A law firm’s program for attorney professional development may include continuing legal education, enhanced orientation, mentoring, assignment and delegation processes, leadership training, career planning, diversity training, management skills, feedback training, business-development training, affinity groups and other tactics aimed at recruiting and keeping a diverse associate group. Two decades ago, the concept of professional development or talent management did not exist in law firms. The strategic importance of effective professional training and development enables firms to:
- Strengthen attorney competence, performance, and satisfaction
- Integrate professional development activities
- Design meaningful professional development benchmarks
- Coordinate professional development with knowledge management
Continuing legal education (CLE) has an important role in the professional development of law firms. Moreover, CLE is an essential requirement for attorneys to retain their professional ability to practice law after initial admission to the bar. CLE requirements and accreditation are determined on a state-by-state basis in the U.S.
Many states measure CLE on a class-hour basis and set specific periodic CLE hour requirements. There are sometimes specific hour requirements for special topics such as ethics, diversity training, elimination of bias, professional responsibility, basic skills, substance abuse, professional, prevention of malpractice and attorney client disputes. CLE course offerings are usually open to all lawyers.
There are many organizations that offer CLE courses throughout the year. They are:
- State bar associations
- National legal organizations (American Bar Association)
- Law schools,
- Non-profit legal associations and groups (Practising Law Institute, The Institute of American & Talmudic Law)
- Profit enterprises (National Academy of CLE, West LegalEdCenter)
The CLE courses are conducted by experienced attorneys. The experienced attorneys may remunerate for their:
- speeches or training in an accredited CLE program;
- moderating or participating in a panel presentation at an accredited CLE activity;
- schooling law courses at an American Bar Association accredited law school;
- preparing high school or college students for and judging law competitions, mock trials and moot court arguments;
- published legal research-based writing; and
- pro-bono legal services.
For example, in the state of Kentucky all licensed attorneys can complete their annual CLE requirement without a registration fee. There is a two-day program known as Kentucky Law Update. The Kentucky Law Update is an annual program convened in at least seven locations throughout the state.
Recently, many states have been providing on-line CLE classes as part of distance education courses. The major share of CLE requirements can be satisfied through related reading and self-study materials. Competency testing is gernerally not a parameter for the assessment CLE.