For legal professionals, part of the job is to keep up with changes in the industry, and education doesn’t stop after you get your first job. Continuing legal education (CLE) — which could cover anything from regulatory mandates, legal technology, practice management, and the law itself — will help you stay on top of new legal issues and allow you to assist your attorney(s) in a more efficient and effective way.
CLE is essential, but not always cheap
Most states require legal professionals — lawyers, certified paralegals, legal secretaries, and others — to earn a certain amount of CLE each year. While some employers pay part or all of the associated fees, not all legal professionals enjoy this perk, and many end up funding their own continuing education.
But CLE doesn’t have to be expensive to be valuable, and some great continuing legal education costs nothing at all–besides your time. Here are some of the best low-cost and free options out there:
The 4FreeCLE blog offers a complete list of free CLE opportunities for legal professionals. The blog is updated on a regular basis, and users can check in daily for the most current offerings on a range of topics, including legal research, ethics, conflicts of interest, litigation, health care law, and trends in eDiscovery. At the end of each blog post is a list of states that will accept credit for specific courses.
ABA Free CLE Series
The American Bar Association offers a monthly program, the ABA Free CLE Series, which allows members to earn up to 18 hours of free continuing legal education every year.
Users can also access archived recordings of ABA Free CLE Series programs for free CLE credit, and recent topics include the opioid epidemic, tort litigation for victims of domestic violence, and human trafficking. Not a member? You can still purchase the latest programs at ShopABA.org, and paralegals are often invited to join the ABA for a greatly reduced rate.
Legal support vendors
Since most legal professionals work with at least one legal support vendor or legal research service regularly, they know that these companies often have specific expertise to share within their line of work. Some of these include:
- FastCase, an online legal research service, offers free live training webinars on conducting legal research with their user platform, some of which count for CLE credit.
- LexisNexis University offers courses that focus not only on the company’s own research services, but also on best practices for topics like budgeting, data management, and compliance.
- One Legal offers free webinars covering eFiling and eService rules and procedures, including tutorials on new court-specific updates.
State and local bar associations
Many state bar associations offer low-cost or free continuing legal education programs to their members, sometimes in cooperation with a networking or social event. Often, courses are even tailored to issues or the aspects of the law that are relevant to legal professionals working in a variety of practice areas in a particular state or district.
Qualified CLE courses are usually not limited to in-person events, so legal professionals can also get CLE credit through webinars, teleconferences, online courses, CDs, and DVDs. Some states have restrictions on the types of training that qualify for CLE, so be sure to check that the training you’ve chosen meets your local rules.
Other ways to get quality continuing legal education
Still short on required credits for the year? Looking for something a little different to supplement your legal learning? Consider looking in these other places for additional CLE opportunities.
- Get recommendations from colleagues on their favorite courses and webinars.
- Come up with a topic you’d like to learn more about and request a customized group webinar from One Legal.
- If you attend a conference, take advantage of the CLE courses provided there, which can offer valuable learning experiences as well as provide opportunities to network with other legal professionals.
CLE can be as useful — dare we say enjoyable? — as it is required. Try to select CLEs in areas that interest you, and directly pertain to the areas of law in which you work for the most relevant courses that will also help you check off your to-do list.
Have you come across some valuable and affordable CLE that you’d like to recommend? Tell us all about it in the comments!