New York City Bar Revamps Membership Model to Include Free Education

The New York City Bar Association announced that it will offer complimentary continuing legal education to some segments of its membership, while others will be able to access CLE for one annual fee. The move is designed to keep members engaged as competition from free education providers is growing.

Last week, the New York City Bar Association (City Bar) announced that some member categories will now be able to access most of its continuing legal education (CLE) for free.

“The New York City Bar is always looking for ways to enhance our member benefits and to engage the legal community here—that’s always on our mind,” said Executive Director Bret Parker. “As we’re always looking for ways to do that, one area that came to mind was continuing legal education.”

As the business dynamics surrounding CLE have changed over the years, the New York City Bar felt it was time to reevaluate its offerings. For instance, the group found that some lawyers were accessing CLE elsewhere, while other segments of attorneys were finding CLE not only someplace else but also for free.

“We didn’t want the cost to be an obstacle to them coming here,” Parker said. “Parts of the profession, frankly, were having trouble paying for it. We wanted to make sure that we serve the whole profession here and that we weren’t inadvertently making it tougher for different segments of our membership to participate in the life of the New York City Bar.”

Starting in September, for members who fall into certain categories—including lawyers who are practicing in their first two years, government lawyers, nonprofit lawyers, in-house counsel, and judges and their staff—CLE programs of four hours or less will be included in the price of membership.

Attorneys who don’t fall into those categories also have the option to pay a $499 annual fee for unlimited access to those same programs. Solo practitioners can receive the same access for $399. The package will include live programs, live webcasts, and immediate access to hundreds of hours of on-demand education.

Parker acknowledged the downside of giving away some CLE for free: It means giving up some revenue that it uses to help fund services, such as its hotline for lawyers struggling with depression or substance abuse and the City Bar Justice Center, which provides pro-bono legal services.

But City Bar thinks it will be able to make up some of that lost revenue. “The hope is that we’ll offset the lost revenue from those categories of CLE with people who aren’t already members of the New York City Bar, [who] will realize what a great value it is and become members,” Parker said.

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Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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