Keeping abreast of legal developments, picking up some management skills, learning about new legal tech or marketing strategies -- these are just some of the benefits of making sure you have continuous professional development. After all, in an industry that evolves every time a new case is decided, lawyers can't stay idle. Attorneys have an obligation to keep up their professional development.
But what are you to do if you're a solo practitioner or your firm doesn't offer a formal (or just good) professional development program? Fret not. There's plenty of P.D. opportunities out there for you. Here's five places to find them:
1. CLE Courses
The legal profession has P.D. built in as a requirement of practice and for many, CLE courses will make up the bulk of your professional development training. If your firm doesn't provide CLE training, look to local bar associations, CLE retreats, and online courses.
2. Legal Conferences
Legal conferences are a valuable way to brush up on your P.D. You'll be able to take advantage knowledgeable panels, legal updates, even just tips exchanged over a cocktail. Conferences can allow you to connect with colleagues and experts, building relationships that could prove fruitful later on. Even non-legal conferences can be great for growing your knowledge about a particular industry.
Of course, mentors are often where many lawyers go, or wish they could go, to get advice and insight. Developing a strong mentor relationship -- maybe with that expert from the conference -- can be a powerful influence in preparing a lawyer for a successful career. If you haven't felt a connection with the higher ups at your firm or organization, however, don't worry. You can look outside your walls for someone to show you the way.
Volunteering with a nonprofit or a legal referral panel can be a smart way to get professional development. Many of these groups will provide training before you begin your volunteer work, but you will also have the opportunity to work side by side with other experienced lawyers. If you're willing to get development outside of your specific area, and do some good, pro bono could be the way to go.
Most people prefer their professional development to occur face-to-face, but the trend is towards online and web-based P.D. programs. A lot of these are available for CLE credits, but can also be viewed for free. Online P.D. can also be helpful for events that you simply can't attend in person. The Environmental Law Institute, to take one group, allows attorneys to join presentations via webinar. That's great if you can't get out of the office or to D.C. for a lecture on fracking regulations, for example.
Check out any of these five ways to find P.D. and you'll have no excuse for falling behind the latest legal and professional developments!