CLE Drill Down with Monica Bay

Monica Bay, editor-in-chief, Law Technology News Photo by Maggie Soladay

I am honored to share my interview with legal tech rock star Monica Bay. Bay is a member of the California Bar and editor-in-chief of ALM’s Law Technology News. A graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law, she served as vice-chair of the ABA’s Law Student Division in 1981-82, the first part-time student elected a national officer. She won the ABA Law Practice Management section’s 2003 Edge award for her article “Dealing with the Media.”

Nancy Patterson (NP): I enjoyed learning that you were a solo practitioner for a couple years. What is your earliest memory of earning CLEs?

Monica Bay (MB): It’s a long story, but my pre-law school investigative reporting about United Way’s problems made me long for subpoena power so I was temporarily seduced into practicing for about five minutes before I returned to journalism full-time. I keep my ticket active, so I’ve been taking – and providing – CLE since the moment the ink was dry on my license. As a reporter at ALM’s The Recorder, I covered the creation and development of the California Bar’s mandatory CLE program, and we even launched CLE Alert magazine, which had a two-year run, with reviews of CLE programs. My strongest early CLE memory was being on wonderful panels about alternative career paths for lawyers who did not want a traditional BigLaw experience. I don’t think I’ve ever done a panel where we had such rabid attention from an audience. Because I was so happy to have found a job that married my interest in consumer protection from both a legal and journalism perspective, I always said yes to requests for informational interviews and mentoring. I did many, many panels on this topic for San Francisco Bay area law schools and bar associations.

NP: Will you please compare the above experience with the conferences you’ve attended most recently?

MB: I am frequently asked to speak or keynote at our events and at other organization’s programs. ALM partners with the International Legal Technology Association, so I’m a frequent flyer with that group, and I also speak at law schools, law firms, technology groups, bar associations, women’s organizations and vendor user groups.

I have always found that an engaged audience escalates the quality of the discussion with their perceptive and challenging questions. Even if I don’t know the answer to a question on the spot, it starts a dialogue. And in many situations, when the audience is as on top of a topic as the panelists, the discussions can be exhilarating.

I am humbled and honored by these invitations, and worry that I will disappoint the audience. But I’m fundamentally a frustrated rock and roll singer. So, if I am being honest, I have to admit that I absolutely love the opportunity to share the podium with the smart, savvy experts.

NP: A frustrated rock and roll singer? When I described you earlier as a rock star, that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but what a fun thing to learn about you! OK, back to CLEs. Do you prefer to earn your CLEs locally, regionally, nationally, online or mobile?

MB: I’ll take my CLE any way or shape it is offered, especially when it comes to California’s requirements for courses addressing ethics and substance abuse and stress in the profession.

NP: Which CLE conference do you like to attend the most?

MB: You hafta ask? LegalTech New York, of course!

NP: Not surprised, but I had to ask. Have you ever earned CLEs from your desktop or mobile device?

MB: Absolutely. ALM’s Virtual LegalTech and Virtual Corporate Counsel Forum are a great way for me to both report on the panels and also earn credits.

NP: What changes are you observing in the legal tech conference world? 

MB: All CLE providers are coping with the same issues – with the lousy economy, and the intense pressures on most lawyers. Lawyers must make every minute count. So they want options. Conferences like LegalTech, ABA Techshow, and ILTA’s annual meeting are must-attend events because you can accomplish so much in a single venue – from attending keynotes, workshops or seminars, to exploring the exhibit floor to see first hand the latest technology products and services and how they work. And those venues offer perhaps the most important tool of all – community. The ability to sit down and talk to peers and mentors – and be a sponge soaking in the latest news, information, and developments, is crucial to getting the legal industry educated about how technology can help lawyers deliver better, faster, and cheaper services, to both external and internal constituents.

The fundamental challenge for all legal technology conferences that offer CLE remains the same – to identify the top talent and leaders – and the very best speakers, talking on the most important topics, in an engaging and accessible environment (with adequate wi-fi connectivity for everybody trying to take notes).  The most savvy attendees do a bit of homework before the event, so they can target the specific panels, keynotes, and exhibitors they want to be sure to see, in order to help them address their specific pressing tech issues.  One of the most interesting challenges facing all providers is “how do we use technology to make our conference the best educational experience possible,” and I predict we will see advances in everything from better presentations, to more use of video, downloads, and more digitalization of those often-frustrating required  ‘substantive written materials.’ At least now, for most conferences, you don’t have to wait in line for an hour to get your badge, thanks to bar codes!

NP: Your comment about “community” is an important distinction, and how CLE providers balance building community among legal professionals in this digital era is yet to be fully realized. Whether earning your CLEs through a webinar, mobile app or conference, it is clear that supporting a dynamic legal learning community will always be relevant.  Thanks Monica!

Here’s more information about Monica’s favorite CLE conference — LegalTech New York. LegalTech New York takes place on January 29-31, 2013, at The Hilton New York. The event attracts more than 12,000 attendees and features more than 350 exhibitors offering a wide range of legal technology products and services. The early bird discount is available until December 14th. For more information and to register, please visit LegalTechShow.com.

- Nancy Patterson

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