In order to keep their license to practice law active, attorneys have to take legal education courses. These courses cost a fee and are usually taken at the local bar association. In recent years though, more and more alternative providers are beginning to offer CLE courses online and in person, often at no charge.
The Nassau County Bar Association will now be making the 100-plus CLE courses it offers free for members, starting July 1st. Speaking about the new change, Thomas Foley, dean of the Nassau Academy of Law, said, “Trying to get people to join the Bar Association, and on top of that, pay for CLE’s has become more of a problem.” The Nassau Academy of Law is the education arm of the Nassau County Bar Association. Regarding the new culture and economy that bar associations now face, Attorney Foley said, “We’re competing with ‘free’ – attorneys can often get credits for free, or many credits for a small price, while sitting at a computer.”
The Nassau Bar hopes the new change will benefit its 4,500 attorneys, judges, law students, paralegals, and legal administrators. In particular, Nassau Bar hopes that the free course offerings will encourage younger attorneys to become members. Membership is free for law students and first-year attorneys.
The bar association doesn’t just serve legal professionals though, its mission also includes serving the public. “The Bar offers an opportunity to make a difference…We have different programs where attorneys volunteer their time” to local communities, says Attorney Foley. The programs Foley Griffin, contributes to include free clinics for mortgage foreclosure and Hurricane Sandy legal consultations, as well as the We Care program, which raises money for charities.
In addition to the course changes, the Bar is also mixing up the format. In April, the Bar offered its first Dean’s Cocktail Hour, which counted for one CLE credit. Mr. Foley said “it was like a coffeehouse atmosphere” where “Members had the opportunity to have a drink.” Along with the more casual atmosphere, the Cocktail Hour was “more interactive, with stand-up tables, as opposed to members sitting in rows and looking at the presenters.”
Not only has the bar mixed up its format, the organization has also made efforts to feature topics that are in demand. “We’ve recently offered a lot of courses on the business of law” and “we have been bringing in accountants, CFO’s and other businesspeople to talk about business topics, such as how to run a law firm like a business,” said Mr. Foley.
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