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Say Yes to Summer Ambition

Many CPD providers hit the breaks between July and September as lawyers and CPD decision makers leave town. But writing off the summer as “dead time” can be a costly mistake. Last spring, one of my clients asked me to put a strategy in place for their team to keep moving over the long lazy days of July and August. Yesterday they told me it was their most productive summer ever.

Here are five strategies any provider can employ:

1. Reach out to faculty and decision makers before things go into lockdown mode. Not everyone is away at the same time. Organize your calendar for when key people will be around.

2. Two months isn’t long. Set weekly mini milestones – these can be financial or registration targets, marketing or other campaign related goals, or program preparation. Having regular targets will help ensure forward progress.

3. Identify one large project to complete over the summer – redo your website, revise teaching notes, create a loyalty campaign, update your marketing list.

4. Analyze your feedback and program evaluations from last year to figure out how you can improve this year. If additional surveying is required, reach out to members or program attendees to ask for their opinion.

5. Lastly, take advantage of the down time to socialize with your colleagues. Go out to lunch and reconnect before the fall rush hits. You’ll enjoy working together more and you’ll probably get more done.

Don’t drink the industry Kool-Aid that the CPD calendar ends in June. With a little bit of effort, July and August can become critical planning months to ensure you hit the ground running come September.

Savings Shopper

Working with a shoe string CPD budget? Don’t fret. A booming CPD market, combined with lots of discount opportunities, is making it easier than ever to stay within budget. Here are five suggestions for how to save:

1. Early-bird pricing – These discounts are usually in the range of 10 to 15% off the regular registration fee. Providers use them to reward early registrants so they can have peace of mind about audience size.

2. Group discounts – These discounts are sometimes offered as percentages, but the best buys are the 4 for the price of 3 type deals. Providers use these to expand their audience base and help fill seats. They are often unadvertised.

3. New lawyer/student/paralegal discounts – These discounts can be quite significant – up to hundreds of dollars. The rationale is simple – you’re starting out or you’re support staff, therefore you probably have less funds available so you shouldn’t have to pay as much as established lawyers.

4. Distance discounts – Like the new lawyer discount, these savings can be significant, for example, equal the cost of a flight or few hundred kilometers’ mileage. Again like the new lawyer promo, these discounts are situational. Travel adds to the cost of attending a program, so if the only way you can get there is to increase your cost, the provider tries to level the playing field for you.

5. Member discounts – These are special pricing offered as an exclusive member benefit and usually represent savings in the 10 to 15% range, compared to the non-member rate. Although associations position these as an incentive to become a member, make sure it isn’t your only reason you join an association. The cost of membership may not be worth the program savings.

And my favourite suggestion (other than free CLE which I intend to write more about in future posts), is to call and ask for a discount. Plead your case. It’s the rare provider who won’t say yes. And ignore the private/not-for-profit bunk. Ironically, you’re more likely to be successful with private providers who don’t have to ask 10 other people what to do. Now go get those deals.


The Write Stuff

According to noted legal writing instructor Bryan Garner, many practising lawyers, especially transactional lawyers and new lawyers, suffer from a phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Garner’s post, “Why Lawyers Can’t Write” in the ABA Journal helps to explain why lawyers often underestimate the value of legal writing programs when making professional development decisions.

The good news, according to David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the two Cornell psychologists for whom the phenomenon is named, is that people unskilled in a task can recognize this after “highly effective training” in the skill. Canadian lawyers will be pleased to hear that there are lots of CPD options designed to improve their legal writing skills. These include:

  • Annual Course on Written Advocacy (lead instructor Steve Armstrong, large supporting faculty) – Osgoode Professional Development and The Advocates’ Society
  • Writing and Editing for Clarity and Impact, also Writing to Persuade (Steve Armstrong) – Seminar Partners
  • Writing Workshop, a component of the National Criminal Law Program (Jim Raymond) – Federation of Law Societies of Canada
  • Drafting Clearer Contracts (Ken Adams) – Osgoode Professional Development
  • Various programs by Steven Stark – BC CLE, The Advocates’ Society, Seminar Partners
  • Write this Way (Jane Griesdorf) – Law Society of Upper Canada

I’ve also heard great things about legal writing instructor Ed Berry, although as I understand it, he does mostly judicial writing workshops. Whether any of the above programs are “highly effective” and can also take you that next step of actually writing better, you’ll have to determine yourself.


Online Innovators Disrupting CPD?

The ABA released its usual “Websites Lawyers Love” list earlier this spring. The list highlights author picks from the “60 Sites in 60 Seconds” session of the annual ABA TechShow. Included among the “More Websites..” follow-up is free online course provider Coursera.

Another sign that CLE may be ripe for disruption? I think so. Looks like lawyers may be starting to catch up with the online revolution that’s sweeping the education industry. Check out Websites Lawyers Love here and More Websites Lawyers Love here, and Coursera here.