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Monday, February 11, 2008

CLEs for pro bono work is a positive step

The Minnesota Supreme Court recently approved the granting of continuing legal education credits to lawyers who do pro bono work. The wording of the rule sparked a bit of a debate by leaving out service rendered on behalf of some Legal Services providers (click here for the Minnesota Lawyer article) -- and perhaps the rule needs to be tweaked a bit before it goes into effect in July -- but I think overall the concept is a good one.

Although some have resisted the rule, I respectfully disagree. I take issue with the idea that the classroom is the primary or even best place for learning (and I have a B.A., J.D. and M.B.A.!) Nothing can substitute for real-world experiences -- and I see no reason not to count some of that experience as "education" -- particularly when that experience is gained rendering aid to the needy. If a business lawyer wants to learn the ins and outs of juvenile law in order to help a child in need of protective services, why not "reward" him/her with a few paltry CLE credits? That lawyer is going to learn a lot more about CHIPS proceedings in the field than he/she would at a panel discussion on that same topic -- and he/she won't even get a bagel break!

The CLE debate reminds me of the law school debate. I have long thought that many schools concentrate too much on the classroom at the expense of experiential learning. Fortunately, there has been some positive change in this area in recent years -- with many law schools now offering a variety of clinical components presenting students with the chance to get real-world experience.

Kudos to the Minnesota Supreme Court for its willingness to allow CLE credit for experiential learning when it's done on public-interest work.

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