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My crazy idea about CLE for lawyers

By December 22, 2010law, presentations

About 6 years ago I started getting asked to give CLE presentations about “how to go paperless.” I always enjoyed giving those talks because they attracted a strong audience who was really interested in the subject. As I kept giving these talks I noticed that a lot of the people who came were repeat attendees. When I asked why they kept coming to hear me give the same talk, they said “well we don’t mind hearing it again, but we keep hoping you’ll go into more detail.” 

I realized that the only way I’d get to delve deeper into the paperless was to control the CLE process, myself. Bar associations and other groups are just not able to focus on legal technology enough to get lawyers the help they need (one notable exception to this: ABA Techshow, which I’m speaking at again this year; this is the Superbowl of legal technology instruction and I highly recommend it).

So, I decided to bite the bullet and provide the additional detail that lawyers told me they wanted.

Setting up a CLE company just to teach lawyers how to become paperless seemed a bit daunting. Fortunately, my friend Dane Ciolino was willing to join forces. Dane and I became paperless more or less at the same time, although we didn’t really know each other that well when we were in that stage. Once we realized that we were both being invited to give CLE presentations on the same thing, we decided to get together to compare notes about our approach to becoming paperless.

We noticed two things right away: (1) we both had developed similar principles and approaches, even though I used a Mac and Dane used a PC, and (2) we both agreed that certain things that seemed promising when we both tried them wound up being frustrating and counter-productive. So we decided that maybe we could spare other lawyers some of the agony we encountered, and also show them our approach.

We’ve done several seminars together and we have formed a company with a website called PaperlessChase.com to continue our educational mission. Dane and I also have taught a class each summer for the past 3 years at Loyola Law School, which has been very well received. Our goal is to change the way that lawyers use technology so that they can (1) do a better job for their clients, (2) save time and money, and (3) simplify their practices in a way that diminishes the some of the stress of practicing law.

We currently have four online videos that are free for anyone to watch and learn from. These two videos contain the core principles that we teach. The first one is called Paperless 101, and it’s the bedrock of our approach. If you want to get CLE credit (Louisiana only) for watching it the cost is $49, and that video qualifies for Ethics credit. So you can get your 1 hour of Ethics credit and learn the basics of becoming paperless at the same time. All from the comfort of your office. If you don’t need the CLE credit you can watch the video without paying a dime. Watch it as many times as you want.

Remember, our goal is to actually help lawyers learn how to become paperless and thereby do a better job practicing law (I know, complete crazy talk).

The second online video is called Paperless 102, and it’s an extension of the first video. No ethics credit for this one, however. But it’s free and you can watch it as much as you want. If you want 1 hour of CLE credit (Louisiana only) then you just pay $49. Incidentally, the only reason we charge at all is that we need to raise money so that we can make more videos.

Our biggest fund-raising effort each year is the live seminar that we put on during the week between Christmas and New Years. This year we’re doing 1 and a half days, or 9 hours of live CLE (Louisiana credit only). We limit the class size to about 45 people for the first day seminar (which provides 6 hours of CLE, including 1 hour of Ethics, 1 hour of Professionalism, and 4 hours of Law Office Practice). The 6 hour seminar is on Wednesday, December 29th, and it costs $150 if you sign up in advance (there is a $25 surcharge if you pay at the door; we want people to sign up in advance so we don’t get bogged down with registering people at the door).

The half-day seminar is on Thursday, December 30th and provides 3 hours of CLE credit, all of which also qualifies for the “Law Office Practice” category of CLE credit (which is only required for newly minted lawyers). This seminar is more of a hands-on small group thing, so we want to limit attendance to 15 or 20 people at most. The cost is $100 if you pay in advance, and $125 if you pay at the door.

Both seminars will feature speakers other than Dane and I. Our goal is not only to educate, but also to entertain our audience. We realize that listening to the same person for more than an hour is tedious, no matter how good the speaker is. So we have enlisted other local attorneys who understand technology and know how to explain it well. Our speakers this year include: Jeff Richardson (renowned for his iPhoneJD.com website); Tom O’Connor (a nationally recognized speaker and author on legal technology topics, particularly regarding E-discovery); A.J. Krouse (a local attorney with over 26 years of litigation experience in complex business and toxic tort cases, who has practical E-Discovery experience); Al Robert (a local attorney who clerked for a federal judge several years ago, when the Eastern District started using the E-filing system, and who uses many technology tricks to streamline his law practice);and Rebecca Diamante (who is known as “Techy Becky” by her lawyer clients who engage her assistance as they implement new technology into their practice.

I realize that not every lawyer cares about learning how to use technology better. And some lawyers view the issue of “getting CLE” as a mundane problem of having their ticket punched so that they can keep practicing for another year.

But, for those lawyers who want to get CLE credit in a setting where the emphasis is on having useful information presented in a lively, engaging manner that’s actually conducive to learning, we have something they’ll appreciate. Our seminars are priced competitively. Our live seminars are cheaper per hour than almost any other seminar being offered right now. The online seminars are not the cheapest, nor the most expensive. But our online seminars were professionally produced, and our goal is to produce more high quality online videos. All of them will be free to watch, and we will only charge if you need CLE credit.

Like I said, our goal is to actually help lawyers learn something useful. It’s a radical idea, I know. But somehow I think in the long run it will work.


P.S. If you appreciate my observations, you might want to join my inner circle.

3 Comments

  • Dave! says:

    Awesome, Ernie, it sounds like you have great plans.

  • Randy Winn says:

    Two points that I hope will be helpful:I can’t tell from the post above which state you’re in, other than one with internet access 😉

    For Washington State to grant credit, perhaps Pete Roberts (the LOMAP guy at WSBA peter@wsba.org ) would be interested in helping out. You can also get some WA atty to take the course, then fill out the form him- or her-self; once it’s approved for one, it’s approved for all.

  • Dave! says:

    Any plans to get certified for the MCLE in other states? I’ll watch the videos regardless, but it’s always a bonus to pick up the CLE credits.

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