After graduation from law school, lawyers must take even more schooling each year in the form of continuing legal education (“CLE”). In most jurisdictions, once admitted to the bar, lawyers need to complete several mandatory CLE credits. These are usually either annually or biennially. If a law profession fails to stay in compliance with CLE requirements, it can lead to a hefty fine or even suspension. There are some state’s that require attorneys attend special live classes, complete homework assignments, or even take special courses on mental health and substance abuse issues. Continuing Legal education is mandatory in 40 states and voluntary programs are offered in the remaining 10. CLE’s are approved by state boards that oversee continuing legal education.
The mandatory obligation of CLE is due to the law profession being a self-regulating community. Attorneys need to ensure that all their peers are informed of the evolving laws and keep themselves up to date. There are many benefits of CLE and extend well beyond just staying up to date with the law. It is important for bar associations and CLE boards to recognize this and emphasize it. CLE seminars are a place where attorneys cannot only learn from an instructor, but from one another. There are benefits of networking between attorneys who practice in similar fields and in different ones. It allows attorneys the ability to get the specific help they need on a tricky case.
Lawyers must recognize and accept that their official legal degree is just a preliminary stage in their legal education. Law professionals must continue to learn as they progress in their careers in order to be effective and successful. CLE reinforces lawyers’ legal knowledge in two main ways: The first is by filling any gaps in a lawyer’s legal education and the second is by broadening a lawyer’s legal knowledge both in areas lawyers should know and areas they don’t know as well. The act of continuing one’s legal education also benefits the firm and allows them to contribute positively to the team they are a part of. The requirement of CLE demands lawyers to take a proactive role in their own careers which will provide the overall development of the profession in the county.