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A few tips to getting started on CLEs

CLEs: Not just for lawyers, but law students too

By Kate Zerwas Graham

With less than 50 days remaining in my final semester of law school (but who’s counting?), I’ve been wondering about what things I could be doing to make the most of the time I have left.  Schmooze with professors?  Get to know career services staff?  Clean out my study carrel?

One thing I recently started doing is attending lots of CLEs.  Did you know most CLEs are free for law students?  There are lots of benefits to attending CLEs before you actually need them to maintain your law license.  For law students, CLEs are a great way to meet people in practice areas you’re interested in.  You can try your hand at “networking,” or, as I prefer to call it, “making friends.”  CLEs are also great ways to explore areas of the law that you’re not sure about, but think you might like.  For instance, I only recently discovered “Elder Law,” a practice area combining estate planning and disability law–and a rapidly growing legal services field.  I’ve since attended two Elder Law CLEs and learned that not only is it a fascinating topic, but the people are really nice!   And, as an added bonus, attending CLEs makes you look smart in front of other lawyers–or so one lawyer told me at a recent CLE.  I’m not sure if I looked smart or looked like a deer in headlights.

Which brings me to my next topic: Tips for Attending CLEs.

First, registration is a must. They make little name tags for you, and it would be embarrassing to show up and have to scrawl your name on a blank tag and then have your barely legible handiwork pinned to your lapel.  Also, some CLEs fill up fast, so register early.

Second, dress professionally. I’ve seen some people show up in jeans and t-shirts, but most wear more formal business attire.  I’d say, dress to impress and wear a suit.

Third, don’t be shy. A couple times I’ve been lucky enough to sit next to a chatty, outgoing type, but don’t count on it.  In my experience, more lawyers are introverts than extroverts.  If it’s early in the morning and the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, many will be glued to their smartphones, eyes averted.  Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation, and work on “networking” (“making friends”).

Which leads me to my fourth point, bring business cards. Not all law students seem to have these, but I think they’re a must.  And they cost practically nothing if you order them online.  (Google “free business cards”–it works!)

Where to find CLEs:

Minnesota State Bar Association sponsors many free or reduced cost CLEs for law students.  Also, students can join some Bar sections for free, which gets you into some CLEs for free.

Hennepin County Bar Association sometimes lets students in for free–you may need to call or email to find out if they have a reduced rate for students.

Minnesota CLE allows students to attend CLEs for free if the event is not full.  Call ahead the day before the CLE to find out if they have room.

One comment

  1. When I was a law student, what I loved the most about Minnesota CLE is that you can access their CLE packages from the search engine for free. That definitely helped make legal research easier — if you were unfamiliar about a topic; and to keep updated in the latest trends of the law.

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