Monthly Archives: February 2012

Thoughts on CLE, Web 2.0 & More: Tim Baran

Much has been written, tweeted and blogged about social media over the past few years.   And it’s easy to see why.  Web 2.0 has had quite an affect on society and the law.   In the legal community, the discussion always seems to come back to utility.  What is the ROI for time spent tweeting and Facebooking?

Whenever this question is posed, I always think to myself – what is the value of a relationship?  That’s because without social media I probably would never have met Tim Baran.  Geography is a major barrier because Tim is in New York and I am in California.  However, through Twitter and other social media channels we have communicated almost on a daily basis – although we just spoke by phone for the first time a few weeks ago.  It’s amazing how social media allows you go get to know a person who is miles away!

Since I find Tim to be a highly regarded member of the CLE and legal community – in addition to being great guy – I wanted our readers to get the chance to know Tim a little better.

Tim, how did you initially get started in the Continuing Legal Education field? 

The opportunity presented itself and I seized it.  I was a librarian in a law firm when New York became a mandatory CLE state and my wonderful boss, Alina and I claimed responsibility for getting the firm accredited as a provider.  We were among the first firms to do so.  My role expanded when I became director of the library and CLE and then became all consuming when I started my CLE accreditation venture.

What or who has been the biggest influence in your life?

That’s a poignant question for me Jason.  I’ve encountered so many people that I admire in my professional journey who attribute their success to mentors and who still seek their advice and affirmation.  I tend to absorb from all corners and rely on myself to filter and administer the lessons.  I’ve come to realize that it’s the tougher and not necessarily the wiser path.  I’m not sure if it’s pride or fear or my reluctance to deify anyone; or if the consistent, kind and strong role models my parents provided girded me, but I may yet find that mentor.  Or perhaps, the collective represents my mentorship.

Where does your entrepreneurial drive come from?

To be honest, I’m not sure.  I come from a background and culture where we’re expected to be loyal company men, get our 401K and live a tidy, non-disruptive life.  Maybe it’s the opportunity to have a vehicle for my crazy ideas.  Or as corny as it sounds, to make a difference.

What has been the biggest risk that you have taken? 

Entrepreneurship, by a landslide.  I love the passion and energy.  The community.  Having a vision, and the opportunity to see that vision through.  It’s difficult and consuming, and exhilarating and rewarding.

What are your thoughts on attorneys and social media?

Attorneys need to be on social media.  Period.  The business of law is changing, and not in drips and drabs as it’s done for decades, but rapidly.  Solo and small firm attorneys must become marketers.  Partnership track attorneys in large law firms are now expected to build a book of clients and not ride the gravy train of their predecessors.  Inadvertent marketing, if you will, with low cost, low barrier to entry, and a high level of accessibility.  Marketing is not a bad work.  Do it thoughtfully, do it honestly, do it ethically.  Social media presents a wonderful opportunity to network and establish yourself as an expert or even a thought leader, and in the process build your brand.

How do you feel that technology will continue to influence CLE? 

The CLE profession is moving forward in some ways and remains frustrating laggards in others.   More regulators are adopting an online application process for submitting CLE courses for accreditation and for reporting of attendance by both providers and attorneys.  They need to step on the accelerator.  But there continues to be a significant resistance to a wider adoption of technology as it relates to distance learning and delivery.  There are several factors – fear, job security, bureaucracy, insufficient knowledge and understanding and perhaps data.  That will have to change.  And quickly.

What are some of your favorite blogs to read?

I like authors more than blogs.  There is no blog where every post will be relevant or of particular use to me or any one person.  That’s where RSS feeds come in handy.  I subscribe to almost 100 blog feeds (I refine this constantly) and scan the headlines in my reader every day.  I like authors for their pragmatic content, passion, professionalism and integrity.  And consistency.  Among my favorite bloggers are Mitch Joel, Kevin O’Keefe, Danny Brown, Jay Pinhert and Donna Seyle.  A recent addition is Lee Rosen.  The list goes on and I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention some, but another unifying characteristic of these bloggers is their meaningful engagement of other media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Podcasts.

Who are some of your favorite people on Twitter?

There are so many – too many to list.  They all have one of more attributes that I hold dear – they add value, they engage, and they’re kind.  The last one is important.  Regardless of your value or “influence”, if you’re always negative and sarcastic, and your very presence in my stream annoys me, that’s a quick unfollow.  You’re among my favorites, Jason.

How can CLE add value to attorneys in their practice?

CLE provides the opportunity for attorneys to stay on top of changes in the law, profession and related areas of interest and practice areas, acquire new skills, and network with and learn from other members of the legal community.  The mandatory element is a whole other conversation.

What is your chief complaint about State Bars and CLE regulation?

There’s been much to complain about over the years – like the myriad of arcane and unnecessarily punitive rules for attorneys and providers – but I’m starting to see some change.   Like Equipping Our Lawyers, a consortium of CLE organizations that grew out of a CLE Summit, one of the few useful results from the usually impotent Summits.  So instead of my usually railing against the machine, I suggest getting involved with these organizations, like the increasingly cogent Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA)

What’s next for you?

Although I continue to keep a foothold in CLE (I love the community!), a sweet opportunity came along recently and I joined the good folks at Rocket Matter, a dynamic web-based practice management and time tracking software company as their community manager.  What’s a community manager? I’ll have to get back to you on that.  It’s exciting as I explore new horizons and humbling as I discover how much I have to learn.  I feel deeply privileged to have access to a remarkable team with visionary leaders.

Thanks, Jason, for the opportunity to reflect and process!

As always, thank you for sharing Tim!

Beyond Minimum Continuing Legal Education

I read a great article earlier in the week from Attorney at Work on ‘sharpening the saw.’ I would like to thank Wendy Werner for writing about something that has been our goal here: going beyond minimum continuing legal education. ‘Cast Your Gaze Beyond Meeting Annual CLE Requirements’ reads one of the main captions of the article – my sentiments exactly!

The timing is especially poignant with the recent passing of the 2.1.12 MCLE Reporting deadline in California. Attorneys in California have roughly 1,095 days to complete their required 25 units – and many seem to wait until the last second to begin taking courses.

This is not what CLE was intended for.  Due to workload, many attorneys procrastinate too long to truly concentrate on using CLE to develop or sharpen their legal knowledge and skills. However, with society and the practice of law experiencing such rapid change, CLE seems like the perfect vehicle to sharpen your skills and stay current with the changing times.

Online education makes it easy to use CLE as a learning tool.  We are constantly updating our course list with practical and informative courses.  Our online educational system also allows attorneys take courses from anywhere in the world at any time of the day. We have American attorneys in China, England, Singapore, Israel, Russia, and from across the world who use our online CLE service to fulfill their MCLE compliance.

Whether you live in the United States or abroad, if you need to fine tune your legal writing we have just added an excellent new course from Randall Christison –  Moving the Judge from Drudgery to Persuasion.