Posted By Allyson Felt, J.D., Director of Continuing Legal Education, Nebraska State Bar Association,
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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In July 2019, ACLEA hosted its 55th Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. It was my first ever ACLEA event – and my first month on the job as the new CLE Director for the Nebraska State Bar Association. By the time ACLEA rolled around, I had been at my new post for three weeks. Needless to say, I had a lot to learn.
Before taking the position as CLE Director, I was a practicing attorney for several years. I knew why CLE was important to me individually and to the profession. However, I had no idea how much work went into planning each CLE, whether it be a one-hour webinar or a multi-week program. Thankfully, I was able to attend the ACLEA New Member Orientation and CLE Bootcamp. The Bootcamp was incredibly helpful to me, especially being so new to the position. The Bootcamp provided CLE ideas, ways to discover new customers, and accreditation advice along with many other topics. I really enjoyed meeting my fellow newbies, and it was helpful to know that everyone had some of the same questions I did.
The rest of the Annual Meeting was just as useful as the Bootcamp. We discussed engagement in learning, thoughtful marketing strategies, and tech tools to make learning bigger and better. I attended the State & Provincial Bars SIG luncheon as well, and I got to meet my counterparts from other states around the country. It was incredibly interesting to hear more about their experiences and how certain court cases and current events have impacted their bar associations.
Overall, the planning team put together an amazing conference. The event staff did an amazing job, and the venue was great – perfectly located on the Chicago Riverwalk. I met some incredibly friendly people from all over the world, and I can truly say that I was better prepared for my new position having attended the Annual Meeting.
One topic that came up a lot at Annual Meeting was event evaluations/surveys and feedback from attendees. We all encounter the same problems as CLE providers – how do we give our attendees what they want if we don’t know they want it? Survey results are incredibly helpful when planning a CLE or reviewing who to use as a speaker, but it feels nearly impossible to get responses. (Full disclosure: I have major guilt over the numbers of surveys I failed to return as a CLE attendee prior to taking my current position. I have learned my lesson and now respond to every survey I receive – CLE or otherwise.)
Here are a few tips that may help improve surveys and responses:
- Less is more: The surveys do not need to be complex or verbose – a few simple questions will work wonders. Keep in mind that the attendees are very busy, and they have already taken the time to attend the CLE program. Though we as providers may want to know what attendees thought about each specific component about a program, asking fewer questions can actually garner better feedback overall.
- Keep it simple: Attendees are less likely to answer a question they don’t understand. If they do attempt to answer, the responses may not be accurate. For example, asking attendees to rank something on a scale of 1 to 10 without telling them which number is worst or best will cause confusion. An attendee may write 1 (worst) when they mean 10 (best). Use words over numbers. Instead of “Please rate the speaker on a scale of one to 10,” try “How engaging was this speaker?” with answers like, “extremely engaging, very engaging, somewhat engaging, not so engaging, not at all engaging.”
- Do the work for them: Attendees will be more likely to respond when the work is done for them – meaning, don’t ask only open-ended questions. Providing them with a box to check or click instead of requiring them to write a lot will net response better numbers. For example, a question like, “Please rate the quality of the program” with provided answers like, “excellent, good, fair, or poor” will be a quicker and easier response for an attendee than a question like, “Please tell us your thoughts on the quality of this program.” Adding a line for additional comments after each simple question will still provide attendees with space to add more detail if they wish.
- If you want to know something specific, ask: Perhaps you want to know about a specific venue or time of year for an event, or you may want to know if attendees would like to have a shorter program on this topic. Ask! Give them a “yes” or “no” option, and you will likely get a response.
- Anonymity is key: Though there are many attendees who have zero issue with sharing their feelings, some attendees – especially those giving negative feedback – do not want their names to be known to the program planning team or speaker on feedback. Unless required by a jurisdiction to do so, allow attendees the ability to submit their feedback anonymously. The answers obtained will likely be far more honest and a better picture of the attendees’ true opinions.
- Add a personal touch:
- For in-person events, paper is better than email. Get in front of attendees and tell them how important the survey is to improve programming. Provide the survey at the beginning of the event so they have as much time as possible to fill it out. Physically hand them the survey instead of placing it at their table in a stack – stacks are easy to ignore, but a person handing a paper to you is not. Make eye contact and thank them for coming, then ask that they fill out the survey to provide feedback. Let them know that you read every piece of feedback and use it for planning future events. Stand up and mention the survey at the beginning of the program, at the end of the program, and at any breaks in between. After the event is over and attendance has been recorded, send an email with a survey link for those who “forgot” to fill it out at the event. You may get some last-minute responses that way.
- For webcast/online-only events, you are limited to sending email surveys to attendees. Mention the survey as often as possible. Include information about the survey in the introduction to the webcast, or have the speaker remind attendees in their introduction and closing. Attendees may be more likely to respond if the speaker makes a direct request for feedback. After the event is over and attendance has been recorded, send an email with the survey. Another option is to have the survey pop up right after viewing the program. With this method, you can require answers in order to obtain the MCLE certificate.
With these tips, you should be able to increase responses to your surveys.
first time attendee
Posted By ACLEA,
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2019
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ACLEA is pleased to introduce our new online learning platform to help enhance your professional development!
Whether you are in a leadership role, a program planner, a legal publications editor or handle marketing or technology support for your CLE organization, there’s online content to help you navigate the CLE world.
The new Resource Library will include conference videos, session handouts and webinars coming soon.
- ACLEA CLE Boot Camp
- Building effective relationships at work
- Getting the greatest bang for your marketing buck
- Growing your social media presence
- How and why to use Style Guides
- Member Engagement
- Practical tips on handling the most sensitive program topics
- Repurposing old content for new audiences
- Strategies for implementing diversity into your content
- Tech tools to enhance a live or online CLE presentation
And the best part — most of the content is available to ACLEA members free of charge.
Start investing in your professional development today!
- Go to https://aclea.ce21.com
- Sign in as a Member using your ACLEA username and password
- Once signed in, select the Membership tab
- From there you select Enter Group
- Once in the Group expand the Resources and/or Category + on the right sidebar to apply the filters and search for resources that interest you. You can also perform a keyword search by title in the search bar on the top of the screen.
This is a great way for you to catch up on what you missed.
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
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You're Invited to a Free Illinois MCLE Virtual Provider Conference
Monday, October 7, 2019
1:00pm eastern/12:00pm central/11:00am mountain/10:00am pacific
Whether you’re new to offering CLE for credit in Illinois or just have questions about the changes recently put into effect, join Karen Litscher Johnson and Gina Roers-Liemandt for a discussion on:
- PCAM: basics and update on the Board’s online application and attendance system;
- Course applications: requirements and deadlines, review process and tips;
- Attendance: recent changes, common questions and best practices; and
- Questions and Answers: your time to hear directly from the Illinois regulator!
Karen Litscher Johnson, Director, MCLE Board of the Supreme Court of Illinois
Gina Roers-Liemandt, JD, Director, MCLE and Professional Development, ABACLE,
American Bar Association
Virtual Provider Conference
Posted By H. Lalla Shishkevish, Associate Director, The Institute of Continuing Legal Education,
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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Using Technology in Innovative Ways to Build and Develop Effective Online Learning
How can CLE providers give lawyers new tools for serving clients more effectively and efficiently? Innovative on-line training can help.
ACLEA recognized The Institute of Continuing Legal Education (“ICLE”) for its work in this area with the 2019 Award of Professional Excellence in Technology for Custody, Parenting Time, and Support through Judgment and Postjudgment Custody, Parenting Time, and Support Online Training.
ICLE turned to some important adult learning principles to create its online training:
- Effective adult learning involves absorbing and understanding new information and then applying it appropriately.
- Lawyers should be able to access the right training tools at the time they are thinking about that new client problem or drafting a new document.
- Adult learners should be able to choose where, when, and how they learn.
- Learning and training should be available in short, focused segments because this is what busy lives demand and it aligns better with how brains absorb and retain information.
- The best CLE engages the learner’s experience and expertise in the learning activity, giving lawyers an opportunity to use and build on what they already know when doing training.
- Effective CLE should use relevant stories and examples to teach new skills because more parts of the brain are engaged and learners understand and remember better when they hear a story.
To create such online training, ICLE combined new and existing technological vehicles in novel ways: Custody, Parenting Time, and Support through Judgment and Postjudgment Custody, Parenting Time, and Support Online Training allows family lawyers to master and improve their custody-related skills at their own pace, across all devices, whenever and wherever they want. ICLE combined a variety of technologies deliver carefully planned lessons with an activity tailored for each skill: short video demonstrations, videos with expert commentary, forms, charts, checklists, a decision-making branching scenario, and interactive exercises that allow lawyers to test their proficiency.
A learning management system (LMS) provides structure for the online training, tracks the lawyer’s progress, and allows easy navigation on any device. Choosing an LMS that integrates well with iMIS, ICLE’s customer relations management system, enables lawyers to use a single sign-in to access all of their ICLE resources. It also lets ICLE track each lawyer’s progress. The LMS provides a range of effective options for creating “Apply Your Knowledge” exercises that are a critical component of online skills training. Specialized branching scenario software that is mobile friendly and imports easily to the LMS adds additional interactivity. In the branching scenario, lawyers interact with a client, make decisions, and see the immediate impact on the client. Our existing resource database has tools that allow ICLE to manage, monitor, and update the forms, checklists and other resources we developed for the online training. We wove all of these pieces together with some custom coding developed in-house to provide a seamless user experience.
Some of the features that make this online training effective for adult learning and help lawyers develop new skills include:
- Structured lessons based on learning objectives and customer needs.
- A realistic case scenario with an evolving story line that begins with parents divorcing and moving across state and follows the same parents as they grapple with further typical custody and support issues. Professional actors played the client roles to make the demonstrations more realistic, absorbing and memorable.
- Simulated engagement with the hypothetical clients through a client file that builds realistically as the case develops. The client file has pleadings and memos with facts gathered from the clients to illustrate how an experienced practitioner would handle the case. Video demonstrations show attorneys gathering information, preparing client testimony, examining witnesses, and interacting with judges. A decision-making branching scenario allows lawyers to respond to videos of client questions and reactions.
- Tools that facilitate efficiency. Lawyers can maximize the efficient handling of their own cases by using the charts and checklists created as lesson resources.
- Practical insight into case strategy. Along with fact-specific pleadings drafted by experts, annotated trial briefs and witness outlines with expert commentary explain drafting decisions and providing practice pointers.
- Mock hearing demonstrations. Video demonstrations show lawyers giving opening and closing statements, examining witnesses, admitting evidence, making objections, and interacting with referees and judges. Lawyers tell us that they value seeing lawyers in action and how judges and referees respond.
- Exercises to cement skill-development. Each lesson concludes with exercises that use different fact scenarios that let lawyers compare their analysis or response with that of an expert. After responding to targeted instructions (e.g., “identify two things you would change” or “three issues you would raise with the client”), lawyers immediately compare their responses to written expert feedback that provides both a concise answer and a more detailed explanation. Lawyers using ICLE’s online training tell us this exercise and feedback part of the program is one of the most valuable aspects of their experience.
Award of Professional Excellence in Technology
Posted By Laura Selby Co-Chair, Publications SIG,
Monday, September 16, 2019
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Writing Content that Sticks
Bradley Kolar from Avail Advisors opened the ACLEA Chicago meeting this summer with an engaging presentation on “Creating Learning that Actually Works.” He discussed foundational principles of good learning that creates “learning that sticks.”
He said that “good learning is about equipping people to make decisions” and suggested that:
- training should focus on experiences and decisions as opposed to providing facts—just telling someone what’s new in an area doesn’t help them make decisions;
- learners want to hear about how a subject matter expert thinks not just what the expert knows; and
- good learning should be engaging.
I started to think about these fundamental principles in the publishing context. Are we “creating content that sticks”? Do our CLE publications equip our readers to make decisions? Or do they focus on telling the reader about information and not on what to do with the information? Do our publications present the content in an engaging way?
Here’s my attempt to translate these fundamental good learning principles to the CLE publishing context so that we can enhance the usefulness of our publications to our readers.
- Explain how a new development will change existing practice; don’t just set out the fact of the new development (e.g., don’t give a summary of a new case without explaining why it’s important or how it will change practice in the area).
- Offer guidance to help make decisions (e.g., practice tips, decision trees, pros and cons of choosing procedures or adopting particular strategies).
- Locate important information earlier in the chapter or paper and follow with the background information (i.e., the inverted pyramid).
- Enhance the readability of the content:
- Use headings and subheadings to break up the content and improve the readers’ ability to scan it for interest;
- Write headings/subheadings that are active versus descriptive, where appropriate (e.g., Prepare the Witness for Examination versus Witness Preparation);
- Write short paragraphs and break apart long paragraphs (that 700-word paragraph looks bad in print and much worse online!);
- Use a variety of sentence lengths and structures to keep the reader interested;
- Use the active voice; and
- Write clear and crisp sentences—write to be understood.
What would you add to this list?
Posted By Administration,
Friday, September 13, 2019
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Name: Sigalle Barness
Position: Chief Operating Officer
1. A Recent Professional Victory: In June of 2018, in between two maternity leaves, I was promoted to Lawline’s Chief Operating Officer. I feel extremely blessed to work for an organization that fiercely supported me through my transition to becoming a mother of two while still recognizing the hard work, dedication, and loyalty I have as a professional.
2. Your Latest Challenge: Simplifying everything. I am a planner, a risk analyst, a problem solver, an idea generator, and a doer. This means I can also overthink, overcomplicate, or make things bigger than they sometimes need to be. Reminding myself to “simplify, simplify, simplify” has been my mantra to ensure I continue to strike the right balance between being thoughtful and being productive.
3. In My Pre-CLE Life, I Was: I litigated civil claims in areas such as landlord tenant, breach of contract, and tax lien and mortgage foreclosures actions. I also handled transactional matters such as drafting residential and commercial leases, demand letters, and client conflict waivers.
4. What Brought Me to CLE: What I found most fulfilling about being a practicing attorney were the instances where I connected with, learned from, and mentored my fellow lawyers on how to best serve their clients. I have a very curious personality and I like deep dives into different practice areas, legal concepts, and approaches to practice. When I became aware of CLE as an industry, it became clear that this was a community that fundamentally aligned with who I was and, more importantly, where I could really make a positive impact. When I found Lawline, I felt like I found a place that not only embraced the same values as I did, but also approached education with the same energy and curiosity. Seven years later, I still feel the same way!
5. I Never Leave Home Without: My iPhone. It feels cliche but can most people say anything else? My phone has become the most powerful way for me to juggle being a mom and a professional while still providing an outlet to explore and stay current with my personal interests.
6. My Favorite Software:
- Trello: Trello has been a real turning point for the Lawline team. It increases our productivity and communication while reducing the need for meetings. Our entire company uses it and the level of transparency and alignment that it has produced has been monumental.
- Watch Me Grow (Personal): As a working parent of two babies, it is easy to feel guilty and sad that you can’t be with them all the time. Watch Me Grow allows me to check in on my kids during the day while they are at school. I can see their meal times, nap times, and playtimes. I can see that they are happy and thriving. It doesn’t replace being there, but it does allow me to feel connected to my kids when I’m at work.
- Spotify: Spotify is, hands down, the best platform to explore, create playlists, and share music. For example, I created an Epically Focused playlist that I listen to regularly to help me when I really need to think deeply about a project.
7. On My Wish List: A virtual reality headset. I have always been a fan of virtual and augmented reality (I even developed Lawline CLE courses on it!) and I follow the technology closely as it advances. I’m torn between the Oculus Quest or the Playstation VR but I ultimately can’t justify buying either because life is so busy! And yes, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m a nerd.
8. Must-See Website(s):
- Harvard Business Review - This is by far the best business and leadership content online today. It is relevant, thoughtful, critical, and impactful. I gain value from every article I read.
- Conde Naste Traveler - If you love to travel, this is for you!
- My Blog - Shameless Self Promo!
9. Recent Good Reads:
- Disruption Starts with Unhappy Customers, Not Technology
- The Fast Forward Mindset
- Is Just-In-Time Training for Lawyers a Good Business?
- For Fun:
- The Girl Who Dared to Think
- Giraffes Can’t Dance
10. Favorite Pastime: Every Saturday morning I have a dance party with my kids. We listen to everything from The Drifters to Van Morrison to Miley Cyrus and dance in the family room. I love it because I get to expose them to all different instruments, genres of music, and they learn how to use their arms, feet, and voices in ways they don’t get to normally. It is my favorite part of the week!
11. Date(s) I Never Miss: My team members’ work anniversaries!
12. My Dream Vacation: My dream vacation has to include a healthy mix of adventure, relaxation, indulgence, and wellness. With that in mind, I would take a 3-month trip to Japan, New Zealand, and Fiji. I would eat my weight in sushi, ramen, and Kobe steak, explore Japanese gaming technologies, and immerse myself in the city and countryside. In New Zealand, I would hike glaciers and volcanoes, scuba dive, and then geek out on a Lord of the Rings tour. Lastly, I would end the vacation with rest, relaxation, and yoga on a sandy beach in Fiji. I would bring my husband, kids, and my parents (for babysitting).
13. Words I Live By: “Be decisive yet flexible.” Taking a position is necessary to make progress, whether in life or in business. However, I strive to embrace different perspectives so that I’m always learning better ways to approach things!
Posted By Catherine Broussard, CLE Director, Atlanta Bar Association Co-Chair, Local & Specialty Bar SIG,
Friday, July 19, 2019
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As a new employee of a bar association with a background in marketing and communications, I believed I was fully equipped to tackle the “CLE World.” What I didn’t realize is helping volunteer attorneys foster the development and presentation of high quality, cost-effective continuing legal education programs requires tenacity, which I have. But I learned quickly that more is required to ensure our volunteers have everything they need to provide compelling CLE topics that interest our members, including millennials, so they register for programs and join the Atlanta Bar Association. Sometimes it feels like I’m “herding cats” to keep everyone on point with deadlines as we work together to develop engaging presentations. But that’s okay with me because in the end, we always seem to produce good, quality programs.
Two “out of the box” tactics that help me be more efficient include:
- Seeking the assistance of law students, which exposes them to our Association, helps with logistics, and offers them opportunities to network with speakers. Perhaps in the future providing opportunities to connect via an online portal where they could ask questions and get answers could be beneficial. This could also be of value to others if they were able to view the exchanges.
- Making notes about speakers and using the information to write personalized thank you cards and taking pictures and sending them to speakers (along with a line or two of text from their presentation) to use in company newsletters and social media marketing has been well received.
It’s no secret that memberships in associations are down and reversing the decline requires additional out-of-the-box thinking, particularly when it comes to engaging millennials. Is it a generational shift that requires different marketing strategies for millennials in order to increase registrations and memberships? Probably.
I think we all should be thinking about putting more emphasis on marketing via social media since millennials generally don’t respond as well to traditional marketing. According to the Pew Research Center, they are more attached to networks of friends and colleagues through social media and represent 35% of this country’s workforce.
With the above information in mind, perhaps we need to focus on engaging young lawyers through new social media strategies and offering additional CLEs that have a social media component, including addressing corporate risks and ethical obligations. Maybe even consider increasing our website engagement by blending together the power of technology with interactive conversations on hot topic industry-related questions. These tactics could increase engagement, registrations, and interest in our Associations.
What follows are steps to consider to increase membership and engagement among young lawyers:
- Add more social media content that provides links to hot topics like essential cloud- based tech tools for lawyers, mistakes lawyers make with technology, global cybersecurity laws for lawyers, and how pro bono work can boost your profile and career, to name a few.
- Increase networking and mentoring opportunities that provide avenues to develop young lawyers into future leaders.
- As previously mentioned, provide a mechanism for inexperienced attorneys to ask hot topic/industry-related questions and request answers from seasoned attorneys.
We all need committed and engaged members, and doing business a little differently when we think “out of the box” could be the best way to harness the energy of young lawyers. It’s certainly a way for them to see our Associations as providing added value that enhances career growth.
Posted By Tim Slating, Chair, Communications Committee,
Thursday, June 13, 2019
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Whether you’re reading this in the new e-newsletter or on the website blog, you’re probably noticing something different. In the Loop has a new look! After years of maintaining a separate newsletter and website blog, ACLEA is bringing its two main communications channels under the same brand—and giving that brand a snazzy new design.
In the Loop: The website blog
As part of the rebranding effort, ACLEA’s Blog will now be called In the Loop. In addition to all the quality content that has always resided on the blog, the rebrandedblog will also house the columns and articles that previously only appeared in the In the Loop newsletter. These articles will be posted on a continuous basis so that members can check in on the blog from time to time and always find new content.
In the Loop: The e-newsletter
While the ACLEA newsletter has always been called In the Loop, it now has a new design and format. Instead of being formatted as a PDF newsletter that is posted on the ACLEA website, the new In the Loop e-newsletter has a sleek design that features headlines and teasers that link back to the In the Loop blog, where all the content now resides. The redesigned In the Loop e-newsletter will be emailed to members every other month.
As always, ACLEA is hungry for member-written content to feature on the blog and in the e-newsletter. To submit content or make content suggestions, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you’re looking for a low-commitment way to get more involved in ACLEA, the Communications Committee is always looking for new members—feel free to reach out to me to volunteer or ask any questions you might have.
I hope you like the new look for In the Loop!
In the Loop
Posted By Michael Kahn, Chair of Vendors and Speakers SIG,
Thursday, June 6, 2019
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The ACLEA Annual Meeting in Chicago will be the third meeting of the Vendors and Speakers SIG as we continue to gain momentum with our new identity. I envision our SIG as a place where vendors and speakers will discuss successes/challenges and build a supportive community. Ideally, members will leave with (and share) practical nuggets of wisdom and guidance. Some prompts we have utilized to generate discussion are:
- If you were doing a TedTalk for CLE vendors or speakers, what would be the two points you would structure the talk around?
- What is a measure of success at an ACLEA or any conference?
- Identify a goal you would like to have completed or at least started by the next ACLEA conference.
Additionally, we will identify highlights from relevant breakout sessions. Of course, we will discuss how the ACLEA conferences can be improved while also avoiding too much “problem talk.” Having said all that, please let me know how the SIG can be most helpful to you. One administrative note, we are looking for someone to co-chair with me and fill Kim Kett’s large shoes. Please let me know if you are interested (email@example.com). See you in in Chicago!
vendors and speakers SIG
Posted By Andrea Johnston, Director of Admissions & Education, Law Society of Saskatchewan (International SIG,
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
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Decreased In-Person Program Attendance
There are many considerations that go into making continuing professional development (“CPD”) events successful, so keeping tabs on all the trends and changes in the industry is crucial if we are to provide the most useful and effective programming possible. Of course, the most important feature of any program is having people actually show up. Unfortunately, overall attendance at in-person CPD events has been declining for a couple years now, and that trend has become even more pronounced recently in Canadian jurisdictions (and I suspect internationally as well). There are a number of potential reasons for this, to name a few:
- The convenience of on-demand CPD;
- Alternative delivery methods resulting from technological advances;
- Increased competition as improved technology allows members to attend CPD events remotely from other jurisdictions; and
- The availability of recorded versions after live CPD events.
CPD Program Topic Preferences
Statistics tell us that program content remains an important factor in CPD attendance numbers. Despite the fact that we have increasing data to show that most complaints and insurance claims faced by lawyers relate to practice management issues and other non-substantive law topics (e.g., communication, technology, time management, resilience, etc.), most members do not want to pay for that type of training. Many lawyers will acknowledge that those are all important skills for lawyers to possess; however, very few think that they need training in those areas. While free sessions still generate decent attendance, the majority of members only seem willing to pay for substantive law topics, even though “soft-skills” training is clearly an area where many lawyers have the greatest room for improvement.
What are we doing to adjust to these trends?
Typically, at the Law Society of Saskatchewan, we have delivered most of our in-person seminars in both of our two major urban centers. Starting this month, however, we are offering some in-person seminars in just one location and live-streaming it for people in other locations. Hopefully, the registration figures for each alternative will provide guidance as to where we should focus.
Of course, if it turns out that most members prefer the live-streaming option we could end up having presenters speaking to rooms with only a handful of attendees. If this is the case, it may be advisable to switch to fully remote presentations for some seminars. And, while this would reduce costs (facilities, catering, staff travel) and increase flexibility for attendees, presenters who are used to traditional seminars may not be supportive of the change which could lead to a decrease in the availability of volunteer presenters.
Adopt Other On-Demand Delivery Methods
As we see our members’ preference for on-demand CPD increase in a world where new technology is being introduced at an astronomical rate, we can (and should) be adopting new delivery methods for our CPD programming. Of course, as is the case with many things, that is easier said than done. In an ideal world, we would offer a comprehensive suite of interactive, online, on-demand programming to our members which they can work through at their convenience in an engaging and reflective manner. The challenge is the time, money and expertise it takes to develop this type of programming. In Saskatchewan, we are hoping to roll out an online, interactive course sooner than later, but at this point we have not even settled on a platform … so there is still plenty of work to do.
Reduce the Cost
No matter the industry, nothing increases demand like lowering the price. As the Law Society of Saskatchewan, we are both the governing body as well as a CPD provider, which affords us some flexibility that other CPD providers may not have. We can offer free (or discounted) CPD events related to non-substantive topics that, as a governing body we feel are important for our membership, but which don’t typically generate high attendance if we charge full price for them. Examples are topics related to indigenous cultural competency training pursuant to the Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action; Law Society initiatives; pro bono services; equity, diversity & inclusion; working with victims of sexual violence; and the integration of internationally-trained lawyers.
Problems we face by applying this approach are that it devalues the education we provide generally, and we see members specifically waiting for the free sessions rather than registering for those they have to pay for (even if a particular paid session is more relevant to their practice). This could both further reduce the attendance at our full price sessions and result in potentially less relevant training for our members. So, although we have the flexibility to offer free (or discounted) CPD programming, we are finding that doing so may cause more harm than good in the long run.
Make Programs Mandatory
Another option available to us (because we are the governing body) is to make certain topics or specific programs mandatory. The Law Society of Saskatchewan is considering adopting an expanded definition of competence that could include areas such as cultural competency, technology skills and/or mental health & wellness training. Making these types of CPD programs mandatory would obviously result in a dramatic increase in attendance, and hopefully an increase in competence in those areas. It could be done either by prescribing specific programs or by prescribing a minimum number of hours to be accumulated in each area while allowing the members to choose among a variety of programs. However, there are always risks with forcing education on our members, the most problematic one being the risk of generating member resentment towards these important topics, or CPD generally.
Strike a Balance
Although the mandate of the Law Society of Saskatchewan CPD Department is to “fill the gaps” in member training, the gaps seem to exist with non-substantive topics, which many members are not willing to pay for. The gaps tend to exist because very few providers are interested in delivering training that does not draw a crowd. So, our challenge is striking a balance between both substantive and non-substantive topics, as well as, in person, remote and on-demand programs, in order to satisfy member preferences, while also increasing member competence and “filling the gaps”…not an insignificant task.
Every industry needs to embrace change in order to remain current, relevant, and effective—CPD is no different. It is important that we deliver programming that delivers topical and relevant information while still drawing enough members to be viable. Each of the above options includes its own set of pros and cons but the one thing we can’t afford to do is remain static.
continuing professional development