Multiple Choice Question: How much time and money have you allocated for your professional development budget this year?

(a) I pay for mandatory CLE. That’s what you mean, right?

(b) I went to law school. That’s all the professional development training I need.

(c) I have no time.

(d) I have no money.

(e) What’s a budget?

Your CLE Budget Alone Won’t Do The Trick

Many of the situations that lawyers have to deal with in the day-to-day operation of a law practice have very little if anything, to do with the law itself. A short list might include:

  • Hiring (and firing) lawyers and staff
  • Managing those who report to you and those to whom you report
  • Navigating interpersonal conflicts
  • Keeping clients informed and happy
  • Getting all your work done in the time allotted
  • Filling your practice with clients

If your goal is to find fulfillment in your career or positively impact others, you might contend with:

  • Finding meaningful work
  • Developing and maintaining confidence in your abilities
  • Fitting into the culture of your firm or business community
  • Creating meaningful change in the profession or your workplace
  • Mentoring others

But guess what? It is highly unlikely that the continuing legal education courses available to you will help you make all of that happen. Why? Because the CLE courses typically offered by most jurisdictions are technical in nature and designed to help you hone legal skills rather than develop as a person, a boss, a communicator or a change-maker. For example, you might take a course for credit called New Developments in Environmental Law but would be hard-pressed to find one entitled How to Increase Your Success as a Lawyer by Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.

An Educational Budget is an Investment in Your Future as a Lawyer

Setting aside a yearly budget for personal and professional development training is one of the very best strategies you can employ to ensure the acceleration of your career if you are an employee of a law firm or legal department, the growth of your client roster if you are a partner and, equally as important, your continued maturation and improvement in the personal arena.

The list of concepts and skills you can learn that will make you a better lawyer, better leader, and a happier person are virtually endless. You didn’t learn them in law school and you probably won’t hear about them from your law firm, so it’s up to you to make it happen.

Topics to consider include improving your communication skills, studying best practices in networking and expanding your impact, learning about your personality type, increasing emotional intelligence, and understanding diverse cultural points of view and generational differences in the workplace . . . The sky’s the limit.

3 Benefits of Budgeting for Continuing Education

  • By budgeting for your personal and professional development, you are making a powerful statement to yourself that you place a high value on continued learning and advancement. With those values in mind, you are more likely to be on the lookout for books, webinars and live seminars that pique your interest.
  • As an added benefit, earmarking funds in advance means that you won’t hesitate to sign up for a class or webinar because you are wondering whether you should spend the money or not. Since the decision is made and the money is there, registering for those classes will be easier.
  • Finally, making the decision in advance to engage in long-term planning for your career and practice means you won’t end the year wondering, again, how you let an entire year go by without making changes designed to increase your career satisfaction and reduce your stress. That alone is worth the effort

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