So, you've attained Senior status in the Bar and have forgotten more than a lot of newer/younger lawyers know. You have seen and learned a lot through experience, often not pleasant, and as a result, are comfortable with most of the challenges of the practice of law, having "been there and done that." Taking on something new at this stage of your career may take you outside of that hard-earned comfort level, and should therefore be avoided at all costs, right? Wrong—at least when it comes to "Electronic" CLE.
MCLE and PMCLE requirements have been part of the Illinois practice of law since 2005. The ISBA has been an accredited provider (most programs are presumptively approved by the MCLE Board) since that time and is truly one of the premier CLE providers, not only in Illinois, but in the country. The majority of senior practitioners (myself included) prefer the "old slipper" format (live, on-site programs) to meet our requirements. Many have assumed that the other delivery methods of CLE that we have heard about are for the younger/newer attorneys. Often out of fear of taking on a new concept at this stage of our careers, we announce that "it is not for us." Many prefer to debate the respective advantages/disadvantages of the two main formats—live vs. "Electronic" CLE and lament the day that yet another element of our profession has changed for the worse. This discussion does not rise to that level. It is, instead, an attempt to expose the "boogie man" so that even though most of us senior lawyers still won't sleep the night through, we at least won't have to leave the light on.
Like it or not, the trend in CLE is away from live, on-site programming, with its built in out-of-office travel time and expense, to electronic delivery methods. This is especially true for the large group of ISBA members "south of I-80." If you are such a dinosaur that you are all hung up on the "wrongfulness" of this trend, rather than stop reading, take a deep breath and let's address your fear of the "unknown." Feel free to hold on to your paper diary if it will comfort you.
The ISBA offers eight delivery methods for its excellent CLE offerings, other than attendance at a live program where you have to shave (at least the male practitioners), brush your teeth and change from your jammies. The following is an overview of each of those offerings. Not all require a computer, and none require any expertise or a computer consultant.
To begin with, you need to sit down at your (or someone's) computer and turn it on. If you are not sure how to do that, in this one instance only, you may get help from a younger lawyer or passerby on the street. You then open your Web browser (Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, etc.) and go to the ISBA Web site: <www.isba.org>. If you are lost already, ask that same helper to get you to the Web site and then kindly ask him or her to leave (with the offer of a few dollars or maybe lunch). As you will soon see, with the ease of the ISBA Web site layout, you won't need him or her anymore.
With the intimidation of these initial steps behind you, you are now ready to try that which you have always said would never be right for you. Don't worry, no one will know. Swallow that fear of hitting the wrong key—you won't cause the ISBA Web site to crash, nor your computer for that matter. Move your mouse (I'm not even going to try to go there) to the CLE tab at the top of the home (initial) page and click the left mouse button. If staying awake is a problem for you, you can read the useful information on that page at a later time and simply click your left mouse button on the "CLE Calendar." You have now before you, in one easy-to-access place, a complete list of all of the upcoming CLE you will need, not only for your two-year reporting requirements, but also for your practice. If you are feeling particularly gutsy, you can change the list of programs by using the filters (not the kind you hopefully gave up decades ago), but the choices seen by clicking your mouse button on the down arrow on the right side of the "Topic" and the "Location" boxes. (It would really help if you would now turn on the computer and follow these steps, rather than trying to imagine what I am talking about). You can also click a check in the "PMCLE" box to further filter your search and limit the result (when you click on the "Go" button) to only those programs with PMCLE elements and credit. If you leave the search to the default, i.e., "All," you can scroll down and look at all the offerings to see ones that you want/need.
As you have already seen, both the "List" and "Calendar" views (accessed by clicking on the tab at the right) give you all you need to know about the programs—i.e., the date, title and description, location and MCLE and/or PMCLE accreditation. You can get detail on the program by clicking on the title which will bring you to another page containing speaker info, etc. and also providing the opportunity to register—more on that later. For now, since we are talking about the "unknown," we will ignore the live, on-site programs, with which you are familiar. If you are going to remain stubborn, simply pick up your phone, call the ISBA office, ask for the CLE department and register for the live program with a live body who will take your credit card number, and you can then go take a nap. When you awaken, you can then write the program on your paper diary and hope that it isn't snowing on the day of the program in Collinsville and/or that your wife isn't using the car. While I personally like (and even prefer) live, on-site programs, for these purposes, I say shame on you for not reading further and considering one of the other methods. Enough of that--let's get back to the "unknown."
The ISBA's Remote Access/Off-Site CLE options are found either on the CLE Calendar we have been talking about, or by going to the ISBA's FastCLE Store--i.e. <>. From that location you can see not only upcoming, but all of the "electronic" offerings you will ever need. You get a description of the program, its accreditation and in some cases see a preview. You then register and purchase the programs in the various formats available. Let's look at your choices:
AUDIO CDs: (that 4 1/2" plastic disc that replaced your 8 track tapes)
All you need to utilize this format is an audio CD player (car, home, office, tavern, etc.) and your computer to access the materials and print them if you choose. You can listen to the program whenever you want, in full or in part, and can get the same MCLE/PMCLE credit given, just as if you were sitting (and probably sleeping) at a live program. More on how to get that credit later.
DVD: (that blinking box that someone connected to your TV, or you can use your computer if it has a DVD drive)
You cannot only enjoy your favorite CLE topics on your 60" flat-panel 3-D TV (with Dolby 5.1 theater surround sound), but the whole family and some close friends can also share in the knowledge. They technically should pay, but I wouldn't worry about it. You can download the materials from the supplemental CD ROM sent to you with the DVD. As with the Audio CDs, you pick when and where you watch the program.
VIDEO CD-ROM: (you know, like the ones you used to buy at that store you wore a disguise to, or from that guy in the parking lot with his trunk open)
You will need to use your computer with Windows to watch this format, and you can also view the materials displayed on screen and print them—if you can't get over that need to hold paper. Once again, you decide when and where to "attend" the program.
PODCASTS OR MP3 DOWNLOADS: (that little device you plug your earphones into and clip to your jogging suit (which you don't use for jogging anymore))
This brand-new format offering (began 6/1/11) will require you to download the program to your computer and then to your MP3 player, Apple device, etc. You decide when and where to listen and print the materials, which you can try to read while pretending to be doing a cool-down from your run.
ON-LINE STREAMING: (no, that is not a medical term)
You need your computer with Internet access and Microsoft Silverlight. Don't get nervous, that program is a free download with a link to obtain it on the purchase page. All you do is click your mouse button on the link, wait for the program to install, restart your browser and you will have it forever (or at least until your hard drive crashes). With this option you get instant access to audio and video CLE programs, with the course materials displayed on the screen. You can download the materials and/or print them. You may pause the program (you know what for), and view it at your own pace. You are limited to 30 days from the date of purchase, but you can have access at any time, day or night during that time period to view and download the materials, etc.
FASTCLE WEBCASTS: (ok dinosaurs, you will feel better about this one)
With your computer and Internet access (and that Microsoft Silverlight you already downloaded), you can watch live broadcasts of some programs at a designated date and time, including some pre-recorded programs that are re-offered due to popularity, etc. These programs include audio and video with course materials displayed on the screen. You can download the materials (as with the podcasts and streaming), and print them if you choose. A "chat box" is provided (a place on the screen where you can type a question or comment to be answered by a live moderator (the real thing) during the program.
FASTCLE WEBINARS: (don't start to get nervous again, you will feel better when you realize that this format uses that old familiar device (the telephone) along with your computer with Internet access)
With this method, webinar slides are viewed on your computer while the audio comes through your telephone. You can also download/print the materials. That now-familiar "chat box" allows you to communicate with the live body (probably not the same one) for questions or comments during the program presentation. There is even a free Fastcase Legal Research Webinar available--you know you need it.
TELESEMINAR CLE: (For those of you who haven't been paying attention and have already started cocktail hour, relax—this method will take you back in time (kind of)
At specific times and dates, you can turn off your computers and CD, DVD and MP3 players and just pick up the old princess telephone. You will hear a live program, complete with unedited coughs and sneezes, etc. The course materials will be e-mailed to you (OK, so you do have to have your computer on a day or two before) prior to the program.
Now, was that so scary? You got all upset for nothing. It really isn't so bad, and it certainly isn't very complicated, thanks to the ISBA. One visit to the CLE and FastCLE portions of the ISBA Web site (not just the "recent photos" section to see if you were once again excluded) and you will see what is offered, when and the available CLE credit. Set up an account at the FastCLE store with your ARDC number (hopefully you have it written down somewhere) and your credit card (yours, not the one you found in the parking lot), and simply add the programs of your choice to your "cart." Once you "attend" the program you go to the "Manage Credit" portion of the FastCLE Store page, sign in, download and print your certificates (suitable for framing) of the programs you have attended for your CLE records. The certificates for the teleseminars are mailed to you a few weeks after the program. You will also get an e-mail from the ISBA, at least annually, listing the programs you have taken, the dates and the credit hours, etc.
Why would you go elsewhere for your CLE? Come to think of it, for those times when you can't/don't want to attend a live program, why go anywhere? Now I know that many of you still need to grumble about yet another change to the profession, but, in between rants, maybe you can discreetly give electronic CLE a try. Who knows, you may even secretly like it and then summon the courage to address another "taboo"—substituting a Smartphone for your cluttered paper diary? OK, maybe that is going too far! ■