One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has done, besides making us all Zoom experts and showing our employers how great we are with technology, is to give attorneys a wonderful opportunity to get caught up on Continuing Legal Education credits.
With work slowing down for some practices because trials, depositions, and meetings were suddenly cancelled or put on hold, attorneys were left with unexpected time. Yes, we had those weekly (now, thankfully, monthly) Zoom meetings so that we still had face to face time with colleagues, the billable work slowed dramatically for some practice groups.
In our firm, we host quite a few CLE programs internally. Our attorneys present, usually, hour-long programs on a variety of topics. In the past, these were held during lunch, and attendees got lunch and an hour of CLE. They’re still held during lunch, and they’re still usually an hour long, but now you provide your own lunch, and the presentation is held via Zoom.
My firm encouraged attorneys to attend CLE programs, and to record their time using a specific billing number. We have subscriptions with the TexasBarCLE and with Practising Law Institute, so our attorneys can “attend” video CLE programs at no charge and receive credit. With COVID, they get CLE credit and have hours to put on their billing records. So, we don’t have attorneys sitting around during the day doing nothing productive.
In the past, we’ve hosted a few CLE programs that are open to clients. With COVID, there was a great opportunity to provide more CLE programs as a benefit to clients. As many of our clients are general counsel, they would receive CLE credit as well as valuable information that they could use for their business. The presenting attorneys also got the chance to increase their knowledge of law (research for the presentation) as well as get “face time” in front of clients. We have hosted more programs this year than in past years, and it’s only October.
How does this relate to research? It’s an opportunity for the library. We’re organized, and we have amazing technical skills. I’m the CLE coordinator for our firm, which involves submitting the applications for accreditation and recording attendance. COVID and WFH gave me an opportunity to immediately do something that I had planned to do over the course of the year – convert the entire process to digital.
Previously only part of the process was digital. I inherited 10 boxes of files, covering several years worth of CLE programs, from my predecessor. File space in a law firm is at a premium, and is preferably used for client files. There had to be a better way to keep all the information together. Now, everything relating to each CLE program has a file in our document management system. Everything from the application to the attendance records. Sign in sheets have become Zoom attendance lists. No more putting sign-in sheets in folders to be filed, now they’re just moved into the correct electronic file.
For the first few months, it seemed like we offered at least one program a week. As restrictions have lifted and life becomes a little more normal (well, more new normal), the attorneys are finding that billable work is increasing and our CLE work is slowing down. It’s not going away, but it is slowing. To counter that, the research work is increasing.
Long story short, there’s work for the library group at any time. Whether it’s research or on the administrative side, don’t turn down the opportunity.