Five licensed Minnesota attorneys want the Minnesota Supreme Court to raise the amount of on-demand continued learning education (CLE) credits to 45, up from 15.
Jaimie Cavanaugh, a lawyer for The Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning nonprofit law firm, told The Center Square that expanding the on-demand program – which would allow for online or remote courses where attorneys don't have to be there in person – would allow attorneys to better specialize in their field.
Right now, many attorneys take in-person classes that align with their schedules, Cavanaugh said, not their specialty field.
“I’ve personally done this,” Cavanaugh said. “If you know that you have time available, you’ll go, but that credit might be on tax law or family law or something that you don’t actually practice.”
Cavanaugh said the last five years served as a trial run for the on-demand program and that they should raise that limit to 45 CLE credits, which Minnesota lawyers must take every three years to keep their license.
“The board did its own review before it changed rules to that 15 on-demand credits about five years ago,” she said. “Then did its own study to see the difference, and its own report said that there isn’t really any difference in the quality of on-demand classes versus in-person.”
She said the switch would especially benefit rural attorneys who could take all 45 credits within their specialty without having to miss work because most CLE classes are held in urban areas during the morning.
The flexibility of on-demand programs could help this, without sacrificing quality, she said.
The CLE board didn’t respond to requests for an interview.
Paul Loraas, attorney shareholder of Fryberger, Buchanan, Smith & Frederick, P.A. told The Center Square that expanding the on-demand CLE courses gives attorneys flexibility.
Loraas said he remembers when all CLE credits were in person, and he frequently couldn’t take credits in his specialty, real estate deals and business transactions, due to time constraints.
“For example, the class you may want to take may be only offered one day a year, and on that day, you might be in court,” he said.
Since the CLE program expanded to offer 15 on-demand credits, he’s been able to take relevant credits, he said, much like choosing favorite entree courses.
“I don’t have to sit there for eight hours, three days in a row,” he said. “I can pick and choose: it’s not like you have to order the giant steak dinner. You can go to the buffet and grab a chicken wing. It’s just much more flexible.”
He said that on-demand CLE credits allow him to choose classes that could benefit his daily work.
“Before I needed to get a certain number of credits and I had limited time, so I would try to take an all-day CLE to try to knock out as many credits as I could,” he said. “But now with the on-demand credits, you can actually pick and choose one-credit courses that are relevant to our practice.”
On-demand access is helpful when his wife and kids travel to Missouri for work, he said.
“You don’t have to drive, stay in a hotel, miss work and be away from your family,” he said. “It’s greatly convenient. It just seems like it’s time to modernize the system and give people the flexibility to accommodate their busy schedules.”
The attorneys petitioned the Supreme Court on August 13.