Depending on whom you speak with, CLE is either: (1) a necessary means of ensuring that lawyers remain current on the practice of law or (2) an endeavor primarily designed to generate revenue for state bar associations. Do proponents of the latter description have more ammunition because most state bars allow attorneys to earn at least some percentage of required CLE via video that streams to a personal computer? At least one state requires lawyers to click at regular intervals, but in many others lawyers just stream and then print a certificate at the end of the video. To quote one site that sells online CLE, the format is advantageous because it is “available 24/7,” “eliminates travel and travel-related expenses,” and can be “viewed from the couch.”
Is it too cynical to suggest that the format also allows attorneys to cook dinner while the video is streaming to an empty room upstairs? Of course lawyers who are sitting through a live presentation can find plenty of ways to distract themselves, but social conventions usually dictate that they cannot make themselves entirely absent, either actually or metaphorically. Does the decision to allow online CLE demonstrate the faith that state bars have in their attorneys to do what is right, or is it an indication that providing education is secondary to the bars’ other concerns?