Happy Anniversary – To Me!

On January 5, 2011 I celebrate my 12th anniversary as a CLE organizer. Given the time of year and this long history with my current employer I thought I would take a few moments to reflect on what I do to bring a seminar from idea to presentation.

I know, from my time working for a CLE organization that there are many who have no idea what it is a CLE organizer does.  Of course, I cannot speak for other CLE organizers I can only speak for myself; I know there is great variety across the field.  But I will tell you, very broadly, what I do to bring a CLE seminar to life.

Keep in Mind

The size of a provider, and therefore the role of the organizer, will vary depending on a number of factors.   In my case, PBI is:

The non-profit CLE arm of the Pennsylvania Bar Association
Is in a large state with a lot of attorneys
In a state with mandatory CLE

As a result of these three facts my organization, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, is large as CLE providers go. I am fortunate in the size of my employer because it means I can really focus my time on the content of the seminar as opposed to the necessary paperwork.


In essence, what I do is convince very busy and important people to do what I want/need them to do, without payment, during the time period in which I need them to do it.  Some years ago, a colleague of mine from Morgan Lewis told me that my role is like herding cats.  I believe that was the same year as the relevant Super Bowl commercial.  It is an apt description.

Since I do many seminars a year, normally 2-4 in a given month, I tend to have several seminars in every stage listed below at any given time.

The Steps for Creating  a Seminar – The Ellis Way

  1. An idea for a seminar which could come from:
    1. My colleagues
    2. An attorney or other professional
    3. My head (research, news, overhearing a conversation – you name it)
  2. Determine the faculty (and ask them to speak/write):
    1. Depends on the source of the seminar
      1. If the seminar came from a person outside my organization that will be the first source of faculty
      2. If I have done the seminar before I will look at past faculty
      3. Conduct research to identify top attorneys/experts in the field
  3. Identify the topics:
    1. My role here will vary based on my own knowledge.
      1. Have phone conversation(s) with course planners and faculty (I have a lot of conference calls)
      2. Conduct research on my own
  4. Identify any additional faculty (same as 2)
  5. Set locations, date(s) and deadlines (this could occur any time in the process)
  6. Marketing:
    1. Write it
    2. Proof it
    3. Identify to whom it goes
  7. Move the seminar along:
    1. Conference calls
    2. Emails
    3. Making a general pest of myself
  8. Make any additional arrangements necessary for hotels, etc. (I have a wonderful Assistant)
  9. Get materials from faculty (my Assistant and I make pests of ourselves)
  10. Make sure seminar addresses the items set up in 3 and 6
  11. Make sure the faculty will arrive where they are supposed to arrive when they are supposed to arrive and answer any questions
    1. Make a pest of myself and have Assistant who makes a pest of herself (beginning to see a theme?)
  12. Create book from Faculty provided materials
    1. Assistant puts together based on my input
    2. Proof/edit
    3. Send to Print Shop (We have a very good print shop that handles the printing and the shipping)
    4. On occasion deal with any problems that might occur after book is printed (rare)
  13. Make sure Program Schedules are correct, badges, signs, last minute items are handled (Again, thanks to my Assistant)
  14. Double check to make sure Faculty know where to be and when to be there and that they have everything they need
  15. Attend the seminar myself or have someone else attend
  16. If the seminar is being Simulcast make sure all is going well by checking in periodically with Media Technology, make any adjustments needed
  17. Be available to handle any emergencies (faculty can’t make it, attendee starts having baby, someone in audience becomes ill, etc.)
    1. Rare occasion faculty cannot attend, fix the problem
      1. Find new faculty
      2. Convince current faculty to cover the topic
      3. Cover the topic myself if it is an area for which I am appropriate (just did this in a seminar where I spoke on Ethics and Social Media)
  18. Answer any questions faculty have throughout the day (or make sure someone is present to answer questions)
  19. Answer any questions attendees have throughout the day (or make sure someone is present to answer questions)
  20. Follow up with faculty
  21. Review seminar and evaluations to make sure all went well (deal with anything that didn’t go well if it requires my immediate attention)
  22. Repeat every year for 12 years

There you go.  That is how I create a CLE seminar.  Now I need to go get some coffee.

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