Above the Law

CLE is one of the many banes of an attorney’s existence. If you’re like me, you’ve probably procrastinated on fulfilling your CLE requirements and the deadline is fast approaching.

As a non-Biglaw attorney, I’ve always had to find my own resources for CLE classes on the cheap. Whether you’re working for a small firm, engaged in your own practice, or working for the government, there are CLE classes available that are either free or relatively inexpensive.

Read on to discover how to get your CLE done without breaking the bank.

1. Ask your friends who are working in Biglaw or clerking for a judge, if there are any free CLE events.

Not all events are limited to a private audience. I’ve been able to get a whole day’s worth of CLE by attending a CLE marathon event held by a big law firm. The associates and partners taught the courses (pro bono hours, anyone?). Another time, I was able to fulfill my ethics credits because one of my friends was clerking for a federal judge who was speaking at a free CLE seminar (with complimentary wine and nibbles!). It doesn’t hurt to ask around and your friends will be glad to share the joy of CLE.

2. For two or more states, make a chart of your CLE credits to see which credits can overlap to fulfill each jurisdiction.

I’m admitted in both New York and New Jersey, but in different years, so it’s been quite a nuisance in keeping track of the cycles, deadlines, and requirements for each state. I’m not a newly admitted attorney in New York anymore but still a newly admitted attorney in New Jersey for CLE purposes. I keep a chart that tracks the date, number of credits, and subject area for each CLE course, with notes on whether it was live or online and whether it can count towards another state. This helps me figure out the most efficient way to take my courses. It’s a win not only for my wallet, but also for my time when I can take the least possible number of courses.

3. Consider Bridge the Gap if you can only take live courses AND you’re barred in two or more states.

Bridge the Gap is a two day program (option to enroll in only one day) that is offered for many states. It’s great for both newly admitted and experienced attorneys in getting most of their credits done in one shot. The good? The fee is usually less than $400 for 16 credits. The bad? You have to sit through a whole day of lectures, albeit with breaks, which is worse than a day of college classes. The ugly? There is none! Bridge the Gap is also available online.

4. Check your junk mail from CLE providers – they’re usually offering deals for CLE packages.

As I realized that I only had until December 31, 2013 to complete all my newly admitted requirements for New Jersey, I dug through my piles of junk mail for all the cards and pamphlets that had been sent by CLE providers. Lo and behold, I found a deal, $299 for two years of unlimited CLE. Only half of my credits had to be taken live, plus I could start taking online courses for my next cycle of New York CLE credits. Bonus – the $299 includes Bridge the Gap. I signed up and since then I’ve been “happily” watching my online courses via iPhone during slow periods at work.

5. Teach a CLE class to get free credits, plus build your reputation as an expert in your field.

CLE providers are always looking for new lecturers who will bring fresh topics to the table. You can earn CLE credits for teaching AND establish yourself in an area of practice. The con is that it will take more time and effort to prepare a course outline and record the lecture, versus taking a one hour course and receiving the equivalent one credit. You don’t get additional credits for preparation. However, if you’re looking to gain exposure and potentially more clients, then teach a CLE class to kill two birds with one stone.

6. Look up your city and county bar associations for their local course selections and potential scholarships.

Your city and county bar associations will typically host CLE seminars and courses for a reasonable price. Plus they may have applications available for economic hardship where you can pay even less. For example, the New York City Bar Association offers financial scholarships as well as discounts for government and public interest attorneys. You can look up the CLE calendar on your bar association’s website and go from there.

7. Get a discount just for being an ATL reader and don’t forget that ATL also hosts CLE events.

ATL readers get a discount for unlimited CLE through Lawline.com – only $249 for a 1 year subscription if you go through this affiliate link. Use this discount to gain access to ATL’s CLE events, including Whistleblowers and Traitors: Snowden, Manning, and the Rule of Law on September 18, 2013. And keep on reading ATL to stay updated on all upcoming CLE events.

Lastly, CLE is no fun but try to pick courses that will expand your knowledge in your current area of practice or introduce you to a novel area of interest. CLE is mandatory but you might as well learn something in the process.

Sunny Choi is the 2013 Writers in Residence Coordinator for Ms. JD. She is a former participant in the Writers in Residence program, where her monthly column Legally Thrifty focused on beginners personal finance advice for law students and professionals. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she currently practices commercial litigation and creditors’ rights while freelance writing and blogging in her spare time. She can be reached at [email protected]