After 12 years of primary and secondary school, four (or more) years of college, three (or more) years of law school, and several months dedicated to studying for the bar exam, you might think you’ve had enough education to last a lifetime. But as an attorney, you now have a whole new form of educational requirements: continuing legal education
(CLE). You may be vaguely aware of CLE, but what specifically do you need to know about CLE as a new attorney? We’ll answer that question here.
What is CLE?
CLE is professional education for attorneys that takes place after admission to the bar. While the American Bar Association (ABA) has created a model CLE rule
, each jurisdiction establishes its own CLE requirements. CLE courses
typically focus on a specific area of law; they often cover hot-button topics and recent changes in the law that are relevant to practicing attorneys. A CLE course can be found for nearly any legal topic under the sun. Many large law firms offer in-house CLE courses that are available to the firm’s attorneys at no extra cost. Most attorneys, however, find CLE courses through events hosted by their local bar association, as well as reputable online CLE providers. To learn more about how to select a quality CLE provider, check out our article on the topic.
Typically, each jurisdiction's supreme court has the authority to mandate and amend CLE requirements. This authority is often delegated to CLE commissions or bar associations, which is who you’ll be in contact with to determine your CLE requirements. To find out more about the CLE accreditation authority in your state, check out our article on CLE accreditation
A few states do not require their attorneys to take CLE credits, but in most states, attorneys must complete a minimum number of CLE credits over a certain period of time. Some states also require that their attorneys complete a certain number of CLE credits in specific areas, such as legal ethics.
Every state allows for some CLE credits to be completed online. However, states vary on just how many online CLE credits are accepted–certain states allow all CLE credits to be completed online, while other states require that a majority of credits be completed in-person. In recent years, the trend has been for states to permit more credits to be completed online; this trend was further accelerated by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
Bridge the Gap CLE
While most new attorneys are not required to complete a full slate of CLE credits in their first year or two of practice, several states require newly admitted attorneys to complete a bridge-the-gap continuing legal education (CLE) program. These programs are intended to provide foundational skills and knowledge that newly admitted attorneys need to practice that they weren't taught in law school, thus “bridging the gap” between law school and legal practice.
For more information on bridge-the-gap CLE programs, check out our article
on the topic.
If you’re a recent law school graduate, you might already be familiar with Quimbee’s study aids. For over a decade, Quimbee has been creating legal-education videos that are fun to watch and deliver content in an easy-to-digest format. Quimbee CLE offers all of these same benefits, allowing practicing attorneys to complete their CLE requirements efficiently and effectively. Try Quimbee CLE