Highlights From the 57th Mid-Year ACLEA Conference

By Una Doyle, current member and former President of ACLEA

Despite high hopes of finally getting together in person after the bumpy ride of 2020, ACLEA, the Association for Continuing Legal Education, had to once again transition from the planned in-person event in Austin to a virtual conference. The big advantage this time around was that the technical and programming lessons learned from the virtual event in July could be applied to this one, with some great results. As a member of the conference planning committee I was part of that journey and found it a very valuable learning experience.

Held on January 26 and 27 and preceded by the legendary ACLEA “Boot Camp”, the conference program offered a very good blend blend of practical and inspirational sessions. In addition, the online networking event using Remo surpassed all expectations.  I was initially sceptical but was most impressed that as attendees we could interact in real-time just by joining a table and move around the virtual “room” with ease.

I have compiled a summary of my personal highlights which I hope may be of interest to you. As I was writing this, I also realised that many of these presenters would not previously be available to us due to the cost of bringing speakers to Australia but the paradigm has shifted and virtual appearances are now the norm everywhere.

1. Leading to Happiness:  Practicing Positive Developmental Leadership in the Time of COVID

The conference was kick-started by Dr Mark Taylor of Taylor Programs with his inspiring address. Mark began acknowledging that major disruptions have occurred in every part of peoples’ lives from interpersonal contact and travel to the nature of work and family routines. Most people are experiencing lower levels of security, higher levels of stress and they report feeling less happy. Many report difficulty focusing on and being productive at work. Mark’s focus was to illustrate how workplaces, whether proximal or distanced, not only remain productive, but create and maintain a positive atmosphere and possibly help people learn skills and perspectives to better cope with the other aspects of their lives. His key takeaway was that leader behaviours matter hugely in how people feel at work and about their work and leaders who purposefully generate an environment of positivity, growth and meaning are rewarded with higher quality and quantity productivity, improved employee retention and satisfaction, reduced employee burn-out and higher manager ratings, along with other benefits.

Dr Taylor’s articles and learning resources can be found at https://taylorprograms.com/dr-taylors-articles/

2. Get Focused – Time Management & Digital Detox in the Face of a Pandemic World

Paul Unger of Affinity Consulting, well respected law practice & time management expert, gave a lively presentation on how to achieve laser focus and work-life balance in the face of this pandemic.

As Paul told us, maintaining focus before COVID-19 was challenging enough. Now we must add in the stresses of working from home, managing social distancing, keeping our families safe, and staying on top of our workload. Many of us have one-foot in the office and one at home, while some are working exclusively at home or the office. Paul discussed how having a having a methodology to deal with our old and new stressors is vital if we want to keep our sanity and our job!

You can read Paul’s blog on Staying Focused in Diffcult times here.

3. Emerging Issues in CLE: Communicating effectively on Webcam and Microlearning.

In Part 1, Elisabeth Steele Hutchison showed us how to communicate effectively on (web) camera, by applying lessons from cinematographers, YouTubers, and online gamers OF COLOR. Elisabeth has provided this training to more than one thousand persons involved in higher education since the pandemic began. CLEAA was fortunate to secure Elisabeth to deliver a reprise of this session “Zoom like a Professional” for a webinar in March 2021.

In Part 2, Ronnae Smiley of Six Red Marbles explained the concept of micro-learning, a concept commonly used to guide course development and classroom activities in the education industry. Ronnae explored what micro learning is, showed some examples of microlearning principals in action, and provided us with a framework to use in applying microlearning principals in our work. Ronnae’s presentation can be purchased.

4. How Do We Prepare New Lawyers For Practice? Can CLE Help Those Graduating Law School With No Job Prospects?

This panel session is of direct relevance to a CLEAA audience with its focus on assisting new lawyers. As we look at the impending changes in the legal industry and profession – some existing before COVID-19 and others brought about by the pandemic and widely-anticipated recession – how will recent law school graduates and new lawyers weather the coming storm? This panel discussed how CPD organisations can empower and equip these individuals with the skills and tools required to navigate this uncharted territory.

Panellists (some of the names may be familiar to you!): Stuart Teicher – Teicher Professional Growth, LLC, Tycha J. Kimbrogh – Kimbrough Legal, PLLC, Ann-Maree David –  College of Law, Queensland and Zack DeMeola – Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), University of Denver.

5. Your Buyers’ Journey

Well known Australian speaker Carl White of CXINLAW took a look at what is arguably one of the few remaining differentiators and an important commercial driver for the legal sector: the legal experience that law firms, legal providers and suppliers deliver to clients and customers.  Carl took us on a typical buyer’s journey to illustrate how any organisation can leverage CX from the very first impression it has with legal buyers. In addition, with the time difference, Carl was online at 6am Sydney /Melbourne time!

There were many more sessions of interest (full schedule here) including:

Me? Biased? The Psychology and Biology of Decision Making: This session covered how to recognise and improve our decisions and interpersonal skills, with presenter Claude Ducloux of Lawpay.

Designing for Engagement: Applying Instructional Design Strategies When Creating Online Learning. Dan Davies, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism explored how applying simple instructional design principles and techniques to elevate online learning courses to a learner centred experience.

You can find the full conference schedule here.

Una Doyle is an executive member of CLEAA and Director of Education at the Judicial Commission of NSW. 

Leave a Comment