GPSolo Magazine - July/August 2004
Have you ever thought that it would be great if you could take a CLE course without leaving the com- fort of your office or your home? Well, that opportunity is available through West LegalEdcenter (www.westlegaledcenter.com), an online registry of continuing legal education courses videotaped throughout the country and put on by a variety of organizations. (The American Bar Association’s General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division is itself a West LegalEdcenter content partner.) The site has a wide variety of online CLE available, in both streaming audio and streaming video, and it was the winner of the 2003 TechnoLawyer Award in the category of Favorite Online Continuing Legal Education Provider.
The best thing about taking CLE from West LegalEdcenter is its convenience. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection. You pick the class you want to take and the time you want to take it. Too busy during the day? Take the class when you have a couple of hours available in the evening. Or set aside some time on the weekend and take your CLE as you sit in your pajamas with a cup of coffee and eat your breakfast. And you can always pause the CLE if you need to step away from the computer, ensuring that you do not miss important information.
You have the option of taking the CLE using streaming audio or streaming video. I have a personal preference for streaming video—I like to see who is talking and their facial expressions. However, both formats I took were well done and easy to hear/view. The website itself is easy to use and to navigate. If you do have any problems, West customer service is extremely helpful and will walk you through any issues that arise.
Of course, the online format cannot fix all the problems of a live CLE presentation. Often, as at a live program, a question is asked by the audience and the moderator/presenter does not repeat the question before answering it—leaving you to guess what the speaker is talking about. There are also drawbacks inherent to the prerecorded, online format. There were brief occasions when the recording would fade or become unclear. On other occasions the presenter apparently forgot that the CLE was being videotaped and moved away from the camera to focus exclusively on the live audience. It also would have been beneficial for contact information to be provided for the presenter/panel, so that online users could ask follow-up questions.
The website does let you download and print written materials that were originally handed out at the live CLE presentation. Such forms and templates can be useful in your practice.
Most important, of course, is the content of the CLE offered—and it is quite good. Because of the broad range of topics available, I was able to find a program that perfectly addressed an issue I was currently facing in my law practice. How often does that happen at a live CLE presentation?
Make sure that your state rules allow you to obtain CLE credit online and from West LegalEdcenter. There is a list of which states accredit which class. The cost is comparable to other CLE programs, and it is definitely less expensive than taking time out of your business day—or traveling—to attend a CLE program. This convenience will be particularly helpful for attorneys in a rural setting. Even if your state does not allow you to obtain CLE credit for online classes, you may consider using West LegalEdcenter to further educate yourself on particular issues.
Solos and small firm attorneys must be selective in spending discretionary funds for CLE. We need to consider cost, subject matter, need, and effective programming. West LegalEdcenter attempts to satisfy these criteria. In most respects, it is very successful.
Joseph A. DeWoskin practices law in Kansas City, Missouri (he is licensed in both Missouri and Kansas). He can be reached at email@example.com.