In 2016, Florida became the first state to mandate technology training for lawyers, when it adopted a rule requiring lawyers to complete three hours of CLE every three years “in approved technology programs.”

So far, no other state has followed suit. But now one has moved a giant step closer to following in Florida’s footsteps. The North Carolina State Bar Council has approved a proposed amendment to lawyers’ annual CLE requirements that would mandate that one hour of the required 12 hours of CLE training annually be devoted to technology training.

The council adopted the proposed amendment on April 20. The proposed amendment now goes to the North Carolina Supreme Court for approval.

The proposed amendment would also add a definition of technology training:

“Technology training” shall mean a program, or a segment of a program, devoted to education on information technology (IT) or cybersecurity (see N.C. Gen. Stat. §143B-1320(a)(11), or successor statutory provision, for a definition of “information technology”), including education on an information technology product, device, platform, application, or other tool, process, or methodology. To be eligible for CLE accreditation as a technology training program, the program must satisfy the accreditation standards in Rule .1519 of this subchapter: specifically, the primary objective of the program must be to increase the participant’s professional competence and proficiency as a lawyer. Such programs include, but are not limited to, education on the following: a) an IT tool, process, or methodology designed to perform tasks that are specific or uniquely suited to the practice of law; b) using a generic IT tool process or methodology to increase the efficiency of performing tasks necessary to the practice of law; c) the investigation, collection, and introduction of social media evidence; d) e-discovery; e) electronic filing of legal documents; f) digital forensics for legal investigation or litigation; and g) practice management software. See Rule .1602 of this subchapter for additional information on accreditation of technology training programs.

Now the question is, Which state will be next?

The CLE provider Lawline recently rolled out enhancements to its iOS app, adding the ability to view synchronized presentation slides as you listen to a program, to download the program’s written materials, and to add s0-called SmartNotes, which are notes that adhere to the point in the presentation where you added them.

Lawline first released the app last November, after releasing a major redesign of its website earlier last year. The original version of the app provided only audio, without the ability to view slides or course materials.

Now, as you view a program, the slides appear and progress automatically in sync with the program. You can also swipe through the slides to move forward or backward through the deck, and then tap “Sync Slides” to return to the correct point in the presentation. To enlarge the image of the slides, tap the screen.

Written course materials can be downloaded from two places within the app. On the course description page is an option to “View Course Materials.” While viewing a course, a “Materials” button takes you to the materials.

The new SmartNotes feature lets you add notes to a program as you view it. The note is synchronized to the point in the presentation where you add it, so you can later view the note and return to the same point in the audio.

More generally, the app enables Lawline members to download any of their audio courses to an iPhone so they can listen to courses with or without an internet connection. The app’s dashboard displays the courses you’ve selected and can be filtered to show just those you’ve downloaded or those you’ve completed.

The app also gives users access to a mobile-optimized catalog that allows them to find courses and add them to their queue. Users can search the catalog or browse it by categories.

Although the app is optimized for iPhones, it also runs on iPads. It is free to download, but you will need a Lawline subscription to download courses. You can download the app from the iTunes store.

Logging in takes you to a page showing all your courses.
Logging in takes you to a page showing all your courses.

It’s been several years since I’ve written anything about Lawline, which I once described as a company that was disrupting the CLE industry. What brings me back to Lawline this week is the company’s roll-out of a major redesign and modernization of its website.

Lawline’s subscription model is simple: $299 a year for unlimited CLE. Unlimited means unlimited, so you can take as many courses as you want and earn as many CLE credits as you like. And you can take them on any computer, tablet or smartphone.

Lawline has about 1,000 courses, available as on-demand video and downloadable audio for offline listening. It also presents live webcasts. While the total number of courses changes little, Lawline is continually expiring older courses and adding new ones — some 20 new courses every month, it says.

But the underlying website was showing signs of age. In an interview last week, founder David Schnurman told me that one of his concerns with the site was that it wasn’t easy for customers to manage their accounts, track their credits and completed courses, or search their certificates.

The course catalog can be searched or filtered by various facets.
The course catalog can be searched or filtered by various facets.

Yesterday, Lawline unveiled a top-to-bottom redesign, not just of its look and feel, but also under the hood. Most notably, the site now uses a responsive design, which means that its appearance adapts to the display of your device, making for optimal viewing on computers, tablets and smartphones.

“Our core purpose is personal freedom,” Schnurman told me. “We want to make it easy for attorneys to learn and advance in their fields or earn credits.”

Among the changes to the site:

  • Custom toolbar. The former site had a generic toolbar that was the same on every page. Now, when a user logs in, the toolbar is matched to your account, so you can easily navigate to My Courses, My Certificates, your credit tracker and your personal account information.
  • Simplified credit tracking. In the former site, it could be difficult for users to track their CLE credits. Now, the “Credit Tracker” tab takes you to a page where you can view credits for your current reporting period and past reporting periods. If you’re not sure about your state’s reporting period or credit requirements, a new tool lets you check.
  • Course tracking. One of his customers’ top questions, Schnurman says, is to ask how many courses they’ve completed and what they were. The new My Courses page shows all of a user’s courses and also has tabs to show only courses that are in progress, not started, completed or bundled (more below on bundles). Users can scroll through all their courses or search for specific ones.
  • Certificate tracking. The former site simply listed a user’s certificates but they could not be searched. For longer-term customers with a number of certificates, this was a problem, Schnurman says. Now the site allows users to search their certificates as well as to filter them by state and date ranges.
  • Subscription indicator. A button on every page shows your subscription status and warns you if its expiration is approaching.

Lawline has also redone its course catalog. Each course now displays as a “course card” with basic information about the course. You can enter search terms to find a course or use filters that now appear along the left side of the course listing. You can filter by product type, credit state, category and credit type.

In addition to single courses, Lawline now offers different bundles, called compliance bundles and curriculum bundles. Compliance bundles are complete, state-specific course packages to meet state CLE requirements. Curriculum bundles are packaged sets of courses that cover various topics such as sports and entertainment law, marijuana law, and data breach and privacy law.

When you log in to Lawline, you begin at the My Courses page, with the course cards for your most recent courses appearing at the top of the page. This lets you pick up where you last left off. Courses that you’ve started show in-progress bars to tell you how far you are through the course.

As you watch a course, you can add Smart Notes. These are saved along with the time and playlist segment in the video so you can later match your note to the spot in the presentation where you made it.

These changes are the “tip of the iceberg,” Schnurman says, adding that he has at least 100 features still on his list to be built out.

“We think of ourselves as a software company and a great content company combined,” Schnurman says.

I blogged earlier today about how Fastcase is disrupting the legal publishing field, providing free access to core legal research materials. In much the same way, Lawline.com has been disrupting the CLE industry. Last year, it began offering free mobile-phone access to more than 300 video CLE programs. Then, it followed that by launching a completely free e-learning website for lawyers, Learn.Lawline.com.

Now, in a move that is sure to shake up the CLE industry, Lawline has thrown open its front doors, allowing 100 percent free access to every program in its catalog. Lawline CEO David Schnurman likens the move to the recent announcement by Harvard and M.I.T. that they are teaming up to offer their courses online for free.

“We are in the middle of an e-learning revolution,” says Schnurman. “With our new platform, Lawline.com will be at the forefront of it.”

Is there a catch? Not really. If you want to receive CLE credit for a course, then you have to pay. However, you do not have to decide until after you watch the course. Watch the course for free, if you like. At the end, if you want credit, simply click the button on the page that says, “Get credit,” and you will be taken to a payment page.

In opening up these courses for free, Lawline is also opening them to anyone. Schnurman anticipates that business owners and consumers may view some of the courses to educate themselves about legal issues. Attorneys may even want to refer clients to specific videos to help them understand key legal issues.

Lawline’s move to free access comes as part of the relaunch of its website with several new features. Additional changes to the site will be rolled out within the next few weeks.

One stand-out feature is called “SmartNotes.” As you watch a presentation, the SmartNotes box appears to the right of the video. As the speaker progresses through key points (shown for each program as a “playlist”), you can add notes to the point currently being discussed. As you add notes, SmartNotes creates an outline, organizing your notes under the key topics. At any time, you can click a note to go back to the point in the presentation where you wrote it. Notes can also be emailed and printed.

On laptops and smaller screens, the new design makes it difficult to see the video and the slides at the same time. A fix to this will be rolled out shortly, Schnurman told me, that will align the slides and the video side by side, one in a larger window than the other. With a simple mouse click, you will be able to dynamically choose which appears in the larger window, the slides or the video.

Schnurman concedes that it was a difficult decision for the company to open up its entire course catalog. But he emphasized that Lawline sees itself not primarily as a CLE provider, but as an education technology company. “It was a pretty big deal for us and it’s a pretty big deal for the industry,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Well this is interesting. For as long as I’ve been a lawyer, the name ALI-ABA has been synonymous with high-quality continuing legal education. Now, after 65 years together, ALI and ABA are going their separate ways. ALI gets custody of the kids.

Here’s the announcement that went out this week from the ABA:

The American Law Institute and the American Bar Association today announced that they have agreed to end their joint arrangement to provide education for the legal profession via ALI-ABA Continuing Professional Education. This change will increase flexibility as each organization continues to offer legal education programs that help lawyers navigate the rapid changes in legal developments and technology. Staff members who operate ALI-ABA will continue to work for the ALI.

Meanwhile, ALI put out its own version of the announcement. It said:

The American Law Institute has begun a new chapter in its efforts to provide education for the legal profession. Since 1947, the ALI has cooperated with the American Bar Association to offer CLE through ALI-ABA Continuing Professional Education. Now the ALI will begin producing CLE separately, under its own name, as will the American Bar Association. Staff members who operated ALI-ABA will continue to work for the ALI, producing hundreds of live courses each year and offering thousands of hours of on-demand CLE.

At the helm of ALI’s new CLE division will be Nancy Mulloy-Bonn, who has been ALI-ABA’s acting executive director. All of the former ALI-ABA products — which include live courses, webcasts, telephone seminars, on-demand courses, and periodicals such as The Practical Lawyer — will continue, the announcement said. No word on whether there will be a change in the www.ali-aba.org URL.

According to the ABA announcement, the relationship started just after World War II.

The joint arrangement between the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association started in 1947, when a demand for legal refresher courses for returning World War II lawyer-veterans revealed a need to ensure the continuing education for all lawyers.  The American Bar Association asked the American Law Institute to undertake the first national program of continuing education and the two organizations formed ALI-ABA.

No doubt, these are challenging times for CLE providers — not to mention for bar associations.

At the ACLEA annual meeting last summer, I gave a plenary talk, “10 Ways Technology is Rewiring Lawyers’ Brains … and What it Means for CLE.” Several times during that talk, when I wanted examples of online CLE sites that were engaged in social media, that were transparent about their products and pricing, that understood the concept of delivering value, and that highlighted consumer feedback and ratings, I kept coming back to one provider, Lawline.com. Again last month, I wrote about this company when it became the first CLE provider to offer video courses via a mobile phone.

Now it has unveiled another feature that shows it to be a step ahead of the social media curve. This time, it has launched a completely free e-learning website for lawyers, Learn.Lawline.com.

Borrowing from the hundreds of hours of video content Lawline has created, the site breaks up these videos into mini lessons that answer specific questions. Rather than sit through an entire CLE course, you can spend just a few minutes watching the segment that speaks to the particular issue you’re interested in.

Perhaps you want a quick refresher on what constitutes an employee at will.  Or you want to hear about the jurisdictional issues in setting up an online business. Or maybe you want to review the qualifications for an H1-B visa. There are hundreds of these to choose from.

Of course, Lawline is a commercial enterprise, so it is not giving away all of every course. Rather, it has extracted from each course what it describes as the “golden nuggets” of information. Depending on the course, this can range from five short clips to more than 30. If at any point you decide that you want to purchase the full course, you can, of course, do that.

Each “nugget” includes social media tools that allow you to share or e-mail the clip or embed it in a web page or blog post. Also, each short video is shown on a page that includes the relevant slides from the course presentation.

“I made it free for everyone because it just felt right,” Lawline.com CEO David Schnurman said in an announcement of the new site. “Today, the power of education is making it more accessible not locking it behind a pay wall.”

I could not agree more.

The online CLE provider Lawline.com has launched a mobile-enhanced website that allows all of its more than 300 video CLE programs to be viewed on most mobile phones and smartphones. While it is not the first to provide audio of CLE through a mobile phone, it is the first to make it easy to view video of courses.

Open www.lawline.com in your mobile browser and you will be redirected to Lawline’s mobile-enhanced site (or just go directly to m.lawline.com). Once there, you are presented with a list of categories (ADR, antitrust, banking, bankruptcy, etc.). Select a category to see the list of courses offered within it. Or, you can toggle the view to see a list of all courses by title.

Once you select a course, you come to a page from which you can launch the video. The page includes a description of the course and tells you the states in which it is eligible for CLE credit. From this page, you download a PDF of the course materials or an MP3 file with just the course audio. I like that the page includes reviews of the course from others who have taken it.

Embedded at random points within the videos are verification codes that you will need if you want CLE credit. These provide proof that you watched the whole video. After you’ve completed the course, you are e-mailed a certificate of completion.

So far, it costs nothing to view any of these videos on a mobile phone. I suspect that this free access is only temporary, given that Lawline describes this new mobile-enhanced version as a beta. Plus, unless you are a registered Lawline subscriber, you cannot obtain CLE credit for any of these mobile course or download any of the course materials.

Prices for Lawline courses generally run around $40 a credit. It offers a variety of subscription bundles or a full year of unlimited CLE for $499.

One minor complaint about the mobile version is that it does not show course prices — or at least I couldn’t find them.

As I mentioned earlier, there are other ways to get audio of CLE on your mobile phone.  For example, West LegalEdCenter and Practising Law Institute both have apps for the iPhone and iPad. There are a number of CLE podcasts available through bar associations and private providers.

But Lawline appears to be the first to provide video. Having now watched bits and pieces of a few of these, I can report that the mobile site is easy to use and that the videos ran without a glitch.

I am attending a debate in New York City tomorrow, Dec. 3, entitled “Evolution or Revolution? The Future of the Law Firm Business Model.” I plan to live-tweet during the debate and later to sum it up in a blog post.

The program is sponsored by LexisNexis and features a stellar line-up of panelists:

The program is scheduled  for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. ET, although I am not sure precisely what time the discussion will start. Anyone interested can follow me on Twitter tomorrow evening, @bobambrogi.

Beginning in February 2009, the Martindale.com lawyer directory will include rankings and commentary from London-based Chambers & Partners, Martindale’s parent, LexisNexis, announced today. The addition is part of a broader effort to enhance Martindale.com through the introduction of new tools and new sources of data, rankings and commentary, the announcement said. The Chambers guides list the top lawyers in 175 countries, providing independent rankings and editorial commentary.

A Chambers icon will appear next to profiles of those lawyers and law firms on Martindale.com that have been ranked by Chambers. Clicking on the icon will open a window linked to the Chambers Web site showing rankings and editorial commentary. These rankings will be in addition to Martindale’s traditional Peer Review Ratings and its more recently launched Client Review feature. Earlier this year, Martindale announced an agreement with LinkedIn to link lawyers’ Martindale listings with their LinkedIn profiles. It also continued to develop the beta version of its professional networking site, Martindale-Hubbell Connected, which I reviewed here earlier.