This post is part of the MyShingle Solos summer series which will run between June 17 and July 3, 2014.
As promised in my last guest blog post, I will delve into the world of continuing legal education credits (CLEs). In my opinion, these credits are the varied state bar associations’ last attempt to ensure that law school never ends! Just like law school, you come to a CLE with pen and pad in hand. And just like law school—this education is gonna cost you! The fee for a CLE averages around $50 per hour. Multiply that rate by the average annual requirement of 12 CLE hours, and $600 is the grand total on top of the other mandated fees for the “privilege to practice law.”
But my tale of woe does not apply to all of my colleagues. To my surprise, I just learned that all states do not require CLE! Hawaii, Michigan and Massachusetts are among the states that do not. While several other states, such as California and North Dakota, have 25 and 45 hours of CLE requirements that must be earned over 2 and 3 years, respectively. To learn more about each state’s CLE requirements, you can visit this site.
My state of licensure is Tennessee; and the state’s CLE requirement is a national average at 12 hours annually plus 3 hours of ethics as well. At $50 per hour, my CLE expense could easily surpass $750. So, what’s a solo to do? For me, the challenge was on! Could I meet my self-imposed annual budget of $100 for CLEs? I’m sure you can guess how this story ends. So, I won’t spoil the ending when I announce….yes, I can and I did. Here’s how:
- Pro Bono Work
Without delving into all the math, just know that pro bono hours are converted into CLE credit. Granted, the conversion is not to your benefit considering the large amount of pro bono hours needed to get just one credit hour. Still, I earned 16.50 hours of CLE credit in 2013. Actually, I can stop writing right now because the challenge was won right here! That, my friends, is what I call true “quid pro quo.”
- Mock Trial
For the last 3 years, I have served as a judge for a college mock trial competition. Not only have I enjoyed the experience and the refresher in evidence, I have earned CLE for a modest fee. For only $10 per hour (which included lunch), my 2 hour time investment garnered me CLE for only $20.
- Practising Law Institute (PLI)
In Tennessee up to 8 hours of CLE can be earned online, and I take advantage of that option. PLI offers a wide variety of CLE subjects including a pro bono curriculum of over 50 subjects. I earned 7 CLE credits in immigration law, veterans benefits law and courtroom skills—all for the unbelievable price of nothing.
Lastly, you just have to keep your eyes and ears open to find great CLE opportunities like the following:
- Local legal aid society offered free CLE for its volunteer attorneys; and I earned 2.75 hours.
- Nontraditional CLE provider—the child support office—held a 6 hour CLE seminar for only $25!
- As a mentor and judge for the local youth court program, I received 2 hours CLE.
- I organized a visit from an attorney at the United States Trademark and Patent Office for our local bar and sat on the attorney panel during the Q&A for 2 hours CLE.
And for those who are counting…for categories 2 through 4…the grand total in 2013 was $45 for 21.75 hours of CLE. And that means that I had CLE credits to carryover in the next reporting year. For 2014, I don’t have to register for any CLE classes. But you know what…I already have because who can resist when the price tag is this low. Take your own challenge, and let me know how you do!
Attorney Pamela Williams Kelly is the owner of The Law Offices of Pamela Williams Kelly in Memphis, Tennessee. She practices in the areas of family, immigration, veterans and entertainment/fashion law. Kelly is also an avid reader (including the small print), which is how she finds so many CLE opportunities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @pwkellyattorney.