Can Lawyers Earn Continuing Legal Education Credit by Blogging?

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Most of the 45 state that have a mandatory continuing legal education requirement for lawyers award credit for published legal works.

At least 35 states specifically lay out the qualifications for awarding writing credit. Each state has its own unique set of regulations which I’ll broadly summarize and juxtapose a blogging platform as publisher.

Article content

The articles content boils down to two broad requirements—that it contribute to the continuing legal education of the author and is addressed to attorneys.

The daily review and research of current materials and information necessary to compose on-point, meaningful blog posts certainly contributes to the author’s education as it does to the lawyers that consume the content.

Acceptable publishers

Many states require that the articles be published in law reviews, professional journals or an ABA publication. And books or chapters of books. Some consider non-published works

A few mention electronic or “other legal sources”. Like blogging platforms? What about posts on ABA published blogs?

Nevada has a unique provision that articles published in a legal magazine must have a regular distribution to at least 200 attorneys. Online legal magazines (or blogs) reach thousands!

Length of post

Some states specifically require up to 2,000-3,000 words in length. Some get specific, like Vermont which grants 2.5 hours for 1000 published words and five hours for 3000 published words.

Though the trend in today’s quick paced world is for micro-everything including blog posts, most lawyers, given the opportunity will gladly comply with a verbose requirement. Some bloggers even now, eschew the popular short, frequent posts in favor of longer, substantive pieces.

Credit limit

All states restrict the number of publication credits that a lawyer can earn per year, usually not more than 50% of the total number of hours required.

That takes care of any potential argument that lawyers need to access their continuing legal education through more traditional channels. They’ll have to anyway.

As with all CLE approvals, there is a cumbersome, lengthy application process for getting publication credit. With a blog post, all you need is a URL.

The purpose of mandatory CLE, defined in varying terms by each state, is for lawyers to maintain their professional competence – ensuring their knowledge of the law, to better serve their clients. And to improve the public image of the profession.

I would argue that consistent, substantive blog posts satisfy this and then some.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nenyaki/2430528033/)

Lawyering Skills

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  • http://lawyerist.com/author/kevinhouchin/ Kevin Houchin

    It seems logical (although logic isn’t always my strength) that if one wants to create CLE content, thus increasing one’s personal knowledge in an area and organizing that knowledge to share with other lawyers, that blogging during the process might be helpful in several ways.

    1. Blogging about individual line items in the content outline could help one organize the research and create modular blocks of valuable content.
    2. Blogging about each step will help one practice the skill of transforming academic information into useable advice.
    3. Blogging will share the knowledge with a larger audience (write the blogs for clients instead of other lawyers).
    4. Blogging will generate constructive feedback and additional ideas/question to increase the value of the research process for everyone.
    5. Blogging will likely give you credibility when submitting the project for CLE approval.
    6. Blogging might catch the attention of CLE providers that one might not otherwise approach.
    7. Blogging on the subject will establish one as the authentic expert on that topic in the minds of clients and peers—presumably leading to more business, higher profits, better life, etc.
    8. In Colorado, when one presents the CLE, one receives a reasonable number of CLE credits for the hours of preparation – which could conceivably include the blogging time. Of course one must actually present an accredited CLE course to realize that opportunity.

    I’m sure there are more benefits…

    Good article Tim. It would be great to get CLE credits for the actual process of blogging anyway, but even if you’re not, the benefits are generally worth the effort.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/timbaran/ Tim Baran

      Wow, Kevin, thanks for enumerating the many way blogging educates the lawyer. If regulations existed to cover CLE for blogging and the writing conformed to those specifications, it could potentially be one of the more consistently meaningful ways of earning CLE

  • Gina

    Interesting post Tim, but I’m afraid I have to disagree with you – as I have in the past on this point.

    While blogging about legal topics certainly may help the blogger stay current on relevant legal topics and thus ultimately make him or her a “better” lawyer, I don’t think that everything a lawyer does in order to increase his or her own competence should be considered “CLE”. Reducing the sum of all an attorney does in order to improve him or herself to the number of credits earned for the activity devalues those activities. This is one of my main issues with mandatory CLE – it is a system of not carrots but sticks to drive behavior.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/timbaran/ Tim Baran

      I hear ya, Gina. Just about everyone has a issue with the mandatory element of CLE, and legitimately so. Even those profiting from it! But it’s here to stay and we have to work with the system. I agree with you on the other issues as well, but when compared to current ways of earning CLE, blogging about substantive issues and the research involved is arguably more of an education. Instead of, for example, dozing off or blackberry-ing at the back of the room at a live-in person presentation – the gold standard of CLE formats.

  • http://www.coyelaw.com Wade Coye

    As far as platforms are concerned, I can understand why blogging would be a problem. At least with journals, article banks, reviews, etc. there is some form of reviewing and editing required, which you would assume would make it more quality content. Blogging might be a little too simple, lacking editing requirements and standards.

    • http://shawnetuma.com/ Shawn E. Tuma

      Wade, I just saw your comment after my delayed post — wasn’t trying to rip off your idea — sorry!

      • http://www.coyelaw.com Wade Coye

        No problem! “Great minds”?

  • http://shawnetuma.com/ Shawn E. Tuma

    Tim, great article on a very timely topic. Just this week I commented to @stuartadamslaw that I learn far more each day reviewing my Twitter legal feeds and blogs that I follow than I do from a year’s worth of mandatory CLE. That is true, but by blogging I learn even more about the areas in which I practice. It seems to me that if the real goal of mandatory CLE really is to ensure that attorneys maintain their professional competence then it should be a no-brainer to give CLE credit for blogging just as we receive credit for articles published in a more traditional format. The only justification that I could imagine might weigh against that is that, hopefully at least, when one publishes an article with a third party journal, magazine, etc., their content is at least tacitly being validated as worthy of publication by that third party. With blogs, however, some lawyer could start a blog about how his dog is really a martian diplomat and should be entitled to international diplomatic immunity and all of the legal benefits thereof if captured by the dog catcher — yeah, I’m really stretching my imagination here … i hope — but you get my point! Now, having said that, I have read law review articles that are just as far fetched so I say bring on the CLE credit for blogging!

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/timbaran/ Tim Baran

      Thanks for your feedback, Wade and Shawn! Blogging software as publishing platforms are much more firmly established now than when most of the CLE rules were promulgated. Earning CLE by blogging would certainly require additional regulations but I think it can be done. Now, do I think the change-averse profession is ready to adopt it? Not really, but the conversation needs to start somewhere.

      And note that like other non-traditional formats, I’m proposing that lawyers will be able to earn only part of their mandatory required CLE via blogging.