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How Do Solos and Small Firms Find Low-Cost CLEs?

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but in California, we're required to take 25 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) every three years. It seems like a long time, right? And yet, invariably, you approach two and a half years only to realize you've done none of the required hours.

This isn't a problem for everyone. Lawyers at BigLaw firms get free CLEs, usually at lunch, so they're getting hours on the regular. But solos and small firms don't have that luxury. What's a person to do about CLEs? Where do you find them? Sure, you could go to a $300 conference -- or not. How can you get CLE credits cheaply?

Self-Study

"Self-study" is your best friend to begin with. Self-study basically allows you to watch online seminars -- or even read an article -- and then take a little quiz to prove you actually watched the materials. You can get legal education from the comfort of your living room -- for a maximum of 12.5 of your 25 hours (in California, anyway). Also, businesses that make a living publishing CLE materials know the value of their stuff, so even if the content itself is free, the quiz -- and resultant certificate stating you got your one hour -- may cost money.

Bar Associations and Organizations

You followed our advice and joined all your local bar associations, right? Good, because in addition to a thousand cocktail parties a month, you get the added benefit of CLEs. Many local bar associations offer CLE events for free or at a discount if you're a paid member of the association. Sometimes, they come with lunch and are actually interesting! Organizations in your practice field may also offer CLEs. The down side: You have to make time during or shortly after the work day.

'CLE in a Box'

Again for attorneys in California, the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) produces a "CLE-in-a-Box" that provides all of your CLE needs for the low price of $224 for members and $274 for non-members. The package includes 12.5 hours of self-study and 12.5 hours of "participatory" study. Note that you can still do participatory study from home -- it's complicated. You can gets these credits at your leisure, but they're quite expensive. (For attorneys in other states, you may want to check around to see if there's something similar in your jurisdiction.)

Beat the Clock

If you've absolutely, positively waited until the last minute, consider a "Beat the Clock" event at a local law school. Events like this allow you to cram seven hours of CLE credit into a single day. There are lunches and receptions, too, so you've got a built-in networking opportunity.

Don't despair! Even one year is plenty of time to find 25 hours to go do something: You can even do a one-hour event every other week. Just don't skimp on your hours.

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