To law students in the throes of legal education, the idea of continuing legal education (CLE) throughout the rest of their legal career might sound daunting. Or maybe it sounds like fun to be a lifelong legal learner. We hope it’s the latter.
CLE requirements vary from state to state. In South Carolina, lawyers must have 14 hours of CLE per year (actual 60-minute hours, not academic course hours) to maintain their licenses. The requirements are more intricate than this, so lawyers should refer to the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules and the South Carolina Commission on CLE and Specialization Regulations for details.
Why Start Now, as a Law Student?
Has anyone ever selected a law school course partly because their friends were taking it? Has anyone ever noticed that they don’t see some of their law school classmates in person much over breaks, but when classes start up again, you’re glad to see each other and catch up?
By the same token, oftentimes networking figures into why lawyers select the CLE courses they attend. Many lawyers find that the main time they can be sure to catch up with some of their colleagues in the field is at CLE courses. Being at those CLE courses yourself as a student gives you the chance to start becoming part of that professional network.
Another reason to start now is that some CLE covers topics too narrow or too new to be covered by a law school course. By attending these courses, you can highlight an interest in emerging legal issues that won’t fit in your class schedule.
In addition, CLE tends to be much more practical than academic, so it’s likely to convey a strong sense of what it’s like to be a practicing lawyer in that particular area. A one-hour CLE is a low commitment to gauge of your level of interest in a given practice area.
What CLE Courses are Available?
The law school IT department’s Legal IT Seminar series at 8 am on selected Thursdays is free. These are valuable courses because you learn the tech skills you’ll need as a lawyer, and you get the chance to mingle with local lawyers on your own turf, the Karen J. Williams moot courtroom.
The South Carolina Law Review and South Carolina Journal of International Law and Business each host symposia that typically offer CLE credit, and are free for law students. By attending, you can support your fellow law students who put a lot of work into organizing these, and delve into some interesting current topics.
SC Bar hosts a lot of CLE. To highlight one offering in particular, the LPM-TECH (Law Practice Management TECHnology) conference is only $50 for law students. LPM-TECH takes place every September, and is especially great for those interested in solo and small firm practice, where you won’t be able to hand off tech issues to an in-house IT department.
Readers of the legal blog Above the Law can get one free hour of online CLE via Lawline every month. September 2017’s topic is timely, considering hurricanes Harvey and Irma: Utilizing Government Contracts For Disaster Relief and Hazard Mitigation 2017 Update. South Carolina lawyers should be aware of South Carolina’s limitations on online CLE.
The South Carolina Commission on CLE and Specialization provides a list of all seminars they have approved for CLE credit. Search for obscure topics or remote locations, and get a sense of the wide variety of CLE available.