Lawyers: How to Become a CLE Speaker and then be Invited Back
If you would like to speak for a CLE organization the best way to do so is to email the organization, preferably whoever acts as the Curriculum Director or the attorney who tends to handle seminars in your area of practice. Include a brief bio, a resume and a description of your topic.
While CLE organizations are always happy to find new speakers, your chances of being invited to speak are greatly increased if you are specific about what it is you want to speak.
If you just write you are interested in speaking on Civil Procedure, your name will be passed around as a potential speaker and filed away for future use. If however you write that you are interested in speaking on how a recent decision has impacted the practice of law, that email is likely to get a return call from a coordinator seeking more information. Good ideas for seminars are always welcome. Don’t be afraid to follow up with a phone call if you haven’t gotten a response.
If you are a younger attorney who hasn’t yet developed a strong resume in the area in which you desire to speak, check with other more senior attorneys in your area who you know speak and ask if you can assist them. Call the CLE organization itself and express your interest in serving on a panel with someone else. If you offer to write materials the CLE coordinator will be your best friend.
The key to having a happy relationship with your CLE coordinator (who likely gets to decide whether to invite you back) is simply this: communication.
If you are speaking for the first time and don’t respond to requests for conference calls, answer emails and hand your materials in at the last moment (or not at all,) you are likely not to be invited back as a speaker. You are busy, CLE coordinators understand this, but if you don’t communicate the coordinator will just assume you are ignoring her.
A quick, friendly email explaining you are busy and need an extension, or can’t make a call is better than no response at all. A CLE coordinator has deadlines that have to be met. Advertising needs to be written and mailed, emails need to be sent, AV requests made, books completed. The questions the CLE coordinator is seeking answers to are normally simple; can I have your bio, will you have a Powerpoint, do you need a hotel room. If you can’t answer perhaps you can have your secretary send an email.
Written materials are hard for most faculty, they get busy and run out of time. All the same, the book needs to be completed and the materials need to be good. After all it isn’t only the CLE organization’s name on the materials; yours are too. Do your best to get materials in within a reasonable time period of the coordinator’s deadline. If you need more time ask. Materials and advertising are two of the most stressful parts for a coordinator in getting a CLE seminar completed.
Pay attention to the information the CLE coordinator provides you about time, date, location, hotels and other information.
On the day of the seminar be there when the coordinator asked you to arrive. If you are going to be late simply contact the coordinator and let him or her know.
Keep your expenses reasonable. Most CLE organizations will cover hotel costs, transportation and meals. Many CLE organizations are non-profits and simply cannot afford high expenses.
Ask for speaking tips
As far as speaking, not everyone is a gifted speaker. Good CLE coordinators know this. If your first speech isn’t great, a good coordinator should be willing to sit down with you and discuss your evaluations. This is assuming that your problem wasn’t a lack of preparation or knowledge on your topic. There is no cure for those two failures but to not invite you back.
Ask the CLE coordinator ahead of time for speaking tips. Talk to speakers you know do a good job. Consider trying to get out from behind the podium and away from the Powerpoint. Reading your notes or slides is deadly. Never, never do a sales pitch of any kind; if you are seeking referrals and do a good job showing your knowledge the referrals will come. If on the other hand you push your firm it will simply offend the attorneys in the audience who will write bad evaluations which will upset your coordinator who won’t invite you back.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Ellis is the Vice President and a consultant with Freedman Consulting, which assists law firms with a full range of issues, including such things as strategic planning, client development, project management, technology, and more, on the business side of the practice. She spends a substantial amount of time on issues involving social media, including law firm marketing and evidence collection and preservation. Previously, Jennifer served as Associate Director of Media Technologies with the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. Jennifer is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You may reach Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter and Facebook.