CLE programs are an essential way of staying up to date on important developments in your practice area, and they can be a good way to network, but they also have a reputation for often being, well, tedious. Partly because of that, and partly because you’re so busy actually practicing law, the learning they offer tends not to stick
And while you DO have to meet your CLE requirements each year, they DON’T have to be as burdensome as they often feel.
Here’s how to get the most value out of the time and dollars you spend on your CLE programs.
Preparing beforehand is vital
- By reviewing the sessions you will be attending, and identifying what you want to get out of those sessions in advance, you’ll be setting yourself up to not only absorb the information that is useful to you, but also to use it effectively to create action items.
Download materials in advance
- Most (if not all) CLE events have the option to download everything you will need to get your preparation started. In fact, many are doing away with printed materials completely.
- If you feel more comfortable reviewing print outs rather than digital files, just go ahead and print before you review. Lots of people find this method more effective, as it allows you the freedom to circle, highlight, etc.
- Bottom line: this first step is the most important. Don’t skip it. And don’t be afraid to print something just because it was presented to you in digital form. Make the system work for you, not the other way around.
Make list of questions by topic or session
- After pinpointing the sessions you want/need to attend, review what is intended to be presented during those sessions. Keep in mind that speakers often stray (at least slightly) from the program description, so questions relevant to the topic are fair game.
- Write questions down on your schedule or a notebook you will be bringing with you to the event. This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how similar this is to forgetting a grocery list on the counter…
- Acknowledge that your staff may have questions related to certain topics as well. You may also want to send them your session outline and ask if they have any inquiries that you can listen for, or ask about for them. If they DO have questions, be sure to set a time after the event to review that information with them.
- It’s not just the topic and subject matter that determine what you can learn at a CLE event. Different speakers tackle topics in different ways, and some are more open to questions than others.
- Follow speakers on Twitter (if applicable) before the sessions, and jot their handles down on your agenda beside their names. If you hear something valuable during the session (and if it’s allowed), go ahead and tweet it with an attribution! This makes the speaker look good, and can make them more eager to assist with post-event follow up questions.
Schedule review time
- So you just received a ton of valuable information. Now what? Because CLE events cover so much material in such a short amount of time, giving yourself “processing time” is vital to being able to actually USE what you just learned.
- Identify and jot down key takeaways immediately after each session. If time allows, also identify key action items related to those takeaways.
- Learn something relevant to a staff member? If it’s a quick tip, go ahead and email them immediately.
- As mentioned above: if you are attending sessions or asking questions on behalf of your staff, make sure to schedule time to meet with them afterward to download what you’ve learned, and set action items.