When I finished law school, there were no continuing legal education (CLE) requirements for lawyers in Illinois. They existed in other states, but not here. But times have changed, and now lawyers in Illinois are required to obtain minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) credits every two years.
As new lawyers, it is important to remember that there are many benefits to be had from attending CLE seminars, in addition to simply meeting the requirements. The selection of seminars and use of your time at these seminars can greatly impact your experience as a lawyer. Here are some important benefits that can be received from attending seminars.
Career Choice Help: As a new lawyer you may be unsure what area of law you want to practice in, or be unsure if you have chosen the right one. By going to seminars you will learn the relevant and current information about specific areas of law. Then, if you like what you learn, you can use this to help in your career choice. For instance, if you are still job searching out of law school and are thinking you may be interested in estate planning, go to a seminar on the topic. Meet with the speakers and talk to them about the profession. Or simply listen to the seminar. If what you learn seems interesting to you, then you can pursue a career in that area. Likewise, you may learn right away that a specific area of practice does not interest you. The more exposure you get through these seminars to different areas of practice, the more informed you will be about what interests you, and in return, what area of practice will make you the happiest.
Networking: An added benefit to attending CLE seminars is that you meet other lawyers who practice in your field. If you meet one new person per seminar, then that is a great way to start building up your contact list. These are the people you will see in court, at bar association events, and in job interviews down the line one day. They may even be able to help you find a job, or switch jobs. Plus, you may meet other lawyers in the seminar with similar interests and who may also be a great resource to you as you practice. The more people you connect with, the more brainpower you will have access to when you need help brainstorming on your cases.
Help on Cases: Lawyers can be some of the greatest resources you will come across as you practice. For new associates at a firm, you will not always want to take your questions to your boss. Instead, by attending seminars you will learn which attorneys are leading the pack on specific areas of law. The odds are that if they are willing to give up their time to speak at a seminar, they will be willing to pick up the phone to answer your questions. These speakers are an added resource, and a great connection to make. And if you are a solo or small-firm practitioner and need to pick the brains of more experienced lawyers, this is a great place to start. You never know where the phone call can lead.
Legal Learning: This one is a given. You learn up-to-date information at seminars. You will learn relevant case law and many tricks of the trade. And, oftentimes, you will learn things that you didn’t know you needed to know. Attending seminars is always a great way to keep your skills and knowledge fresh.
In summary, there are many benefits to continuing legal education seminars. The seminars are offered not just to meet MCLE requirements, but also to help you become a better and more confident attorney. Go out there and have fun with them. You will meet other lawyers and find a wealth of information that will help you personally and professionally. ■