While attorneys not only spend three years during law school learning the law, but also spend numerous days and hours preparing for the bar exam, their legal education by no means ends after taking the Bar Exam. Attorneys in each state are subject to taking a certain number of “CLE” courses per year in order to comply with the requirements set forth by the various state bar association organizations. What is a CLE course you may ask? CLE courses stand for “continuing legal education” courses. The purpose behind requiring attorneys to take a certain number of CLEs is to ensure that attorneys are up to date on the ever-changing law and to further, ensure professionalism amongst attorneys. Specifically, most jurisdictions require that attorneys take CLE courses specifically on the following topics: ethics, diversity training, elimination of bias, professional responsibility, basic skills, substance abuse, prevention of malpractice, and attorney-client disputes. Typically, the state organizations who set forth the CLE requirements will make it clear to attorneys how many of these “ethics CLEs” need to be undertaken. Moreover, the CLE “reporting period” can vary amongst states. Some jurisdictions give attorneys a year to complete their CLE requirements, while others may set forth two year reporting periods. Nonetheless, each attorney is responsible for ensuring that they have complied with their CLE requirement for each reporting period.
You may be wondering how one takes a CLE course. These courses come in a variety of formats. For example, each jurisdiction will typically allow a certain amount of “distance learning” courses to be completed – in other words, courses you can take online or by video. CLE courses can also be in the format of in-person live presentations where attorneys gather to listen to various presenters and set forth questions and discussion topics. Some firms will take their attorneys on retreats wherein they bring in other attorneys to present on the changing law in the fields that firm typically practices. Fortunately, there are numerous options for completing CLE requirements and to continue one’s legal education. While some attorneys may find it burdensome to complete their CLEs while also having a busy workload, it is imperative that attorneys keep up with their education as the legal world is constantly changing.