Teaching Online Courses To Develop Your Practice And Grow Your Business

As providers of online CLE, we spend a lot of time thinking about effective teaching and the difference between online programming and brick-and-mortar CLE providers. Obviously one key distinction is that at a live CLE program, both instructor and students are in the same room, with the attendant networking potential that entails.

However, there are limits on how far CLE held in person (and not recorded) can reach. Online providers may reach more jurisdictions and can position a presenter as a national thought leader in a practice area, especially in niche areas such as cannabis law or rapidly developing areas like cybersecurity and privacy law. This is especially true because the work involved in preparing a course requires attorneys to dig deeper than their usual practice to fully explore an area of law. When we ask our faculty to discuss some of the reasons they teach CLE, two main themes emerge: professional development and the opportunity to give back to the legal community.

To the first point, James Gatto, co-team leader of Sheppard Mullin’s Digital Media, Social Media and Games Industry team (think video games), told us that “the preparation required to teach effectively requires me to focus on the materials in a more detailed way.” Marilyn Haft, a solo practitioner in entertainment law, agreed: “Teaching CLE courses also keeps me on my toes because it forces me to keep up to date on the law and new business developments in my area of the law, which is always and rapidly changing.”

Smart man holding telephone with world social media network connection

Jennifer Friedman, Managing Director of the Center for Legal Services at My Sisters’ Place, feels that teaching “makes the material fresh to me again,” and reflects that “preparing and giving a presentation forces me to think critically about my approach to a problem or an issue.” Dominick DiSabatino thinks that “CLE is a fantastic way to get up to speed quickly and efficiently on a particular area of the law,” and Karla Gilbride remarked that more generally, “it’s a good way to work on my presentation skills.”

Teaching is also a way for faculty to feel engaged with their community—similar to pro bono work. Karla says, “I see sharing my knowledge through CLE programs as another way of giving back”—a phrase that comes up a lot. Marilyn enjoys sharing “knowledge with others and especially younger people,” and Cory Morris teaches “to learn, to help others and to collaborate with other lawyers.”

When CLE programs are recorded and then offered on-demand, the opportunity to engage with viewers can last for years. If well-developed written materials are included, attorneys can reference them on an ongoing basis. And, once instructors have established themselves as an authority on a subject, they often receive questions from viewers long after the program is filmed. This can lead to new relationships, including referrals—a unique opportunity to combine one’s skills as an attorney and engagement with the broader legal world.

And as Dominick reminded us, it’s also “a great opportunity for free snacks”—whatever your business goals.


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