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Column No. 44, October 1998
Copyright 1998 Robert J. Ambrogi
Correspondence Courses For The Digital Decade
By Robert J. Ambrogi
You can really get an education on the Internet these days.
No, not from the Starr report -- we mean a legal education, continuing legal education, to be exact.
The Internet brings CLE to the lawyer's desktop -- books, audio and video, all delivered via modem. Many sites even offer CLE credit.
Here is a sampling of online CLE, with the focus on sites that provide actual courses over the Internet. We touch on only some of the many sites that are simply online catalogs of offline seminars.
This innovative site presents CLE via the Web in the form of threaded, hypertext discussions backed up by libraries of downloadable information. Many of its programs are produced in cooperation with Texas Lawyer newspaper or the Law Practice Management Section of the American Bar Association. Courses are accredited in Texas and California. Most cost $59.
HG provides access to hundreds of hours of audio seminars, some original to the site, some linked from other sites. Most use the RealPlayer plug-in (free from http://www.real.com). Whether they qualify for CLE credit depends on your state's requirements. Included are Kluwer Legal Briefings, monthly briefings by international panels on important developments in law; global forums, international panels on the legal profession; Lex Mundi meetings, practice-area discussions among member firms of the Lex Mundi network; and various bar association programs.
A CLE provider since 1933, PLI has pushed full tilt into the electronic age. Its PLI Online presents complete video programs of recent, full-day courses, together with the course books. Programs are indexed for quick movement to particular presentations or topics, and each speaker's key points are bulleted and synchronized with the video. PLI Online also features searchable, hypertext reference books. They can be read online or downloaded, and are supplemented by video and slide presentations by the authors. Video programs and reference books cost $149 each for unlimited access, with a sample program available free. Another PLI feature is cle-net, http://cle-net.edu, offering shorter, CLE-approved audio seminars. Most cost $79.
Part of the West Group, Rutter provides online CLE in an array of topics from bankruptcy to substance abuse. Courses are presented in audio or video format, using the RealPlayer browser plug-in, and course materials are provided in Adobe Acrobat format. Courses cost anywhere from $30 to $360, or you can purchase a pass for one year of unlimited access.
Taecan.com is a professional-education company that is collaborating with several bar associations to provide online CLE. So far, it has created sites for the Ohio CLE Institute, the Washington State Trial Lawyers and the Washington Law Institute, with more sites being developed. Each offers a variety of accredited courses at $15 per credit hour. Course materials are well organized and include links to full-text cases and statutes (provided by VersusLaw Inc.).
The American Bar Association's Center for Continuing Legal Education offers recordings from nationally known lecturers - all for free. Listen to "Tips From The Top," trial tips from some of the nation's best-known litigators; "McElhaney's Trial Notebook," by Case Western Professor James McElhaney; or "Stopping Violence Against Women." The lectures qualify for credit in some states.
Michigan's ICLE was a pioneer in using the Internet to provide easy access to CLE programs and materials. Its site features free audio presentations of several seminars, as well as a complete listing of its publications and courses available for purchase.
Among the earliest Web sites to offer audio CLE, it recently added video. LawInfo works with the San Diego County Bar Association to provide a variety of practice-related courses. All qualify for California credit, and their prices range from free to $89. LawInfo also works with the California State Bar to provide a series of courses on law office technology and the Internet.
From the Tennessee Bar Association, this site provides a half-dozen courses in ethics and civil practice. Courses include links to full-text documents when available and e-mail access to all faculty.
The State Bar of Wisconsin provides a handful of free, one-hour seminars through its Web site. Its presentation is unique: click on a seminar title, and its outline appears in Adobe Acrobat format; another click, and the audio begins, allowing the user to follow the written outline as the audio plays.
Don't gamble with your law license. That's the theme here, where you can earn CLE credit in legal ethics, law practice management, gender bias, stress reduction and general law. The site includes a detailed guide to state CLE requirements, noting which accept this type of self-study course. Each course consists of an article and a series of questions, is good for one hour of credit, and costs $19.95. Courses are provided through Pacific Legal Institute, Encino, Calif.
Earn CLE credit while you learn how to locate online legal resources. Findlaw offers six courses covering such subjects as "Finding Federal Law on the Internet." Each course leads you through a series of test questions. For every 10 questions, you can earn a unit of CLE credit, up to two credits per course. Credits cost $20 each, but courses are free to anyone not wanting credit. Courses are accredited in California and may qualify elsewhere.
Other CLE Sites
A CLE provider for half a century, ALI-ABA has moved into the next millennium with its useful Web site. Although it does not provide any online courses, it does allow visitors to sample, purchase and use a variety of publications. From its library of CLE books and articles, users can browse available titles, preview excerpts, make a purchase and download immediately. Also here are free previews of entire chapters from recent practice manuals, as well as free selections from The Practical Lawyer and The Practical Litigator. A subscription service, E-Checklist, delivers checklists and legal forms via e-mail.
Online home of the ABA's Center for Continuing Legal Education, this site provides no CLE programming, except through a link to CLE Now!. It does, however, provide information on a range of products, from satellite seminars to books on tape. Also useful is its state-by-state summary of CLE requirements and information on the ABA Model Rule for Minimum Continuing Legal Education.
NITA is a non-profit, trial advocacy institute at the University of Notre Dame. Its site describes its CLE programs and publications. "Preview Pages" have tables of contents and sample chapters from NITA's most popular books.
This is a good idea waiting to happen. Ostensibly, it is a free database of CLE programs nationwide, searchable by a variety of criteria. However, several searches using various criteria all had the same result: "Sorry, no matches." An option offering to show all programs by month had only one month, and it likewise had no listings. Nothing indicates when the site was created, so its lack of listings may be because it is new.
A virtual bookstore, this site has no online programming but a complete catalog of books and audiotapes available for purchase.
The education arm of the Indiana State Bar Association, its Web site provides no online courses, but does allow online seminar registration and book ordering.
MCLE went online only recently. To date, its site is essentially an online store, where you can browse and order from its catalog of publications.
The Minnesota State Bar Association sponsors this site, which provides no online courses. It does include complete information about seminars and publications.
A program of Suffolk University Law School, its Web site includes a calendar of programs and a catalog of course materials. There is no online content.
Robert J. Ambrogi (firstname.lastname@example.org), a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of the Internet newsletter legal.online, http://www.legalonline.com. Past installments of this column are archived at: http://www.legaline.com.