Okay, CLE professionals – this one’s for you! With all the educational service platforms and technologies at our fingertips today, it comes to no surprise that corporate eLearning has grown by a whopping 900% over the last 16 years. What’s more, approximately 77% of U.S. companies now offer online training to improve their employees’ professional development. And despite the unique needs of many law firms and other legal organizations, it’s impossible to deny that the world of Continuing Legal Education has quickly followed suit.
However, given the wide variety of tools on the market, it’s only logical that CLE programs have become that much more competitive, not only in terms of pricing, but with respect to the value perceived by attorneys making the future investment and purchasing decisions. No one, and that includes B2B buyers paying on behalf of their employed attorneys and paralegals, wants to spend money on Continuing Education that isn’t top-notch.
Therefore, we’re looking at the CLE environment evolving into a very practical, buyer-centric field that truly caters to the convenience of the target audience. Characteristic of CLE’s past life were an attorney’s responsibilities to read periodic law digests, attend lectures and seek out more traditional forms of learning to further develop their areas of expertise. Today, we’re seeing a lot less theory and a lot more practical applications of the law, more how-to’s, and more case study insights provided in CLE courses in order to resonate with the people enrolled.
Where Is CLE Headed?
Over the past couple years, there’s been a 10% decrease in live CLE programs. What can this be attributed to? Perhaps it’s the simple fact that lawyers are learning differently. Professionals in this space are absolutely becoming more technologically savvy and budget conscious, just as in any other industry. And as a result, we’re going to see a number of changes taking place:
The widespread use of webinars will continue to grow. In-person programs will no longer be the primary form of CLE as we begin to accommodate the younger generation of lawyers. Yes, attorneys will continue to physically attend conferences in order to develop new relationships and nurture previously established ones. But as online collaboration and networking increases, learning will quickly transition to eLearning for most legal professionals looking to advance their breadth of knowledge—and webinars and online seminars are the go-to solution.
CLE providers are going to diversify. We can expect there to be less emphasis on one or two strong programs or courses – and providers will feel the pressure to offer a greater variety of material (without sacrificing the quality of that material) to keep up. Top CLE providers will emerge as legal industry “supermarkets” of sorts, and as a result, subscription prices may continue to be driven downward. CLE customers paying a flat fee in exchange for access to a full, comprehensive library will be the new norm.
The demand for OnDemand flexibility will grow. It was commonplace in the past that viewers had to watch an OnDemand file all at once in order to receive proper course credits. Due to the typical attorney’s busy schedule, CLE providers may lose end user retention if they fail to offer an intuitive OnDemand library of content. The best providers utilize technology where legal professionals can watch the OnDemand playback in segments – through which the platform can “hold your spot” if the user doesn’t have enough time to soak up the material all at once. Today, “replays” are all the rage, and those providers who meet this need by increasing OnDemand content output will certainly experience a positive impact on sales.
The LMS market is going to expand. Whether it be for education, internal training or marketing support, the increased adoption of a powerful LMS tool is driving the legal industry forward. The good news for CLE providers is that the LMS market in the U.S. is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 23% over the period of 2014 to 2019. There are also forecasts cited by Jenzabar that over 60% of jobs will require some form of post-secondary education by 2020. The not-so-good news? Competition among CLE service providers will become more and more fierce.
With that said, let’s discuss a couple ways you can differentiate your CLE program from the pack.
What Today’s End Users Are Looking for in a CLE Service Provider…
Today many attorneys are looking to CLE service providers to see what’s trending, to see what other lawyers are practicing, and to learn about new topics they haven’t yet considered. Here’s a brief look at what end users are attracted to in a CLE mate:
- High quality speakers. There are a lot of CLE service providers out there that book any seemingly qualified speaker they can find for a seminar, even if the speaker’s subject matter expertise isn’t directly related to the topic they’re presenting. Great speakers draw live audiences (and online audiences, as well). Find a speaker whom others see as a thought leader, and create a buzz around their knowledge and reputation.
- Relationship building. In today’s digital world, everyone with a flourishing career is well connected. Fostering relationships has always been important to people in this field, so it’s also critical that your CLE programs encourage people to build their network, whether online or in person. Several of our clients have found that reoccurring virtual event themes and speakers result in higher success. Attorneys will keep coming back to the same virtual event provider when they find sessions helpful, and they’re actually more likely to be skeptical when a new one-time event is introduced. Keep that in mind during your planning process!
- A great user experience. Your website should, of course, look nice and professional and be easy to navigate. The best way to know whether or not this is the case is to do some practical user testing. A CLE platform’s reliability, however, is absolutely key to facilitating seamless UX. How many times have you experienced a technical problem during a webinar (either as the presenter, moderator, or audience member?) – or even a problem during an online course, an audio conference or a web conference of some kind? We’ve all been there at some point and it’s frustrating to say the least. So it’s important you 1) invest in an experienced partner that can handle the technical details for you, and 2) that you and that partner have a plan for just about anything that could go awry.
- A large variety of online content. As the needs of students are being kept front and center, CLE is going very digital and providers must cater to distance learning. In order to stay relevant and appealing, a breadth of topics must be thoroughly researched and CLE planners should have an ear to the ground at all times. The legal implications of current events and world affairs make for hot-button course topics, so don’t hesitate to do a little newsjacking now and then to showcase innovation and thought leadership.
Quality and Quantity
Here’s a fun fact: In a study conducted by Acrolinx, 69% of all online content was rated as lacking quality, taking into account an evaluation of grammar, spelling, usage, style & readability, and a few other factors. The study included marketing, corporate, technical and customer support content from 340 global companies with $250 million or more in revenue – so in theory, these were companies that should have had some serious QA and proofreading carried out before publishing.
You may or may not have heard of the Content Shock concept – it’s essentially referring to the vast sea of content that’s out there, and that our audience members are constantly having shoved in their faces. And now we see that a lot of it is, to be frank, complete crap.
To break through the noise, your content needs to be high quality – innovative, engaging, informative, truly helpful and valuable to your target audience. And you also need to be regularly producing, publishing and promoting new content so that you have a good amount of it available to them, as well.
Yes, in Continuing Legal Education, it’s not just about producing high quality content. It’s about producing a large quantity of that high quality content.
Looking at some competitive data, we see a lot of CLE companies getting excited about a particular program they offer. Well we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from our clients that attorneys are attracted to a wide variety of topics, seemingly unlimited options, and marketing to this group is going to be more powerful when you’re able to offer upwards of 300 classes per month. The little secret is to create a synergy between all the content that you have – to make sure everything is integrated and flows together.
One of our clients, John Holloway, CEO of myLawCLE sums up the point here: “When traveling around the country and speaking with attorneys and legal professionals who are just hearing about us for the first time, the number one response that I hear is that they’re impressed by the broad variety and sheer amount of topics we cover that are available on our website.”
Note that if you keep on publishing new high-quality content, over time you’ll build up an impressive library of material that you can repurpose in numerous ways. As long as that content is evergreen, the value you can reap from it is sustainable for a long period of time.
As always, feel free to contact us for help with your Continuing Legal Education program. We’re ready when you are! And for more info on maximizing the results of your CE courses, check out our complimentary resource: The Ultimate Guide to Delivering a Compelling Continuing Education Experience to Today's eLearners.