You can organize a CLE!

Issue September 2014 By Damian Turco

What better way to brand yourself as an expert than by teaching other lawyers? And, what better time to consider it than this year as the Massachusetts Bar Association's CLE programming is now largely free to members? Whether substantively focused in your area of practice or otherwise topical to the practice of law, running or participating in a legal education program can be rewarding. You'll gain notoriety amongst your peers, clients and potential clients and your program will be on your resume forever. But, how does one go about putting together an educational program? It's easy and I'll talk you through it.

Step 1: Think of an interesting topic. You want people to attend the program and the first condition is that you cover something interesting. Classic examples are recent changes in the law, practice basics, skill building practice tips and expert panels of lawyers and judges.

Step 2: Partner with the relevant section council(s). Most educational programs at the MBA originate in the section councils. The section councils are each made up of 15 members and a representative from the MBA's staff. You can identify the relevant council chair by looking up the section on My Bar Access or by calling the MBA. Engage with this group to develop your idea, to identify potential speakers and to recruit volunteers to help organize.

Step 3: Find interesting speakers. Rarely do people flock to an educational program without there being great speakers. And, if you want people talking positively about the program after (you do), then great speakers are a must. Recruit a diverse group of presenters and you'll be more than half way to running a successful program.

Step 4: Engage with MBA staff. Led by Marc D'Antonio, the MBA has an excellent education department with impressive capabilities. Connect with Marc to discuss how the program fits into the events calendar and to ultimately select a date, time, and location. The MBA will help with program materials and will simulcast and record for future on-demand viewing as appropriate.

Step 5: Get organized and prepare. Once you have your speakers identified, you'll need to pull them together for a conference call or meeting, depending on the subject matter. I find that two one-hour meetings are generally enough to effectively collaborate on a one- to three-hour program. You may need more based on the complexity of the subject matter. The program, as a whole, should be reviewed, and the workload and speaking roles delegated. Be sure to keep communicating by email to ensure all your ducks (Powerpoint presentations, handouts, outlines) are in a row. Stay in touch with the education department and make sure you get materials submitted as directed.

Step 6: Promote the program. People aren't going to attend the program if they don't know about it. The MBA will help here, promoting the program on the website calendar, through email blasts and the like. To maximize attendance, consider additionally promoting your program through you and your speakers' own social media accounts.

Step 7: Do a great job. The day of your program can be a little nerve-racking. What if you don't know the answer to a question from the audience? Don't worry, you'll come up with a good answer, and you'll offer to follow up after with a better response if need be. What if you go way off schedule? You won't. You're going to keep an eye on the clock and will make sure program stays on track. What if nobody laughs at your clever law practice management puns? Okay, that one only happens to me, so you shouldn't have an issue … also, I don't know the answer. You'll be fine.

And in the end, you're going to put on a great program, further establish yourself as an expert and gain notoriety in our organization and legal community as a dedicated volunteer. Good luck! 

Damian Turco owns Mass Injury Firm PC, a Boston based personal injury law firm, representing the victims of negligence across Massachusetts. Damian is the vice chair of the Law Practice Management Section.