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Sunday, April 18, 2021

How to Make the Most of Your CLE

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Attending any kind of continuing legal education can feel like it was largely a waste of time – even if it came with a free lunch (code for: you didn’t get a lunch break).

While that’s sometimes a problem with the presenter (ergh – I’ve both been the attendee and the presenter at a bad presentation – so I have sympathy for both sides!), the subject matter or the forum, it’s also sometimes a problem with you and how you go about getting the most of the lesson.

So let’s take a look at how you, the attendee, can actually make the most out of your CLE experience.


Before going to any CLE presentation, you need the right attitude.

That means: be prepared to learn.

Be prepared to listen.

Acknowledge that you don’t know everything.

And change the mindset that CLE is a necessary evil that is being inflicted upon you by some sort of malevolent overlord who seeks your demise.

It’s an opportunity – grab it!

Go Prepared

Yes I know – you’re busy. Me too!

But in the world of CLE you need to have a vague clue what you’re about to hear, to ensure that you’re going to get the most out of it.

Do a few minutes preparation.

Find out:

  • who’s speaking
  • what their expertise it
  • what their topic is

And beyond that, consider what you already think, know and practise in relation to that particular topic.

What are your skills in the area? What are your gaps? What can you learn? And what will be useful to you?

Go in with expectations – they might not be met, but at least you’ve got them.


Don’t check your messages during a CLE. For starters it’s insanely rude, but beyond that it’s also going to distract you from learning that one thing – that nugget, that’s going to make your practice all the more successful and excellent.

Pay attention to what the person is saying. Listen to their words, and hear what they’re getting at. You might be tempted to pick holes – good! That means you’re listening.

But as well, you need to be listening for the gold inside the presentation. Because it’s often there, but regularly goes un-noticed by those indifferent participants who have no interest in expanding their legal skills.

Then – Participate

I know for a fact that while most lawyers have questions during CLE presentations, they don’t bother asking them.


Because they’re keen to:

  • leave
  • text
  • yawn
  • eat
  • work

Basically, they don’t want to be there.

However, there you are (like it or not) and you might as well make the most of the situation.

So ask questions, raise your hand, participate in the process. I realise you don’t want to be the annoying person that holds up everyone from getting back to their lives, but somewhere between silence and aggravating lies an appropriate amount of participation – I suggest you find it.

Finally – Assimilate

There’s always something – something! inside a CLE presentation that’s going to be useful for you.

Don’t ignore it. Don’t put it on the “to do” list or the back-burner, because we all know full well that no change will ever happen from things put in those places.

Change doesn’t happen from consumption alone (although you might get intellectually fat) – change happens when you choose to implement something into your legal practice.

No matter how small it might seem – use the CLE situation to your advantage. Learn. Adapt. Implement. Participate. Assimilate.

Then you’ll be getting the most out of it – plus the free lunch.

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