ILNews

More attorneys are turning to online programming to get CLE credit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
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.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

ADVERTISEMENT