannot force people to learn. I do not believe that mandatory CLE will necessarily improve attorney performance overall. But it is a nice encouragement to do what I know I should be doing anyway.

  • http://jamestownlawyer.blogspot.com Todd

    I’m a relatively new attorney, and NY requires me and my ilk to attend live CLEs for the first two years. So far, I’ve found it less than useful. The closest live offerings are generally at least 1.5 hours from the small city I call home. Commuting issues aside, the lectures and panels I’ve attended haven’t provided any significant procedural information, which is where I need the most training. And this is despite taking local bar and NYSBA classes supposed geared toward practice and procedure.
    In the end, I’m not really on topic with my commentary. I can’t say yea/nay to CLE objectively because, subjectively, I haven’t had any good experiences to justify the requirement.

  • http://jamestownlawyer.blogspot.com Todd

    I’m a relatively new attorney, and NY requires me and my ilk to attend live CLEs for the first two years. So far, I’ve found it less than useful. The closest live offerings are generally at least 1.5 hours from the small city I call home. Commuting issues aside, the lectures and panels I’ve attended haven’t provided any significant procedural information, which is where I need the most training. And this is despite taking local bar and NYSBA classes supposed geared toward practice and procedure.
    In the end, I’m not really on topic with my commentary. I can’t say yea/nay to CLE objectively because, subjectively, I haven’t had any good experiences to justify the requirement.

  • Peter Olson

    Illinois just started MCLE 1/1/06 so there’s varying feelings about it here. I see it having no impact on my life just based on the amount of CLE I’ve done w/o it being mandatory over the last couple years. Though there are some professional ethics requirements specifically that I’ll need to address.
    I think it will pull-up the real laggards in the profession. I think in a sense some lazy, bad lawyers will now be more competitive or they’ll simply not be lawyers any longer.

  • Peter Olson

    Illinois just started MCLE 1/1/06 so there’s varying feelings about it here. I see it having no impact on my life just based on the amount of CLE I’ve done w/o it being mandatory over the last couple years. Though there are some professional ethics requirements specifically that I’ll need to address.
    I think it will pull-up the real laggards in the profession. I think in a sense some lazy, bad lawyers will now be more competitive or they’ll simply not be lawyers any longer.

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