Op-Ed, New Jersey Law Journal
Mandatory CLE Is Good for NJ Lawyers and Judges
Thomas H. Prol, Esq.
December 12, 2016
The New Jersey Law Journal Young Lawyers Advisory Board recently issued a piece stating that it believes that "CLE Requirements Are a Giant Scam." While we can appreciate that some lawyers may have had enough of hitting the books after finishing three years of law school, it is important to remember that legal practice requires constant vigilance in keeping up on the ever-changing state of the law. Indeed, the New Jersey Supreme Court joined nearly every state across the nation in determining that attorneys and judges must keep hitting the books as long as they want to practice because this helps us best serve the public through competent, knowledgeable legal analysis and scholarship.
The New Jersey State Bar Association is proud to be at the forefront of helping attorneys and judges be the best they can be—as advocates, lawyers and citizens—and we engage this important mission through our legal educational arm, the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education. The NJSBA is honored to be able to develop creative and cutting-edge programming for New Jersey lawyers and jurists as they engage their obligations as officers of the court and fulfill the Constitutional mandate to pursue a "more perfect union."
We strive to keep you on top of your knowledge and skills—to help you serve your clients, advance justice, and even be better business owners.
The NJSBA generates a fair amount of revenue from CLE programming, but it is important to note that producing the seminars accounts for an almost equivalent amount of expenses in our annual budget. As a non-profit organization, we do not produce CLE programming to make a profit. We do it to service the legal community in New Jersey.
It is a reverence for educating all of the state's judges and lawyers that has earned the NJSBA and NJICLE the New Jersey Law Journal's readers' choice award for best CLE provider. Indeed, NJICLE has been named the winner of that category for every year the award has been offered. And for the 50 years before MCLE came to the Garden State, NJICLE was proud to offer high quality, reasonably priced legal educational seminars by attorneys and judges who are at the top of the profession to the entire legal community, and we remain proud of that work today.
The NJSBA strives to be sensitive to the needs of its members and all attorneys. We offer 660 courses each year in a wide variety of formats and locations—on topics from Alexander Hamilton's legacy, to updates in municipal court law, to the practical basics of what Criminal Justice Reform means to practitioners, as well as emerging issues like cybersecurity, metadata and artificial intelligence. We aim to address the issues that matter to attorneys and judges at every point in their career, and at every price point—including many free CLE programs; and in multiple formats from live seminars to on-demand videos. Let me be clear—if you have trouble affording a program, please reach out to the NJICLE office and inquire about our fee reduction and waiver policies.
The NJSBA and NJICLE remain dedicated to helping the legal profession meet its MCLE goals in a cost-efficient and time-sensitive manner. It is part of our larger mission to always serve the members of the state's legal profession and address and advance the issues that matter to them. And it is a requirement that is here to stay.
We suggest that, rather than see MCLE as a scam or something to fight against, embrace the opportunity to better yourself and your practice. It will not only help you be a better lawyer, but your clients will thank you for sounder advice and more honed advocacy on their behalf. We are deeply proud of those achievements and look forward to continuing those efforts in the years ahead.
Prol is the president of the NJ State Bar Association and a partner with Laddey, Clark & Ryan in Sparta.
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