CLE for Free: Go Back to Law School

Complying with CLE requirements is expensive, time consuming, and frustrating. If your law school is nearby, auditing a class can get you a lot of credits for free, and get the CLE monster off your back. You might even enjoy yourself.

I made a lot of dumb mistakes in my year as a solo, but one thing I did right was recall that my law school allows alumni to audit any class for free—and that each hour in class counts as an hour toward CLE requirements.

A Simple, Straightforward Solution

I found an evening CLE taught by a adjunct who I’d had for two classes, so I signed up for his Jurisprudence class. Two evenings per week over a spring semester and I had logged enough hours to cover my 3-year reporting period. I only had the ethics requirement to meet.

Since law school doesn’t teach you how to do much of anything lawyers do, you might as well audit a class that you might actually find interesting. There are a few classes that might in fact be helpful. For example, if you didn’t take evidence but now find yourself a litigator, that would certainly be a good class to audit. I’m auditing a real estate law class this spring, as my job now requires me to know more about that area of law.

No Exam, No Stress

Auditing improves the classroom experience because you aren’t graded, so you don’t need to worry about the final exam or project. And if you happen to not get the reading done, you aren’t hurting yourself. I found that with no grade concerns, I could let my interest in the material wax and wane as it wanted to. In fact, I enjoyed the class, but I’m one of those people who enjoyed the “learning” part of law school. I would suggest you not treat class time as some lawyers treat a CLE—a chance to read a novel.

If you don’t live near your law school, there’s nothing stopping you from calling a local law school and using your lawyerly persuasion to convince them to give you permission to audit. With all the (well-deserved) law school-bashing out there, school officials might well be thrilled to hear from someone with complimentary things to say.

So go audit a class and save yourself a lot of money and hassle. And, as Bill Cosby said, “if you’re not careful you may learn something before it’s done.”

(photo: Shutterstock)


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  • In addition to fulfilling CLE obligations, CLE has other uses, as well.

    I know one lawyer who was unhappy with her practice (surprise), and used three months of CLE as a career development tool. She attended almost every session presented in Minneapolis for three months, and then made judgments about subject matter and lawyer demeanor, noting how lawyers attending various sessions treated one another. She picked the practice area in which the CLE attendees were most civil to one another and most kind to her as a stranger. She then went back to school for an LLM , and is practicing in that area today.