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Kendall Seal, attorney with Legal Services of Southern Missouri, earns much of his continuing legal education through monthly Springifield Metropolitan Bar Association lunches. Lawyers must earn 15 hours of CLE a year, and only six can be via self-study.
Kendall Seal, attorney with Legal Services of Southern Missouri, earns much of his continuing legal education through monthly Springifield Metropolitan Bar Association lunches. Lawyers must earn 15 hours of CLE a year, and only six can be via self-study.

Attorneys balance practice, education roles

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Attorneys have plenty of work to keep them busy, from meeting with clients to conducting research to filing briefs and appearing in courtrooms.

But lawyers also have to make time for ongoing learning, completing 15 hours of continuing legal education – including two hours focused on ethics or professionalism – every year to stay in practice.

Chris Janku, director of programs of The Missouri Bar, said dozens of organizations are accredited and bar-approved to teach continuing legal education, often called CLE.

“We teach them here, and there are other local and regional bar associations, organizations for specific areas of law such as the trial attorneys and prosecuting attorney associations and colleges such as the UMKC School of Law,” Janku said, noting that the organizations can come up with their own topics, but they must file annual reports, including course lists, with The Missouri Bar.  

Attorneys can complete six of their continuing education hours through self-study, but the remainder must be through live presentations or interactive workshops, or by viewing proctored videos at participating CLE providers’ offices.

Locally, the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association is on The Missouri Bar’s list of designated CLE providers, offering scheduled workshops as well as monthly lunch programs.

The luncheons, which count for one credit hour, average 100 attendees monthly, said SMBA Executive Director Crista Hogan, noting that continuing education is a core function of the organization.

SMBA’s committees for various practice areas give suggestions for CLE topics, Hogan said, which helps ensure that new requirements or statutes affecting SMBA members are addressed.

Among annual staples offered is a guardian ad litem course, and courses on Medicare and Medicaid liens also have drawn ample interest, Hogan said. Some courses, however, are more general, covering historical events such as the Salem witch trials.

Attorney Jeff Bauer, a partner with Strong-Garner-Bauer PC in Springfield, recently conducted a CLE luncheon on deposition tactics for SMBA. He said he typically gives one or two CLE presentations a year.

“The job of being a lawyer is really a profession geared toward service, and doing these training sessions can help all of us provide better service to our clients,” Bauer said. “I also learn so much from other lawyers.”

Bauer said his partner, Steve Garner, typically does as many as five CLE presentations per year.
“We spend a bit of time getting the material together and preparing, but we feel it is important enough to our profession to do it,” Bauer said.

“We just try to schedule around it and do it in the evenings or on weekends. It does take away from other things we do during our time off,” he added.

Beyond the time investment, both for the presenters and the attendees, those enrolled in CLE courses must factor in the expense. Hogan said the statewide average is $40 per credit hour.

SMBA charges between $20 and $35 per credit hour for courses that aren’t part of the monthly luncheons. Attendees at the luncheons pay $18 for their meals, but the CLEs are free, she said.

Kendall Seal, an attorney with the domestic and sexual violence unit of Legal Services of Southern Missouri, said he earns many of his annual CLE credits through the SMBA luncheons, with his employer picking up the tab, which Hogan said is unusual.

“The attorneys usually pay for their own because many are self-employed or in small practices,” Hogan said, noting that some large firms have CLE training in-house.

Seal said he prefers live-format CLE training to videos, and he stays local as much as possible, to cut travel expenses and reap other benefits.

“At the luncheons, I get the CLE credit, but I also get to network with local attorneys, share best practices and just build relationships with these folks,” Seal said. “We have CLEs at the office from time to time, but I like to get out and hear what others are doing.”[[In-content Ad]]

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