A few years ago, Illinois (and a bunch of other states) decided to make all of the attorneys who wish to practice law in the state attend a certain number of "Continuing Legal Education" courses. Basically, as of now -- although it is going up -- you have two years to do 24 hours of CLE, of which four hours has to be "professional responsibility." My CLE credits are due at the end of June, since I am the N-Z class, and of course, I waited until pretty late in the game to even worry about it.
Why? Because I practice law on a daily basis. My CLE happens every single day. I get the disposition sheets from the Federal Circuit each week, so I read what travesty they are creating in patent law, I get the updates from the courts on their local rules changes, I read the law blogs in my area, and I research the law regularly. If you are actively practicing law, you are unintentionally doing your continuing legal education.
But that's not enough. You have to sign up for and pay for a class or multiple classes in order to meet your credit hours. This is what the majority of the lawyers at my firm do: they pay the cheap $300 or whatever for the "DVD pack" that ICLE (Illinois Continuing Legal Education) offers that meets the 24 hour requirement, which contains all areas of law, the vast majority of which they don't practice at all on a daily basis. This is things like estates law or family law. Patent attorneys are taking this CLE. Yeah, there's some real continuing legal education that is going to keep them up to speed. Yep. Anyway, they set it up on their computer, and while they are working on other things they click through the course when prompted. They don't pay attention to it, they don't use it, they don't bother. I do that, too, for part of my credits, but I also actually pay more to go out and take some classes. It's a nice excuse to get out of the office, and honestly I haven't yet attended a class that I didn't learn something from.
However. I don't feel I should be forced to do this. If I want to take a course, I'll take a course. The courses cost around $295 usually for about 6 credits. To a new lawyer who has to do this, that's a lot of money for 24 credits if you want to do it the "right" way. And no one I've met takes this CLE seriously. It's a joke. It's a way for someone to make money off all the lawyers who have to pay to take the classes to meet their CLE requirement to keep their license. And the worst is that all you do is sign a declaration saying you did it and send it in, but you are supposed to keep your attendance records in case you get "audited." Please. I'd like to know if they've ever audited anyone on this.