Free CLE Plan includes free legal research
In a momentous step, the ACBA Board has approved a new plan with free CLE and a number of important free practice tools for ACBA members. On-site CLE classes at the ACBA offices, which previously cost an average of $20 to $65 depending on membership, will be free to all members starting in January. The archive of past CLE classes will be available on-demand through the ACBA website, and will also be free to members. This is a value of more than $1,600.
Fastcase – legal research
In addition, ACBA is contracting with Fastcase to offer free online legal research to ACBA members. Members will be able to access all cases from California State Appellate Courts, the US Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit, and Bankruptcy Court – as well as all California statutes. (Members can upgrade to get access to all cases nationwide for $195.) This is a value of $695.
The ACBA decided to take this step after it conducted an extensive survey of members, non-members and former members. Survey respondents overwhelmingly identified an interest in free CLE and free legal research tools as elements they would like to see the ACBA add to our already robust roster of programs and benefits.
You talked, we listened
“You talked, and we listened,” said ACBA Board President Stephanie Sato. “The ACBA has always been responsive to the needs of our members, but with this effort we have taken it to a new level.”
Tiela Chalmers, ACBA CEO, said the organization provides over 200 hours of high-quality CLE programming each year in a wide variety of practice areas. “We recognize that keeping abreast of new developments, networking with colleagues, and meeting State Bar requirements are critical to all of our members. With the State Bar’s new emphasis on CLE compliance, we wanted to be sure to give our members the tools they need.”
Chalmers noted that, while some local groups have offered free CLE’s in particular subject areas, no other local bar association in Northern California (and possibly beyond) has taken this step.
Live local programming
In today’s legal market, attorneys can certainly buy MCLE credits online, and sometimes get them for free. Vincent Tong, a solo practitioner who serves on ACBA’s Board, noted that there is high value to live, local programming. “Local bars offer personalization, targeted relevant topics, and a sense of community. We all know that each county/court has its own unique identity and culture. If you practice in Alameda County, would you rather listen to someone from New York speaking generally? Or would you like to hear from local talent such as the judge you regularly appear before, or other esteemed colleagues that you work with on daily basis? You need CLE that is relevant to your practice area, but you also want information relevant to WHERE you practice, and a chance to network with local judges and attorneys. Your value, your voice, and your needs are more likely to be recognized at the local bar association level where you’re less likely to be just another face in an endless crowd of membership.”
The new free CLE plan will not apply to the handful of off-site programs that the ACBA provides, since those events have additional overhead costs. But those programs will continue to be provided at reasonable cost.
What our members are saying
Members of the Association are excited about the change. Arezou Bakhtjou, a newer ACBA member, said, “I’ve loved being a part of the ACBA, and have gotten a lot from it – but these new benefits are going to make a huge difference to my practice.” Bob Frassetto, a former ACBA President, was delighted to hear about the new program. “I’m proud to be part of an association that is so attentive to the needs and interests of its members,” he said.