What It Takes to Keep Your CLE Program Competitive in an Evolving Market

Posted by Sophia Duplin

Make Your CLE Program Stand Out From The Crowd

Even if your employees have been out of law school for a while and already passed the state bar, they still need Continuing Legal Education (CLE) to meet accreditation requirements. These credits are essential for lawyers and other legal professionals to maintain good standing with The American Bar Association

 

In the past, professionals would spend time at a convergence or in a meeting room earning their CLE credit hours on topics like ethics and professionalism, professional responsibility, and elimination of bias. Now, more and more legal professionals prefer to obtain their CLE accreditation through online learning platforms. 

 

But what does it take to keep your CLE program competitive when so many are turning to virtual CLE formats? Let’s take a look at the importance of virtual CLE, where the industry is heading, and what your target audience is looking for in online CLE. 

 

Why Should You Offer Virtual Formats Of Continuing Legal Education? 

Legal professionals are required to obtain a certain amount of CLE hours per calendar year.  This is also known as the minimum continuing legal education or MCLE. Here are some examples: 

State 

Minimum Hours Of CLE Required

Timeframe To Earn Required State CLE Credits

New York State

24

Two Years

Florida

33

Three Years

New Jersey

24

Two Years

Illinois

30

Two years

Pennsylvania 

12

One Year

 

This may not seem like a lot, but when you tack on a busy work schedule and personal obligations, it’s difficult for legal professionals to find the time to meet these CLE rules set forth by their state. This is where virtual CLE comes into play. 

 

With all the educational service platforms and technologies at our fingertips today, it comes as 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 provide opportunities to earn accredited CLE credit. 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 for the value perceived by attorneys making the future investment and purchasing decisions. No one, including B2B buyers paying on behalf of their employed attorneys and paralegals, wants to spend money on Continuing Education that does not offer accredited CLE. 

 

Therefore, we’re looking at the CLE environment evolving into an efficient, buyer-centric field that genuinely caters to the convenience of the target audience. Characteristic of CLE’s past life was an attorney’s responsibility 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 more practical applications of the law, more how-to’s, and more case study insights provided in CLE courses to resonate with the people enrolled.

 

What Is The Future Of CLE?

There’s been a 10% decrease in live CLE programs in the past couple of years due to a number of variables in the market and user preference. What can this be attributed to? Perhaps lawyers are learning differently? Professionals in this space are becoming more technologically savvy and budget-conscious, just as in any other industry. So we’re going to see several changes.

 

The widespread use of webinars will continue to grow as companies and lawyers find online learning to be a more convenient and cost-effective way to cover their CLE requirements. In-person programs will no longer be the primary form of CLE as we begin to accommodate the younger generation of lawyers. But, yes, attorneys will continue to physically attend conferences to develop new relationships and nurture previously established ones. 

 

But as online collaboration and networking increase, learning will quickly transition to eLearning for most legal professionals looking to advance their breadth of knowledge—and live webinars and online seminars are the go-to solutions.

 

A lecture hall of empty seats in a continuing education class room

Photo by Wokandapix 

 

Content Diversity 

CLE providers are going to diversify. As a result, we can expect less emphasis on one or two solid 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 an entire, comprehensive library of teleconferences and CLE activities will be the new norm.

 

OnDemand Access

The demand for OnDemand flexibility will grow. In the past, it was commonplace that viewers had to watch an OnDemand file all at once to receive proper course credits. However, CLE providers may lose end-user retention if they fail to offer an intuitive OnDemand content library due to the typical attorney’s busy schedule. 

 

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 undoubtedly experience a positive impact on sales.

 

An Expanded LMS Market

The LMS market is going to expand. A robust LMS tool’s increased adoption drives the legal industry forward, whether for education, internal training, or marketing support. The excellent news for CLE providers is that the US LMS market is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 23% from 2014 to 2019. 

 

Jenzabar also cites forecasts that over 60% of jobs will require some form of post-secondary education by 2020. Competition among CLE service providers will become more and more fierce.

 

With that said, let’s discuss a couple of ways you can differentiate your CLE program from the pack.

 

What Today’s End Users Are Looking For In A Competitive CLE Service Provider

Today, many attorneys are looking to CLE service providers to see what’s trending, what other lawyers are practicing, and 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.

 

A person sits on a stage in front of a class of continuing education students

Photo by Matheus Bertelli

 

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. Find a speaker whom others see as a thought leader and create a buzz around their knowledge and reputation. Research what they stand for. They may even be willing to do some pro bono work for the good of your audience. 

 

Don’t be afraid to ask your target audience what types of speakers they are interested in. This will help you connect with your participants while adjusting your CLE program to become more attractive and engaging. 

 

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. 

 

Our clients have found that reoccurring virtual event themes and speakers result in higher success. Attorneys will keep returning to the same virtual event provider when they find sessions helpful. However, they’re more likely to be skeptical when a new one-time event is introduced. Keep that in mind during your planning process! 

 

An Enhanced User Experience

Your website should, of course, look nice, appear 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. However, a CLE platform’s reliability is key to facilitating seamless UX. 

 

How many times have you experienced a technical problem during a webinar, online course, audio conference, or web conference? 

 

We’ve all been there at some point, and it’s frustrating. So you must invest in an experienced partner that can handle the technical details for you and that both parties have a plan for just about anything that could go awry.

 

You want to make sure your technology provider has advanced platform features, including:

  • Audience Interaction (chatrooms, live polling, quizzes, questionnaires, etc.)

  • Breakout rooms & breakout sessions

  • Integrated APIs

  • Certificate of Attendance

  • White-label capabilities to display sponsor & exhibitor branding

  • Detailed data & custom reporting

  • Mobile friendly

  • CART & Closed Captioning

 

Remember, you want an online learning platform that engages your participants while streamlining the online learning process. From sign-up to follow-up, the entire virtual CLE program should be effortless for the eLearner. 

 

A Huge Variety Of Accessible 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. Even the practice of law has changed to a virtual setting in some cases, so offering online content that allows self-study is appealing to many professionals. 

 

To stay relevant and appealing, you must thoroughly research a breadth of topics, and CLE planners should have an ear to the ground at all times. The legal implications of current events, supreme court activities, 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. 

 

A person sits a table with a laptop taking a virtual elearning course

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

 

The Quality and Quantity Needed To Meet CLE Requirements 

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 Q&As 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 not valuable. 

 

Your content needs to be high quality to break through the noise: 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 creating 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. We’ve got 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. 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 wide variety, and the 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 an extended period of time.

 

Choose The Best Partner To Make Your CLE Program Competitive

With more and more CLE programs becoming available online, you must take the time to ensure yours stands out from the crows. This means partnering with the best company that will be with you every step of the way.  

 

Feel free to contact BeaconLive for help with your Continuing Legal Education program. We have the experience and drive to make your online CLE program successful. 

 

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.


 

Topics: CE Library & Knowledgebase, Continuing Education, Continuing Legal Education (CLE), eLearning, Legal

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FAQs

What is a CLE course?

Continuing legal education (CLE) is defined as any post-admission coursework or seminars that attorneys can take to improve their skills. It's a way for them not only to learn from experienced practitioners.

What is the purpose of a CLE course?

Legal education is necessary to keep the skill of licensed attorneys and judges up-to-date. It can help them better understand new areas or review basic practice principles, which will come into play during trials for clients in your jurisdiction.

How do CLE credits work?

You must earn a certain number of CLE credits per reporting period. This can be done in three years or less, depending on the state you live in and how much time is required for your specific course load at any given point during this type's educational timeline.