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More attorneys are turning to online programming to get CLE credit

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

A time change, a 2.5-hour drive and the stress that comes with trying to find a parking space during rush hour convinced Evansville attorney Laura Scott to leave a day early and book a hotel room for the night.

The partner at Bamberger Foreman Oswald & Hahn LLP was preparing to depart from her office one recent Monday afternoon and drive to Louisville for a continuing legal education class that did not begin until 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Licensed in both Kentucky and Indiana, Scott has to log several CLE hours each year. Sometimes she has to travel a distance to take classes, other times she can walk down the street to the Evansville Bar Association to attend a session. Occasionally, she downloads an on-demand continuing education legal video and watches it from her desktop computer.

Since 2006, Indiana attorneys have been allowed to count CLE classes offered over the Internet toward their total required continuing education hours. The popularity of online programs has been growing among lawyers primarily because of the convenience. Lawyers do not have to budget travel time into their schedules to attend a seminar.

To feed the appetite for online CLE courses, the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum is among the CLE providers that have increased Internet offerings in response to demand from attorneys. Starting with about 25 online programs in 2006, the organization now has an estimated 50 to 60 online classes ranging from one-hour sessions on specific topics to six-hour seminars covering broad subject matters.

Feedback on these programs has been positive, said Scott King, program director at ICLEF. Attorneys like the freedom to watch when they want and they like having the ability to stop and review segments of the presentation they may not have understood.

“I think it will evolve in some way but it’s certainly here to stay,” he said. “I think it’s proven to be an effective and convenient way for attorneys to get information.”

Changing technology

Under the Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and Discipline of Attorneys, licensed lawyers are required to complete no less than 36 hours of approved CLE courses during a three-year period. Currently, no more than six of those class hours may be taken online.

Raise the limit on how many hours an attorney can take online and more will turn to their computers and tablets for continuing legal education, King said.

“The interest is increasing, but it has been a fairly consistent percentage of people attending the programs in large part because of the six hours restriction.”

Marc Abplanalp, an attorney in Student Legal Services at Indiana University, turned to an on-demand CLE video when he was short of the hours he needed for 2012. From his office computer he watched the program, starting and stopping it when he took a break or got a phone call.

“As long as you don’t mind not being in the same room as the speaker in the CLE, I think it’s a great way to get the credit,” Abplanalp said. “It’s got ultimate flexibility and convenience.”

Without having the online programming available, Abplanalp would likely have had to take a whole day off work and drive to Indianapolis for a live program.

Frequently, the Indiana Commission for Continuing Legal Education is asked what programming meets the criteria for online classes, which are considered distance education under the admission rule. It has been considering an update to the rule to clarify what constitutes distance education, said Julia Orzeske, executive director of the commission. Even so, changing the rules takes time and with technology advancing at a rapid pace, any new rule could be outdated before it goes into effect.

Instead, she advocates paying attention to what the CLE courses are teaching rather than how the classes are being delivered to the participants.

“I would like to take a look at it as far as meaningful content,” Orzeske said. “Technology is a part of that but (we need to) look at the overall quality of course” to determine whether a program counts toward CLE credit.

In regards to content, King pointed out that online programming can cover very narrow, niche subjects. A live CLE class on a constrained topic would probably not attract enough participants to cover the expense of offering the program, but online audience size makes no difference. The course can be put on the Internet and attorneys who practice in that narrow field can access it and learn from it.

Abplanalp liked the on-demand video he watched about trial strategy. He took notes and learned practical skills that he believes will help him the next time he is in court.

Adult learners

Getting quality content online takes more than setting up the video camera and pushing the “on” button. Some speakers and some courses are more effective than others when streamed over the Internet.

The structure of the program and its format have to be carefully considered, said Cheri Harris, director of continuing legal education at the Indiana State Bar Association. Like Orzeske, Harris said the primary focus should be on content, not the electronics.

“In my opinion, just from the standpoint of education, not every program is suited for online,” she said.

More than the technology, Harris said the objective should be to engage adult learners in a variety of ways. Some are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some learn by doing, so the better programs cater to all these learning abilities.

In Evansville, Scott uses online CLE classes because she does not have to go to a different location and she can watch them when her schedule allows.

However, she prefers to attend CLE programs in person. Being in the same room as the presenter and other lawyers is a much more enriching experience, Scott said, because she can participate in question-and-answer segments and engage in discussions with the other attorneys. She learns a great deal from the informal conversations that happen during breaks or after class.

Also, she said attending a live CLE removes her from the distractions of her office. Even when she closes her door and disconnects her phone, she can still get interrupted by colleagues.

Abplanalp agreed that going to a live program is more engaging. However, he said if he returned to solo private practice, he would likely take as many online CLE hours as he was allowed under the rule because of the convenience – he would not have to leave his office nor be unavailable to his clients.

“This is extremely valuable to today’s busy attorneys,” he said.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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