As AI becomes more pervasive and lawyers are seeking guidance on how to navigate our rapidly evolving AI legal and regulatory environment, we are seeing a big increase in continuing legal education (CLE) events regarding AI and the law.

These events are often produced by law firms, bar associations, law schools, legal tech providers, general AI providers and legal industry organizations. They can be delivered in-person, online via a webinar or a hybrid approach. Sometimes there’s a fee to attend these events and sometimes they are provided free of charge. Sometimes these CLEs may qualify for formal CLE credit for lawyers and sometimes they don’t.

I think it’s good that we are seeing an increase in AI CLEs as lawyers need to become more educated about AI and lawyers have an ethical obligation to understand the benefits and risks of using technology to help serve their clients. I try to attend as many of these events so I can continue to “skill-up” on AI and to obtain different perspectives in this area.

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in two CLEs regarding AI and the law – one as a “roundtable” participant in Chicago that was coordinated by ACC Chicago and hosted by the law firm Mayer Brown and one as a speaker on an AI panel that was hosted by Baker McKenzie in Washington, DC. I really enjoyed participating in these events and I learned a lot.

As we see this large influx of AI CLEs, it can be hard to determine which ones makes most sense to attend. Here’s my thoughts on what makes a strong AI CLE:

Offer Practical Takeaways: Like most CLEs, the best AI CLEs are the ones that provide the audience with real-world best practices that lawyers can actually use to serve their clients. Those AI CLEs that focus on providing practical steps for lawyers to navigate growing AI considerations versus focusing on legal theory regarding AI offer the highest value. AI CLEs would also be well-served by providing a “leave-behind” or other materials that capture such practical takeaways.

Basics of AI: I think it’s smart for CLEs to provide a short overview of the basics of AI at the very beginning of any AI CLE- and especially since many lawyers remain unfamiliar with the fundamentals of AI technology. Those AI basics should be delivered in a super easy to understand fashion and without a heavy dosage of technology jargon so that it can be easily consumed by a legal-centric audience. Also, consider whether it makes sense to provide a very short AI demo – and be sure that your demo actually works!

Have Great Speakers: While it may be very obvious, having excellent speakers will help make your AI CLE memorable and vice-versa. I continue to see some lousy speakers at AI CLEs (and at many non-AI CLEs) as we see the growth of many so-called “AI Experts” out there. Please take the time to conduct the appropriate due diligence to secure top-notch speakers – and especially if you are charging a fee to attend.

Balanced Speakers: Your speaker slate for an AI CLE should also be inclusive so that it can represent a wide range of perspectives. Of course, this focus on inclusivity is consistent with key leading Responsible AI principles that we have been seeing recently like fairness and inclusivity. Also, please be sure to avoid any “manels.”

In-Person vs. Virtual: There are various pros and cons associated with in-person versus virtual CLEs. While in-person events can be pricey to produce and requires a fair amount of coordination of logistics, they also provide better networking opportunities for speakers and the audience. I also believe that having an appropriate venue and food/refreshments are critical in making an in-person CLE experience successful. While webinars don’t offer the same networking opportunities like in-person CLEs, they typically involve lower costs to produce, and they can be scaled to reach a much wider audience on a remote basis.

Roundtable Format: As the intersection of AI and the law continues to be in its early stages, I’m a big fan of having informal roundtable CLE sessions about AI where there may be discussion leaders/facilitators for various AI topics and roundtable participants actively contribute to the conversations. I find that this roundtable format can enable an immediate and rich sharing of ideas and best practices on AI – and especially when there’s an understanding that Chatham House Rules are in effect.

Panel Format: Having AI CLEs that are structured as being more an AI topical-focused panel(s) are also highly popular in nature. In my experience, there no should be no more than 5 people per panel in order to provide panelists with equitable opportunities to contribute to the discussion and a highly skilled panel moderator is needed to keep the discussion moving forward.

Presentation Format: AI CLEs can also be delivered in a traditional presentation format whereby a presenter delivers his/her presentation to an audience via PowerPoint slides or something similar. If you decide to go down this route for an AI CLE, please consider having relatively short presentations that are no more than 15 minutes in length and perhaps in a Ted style-talk format as the attention spans for your audience will be very limited and there’s few presenters who can capture an audience’s attention for an extended period of time.

AI Legal Ethics: Obtaining CLE credits to account for state bar requirements are an incentive for lawyers to attend CLEs. The AI legal ethics area is actively evolving as we speak. In my view, educating lawyers on how to use AI in a responsible and legally ethical fashion is a topical area that is important and is growing in-demand.

Enable Audience Participation: The best AI CLEs promote very active audience participation by providing opportunities for the audience to pose questions to speakers – whether that is done live in real-time or via some technology option that is part of any virtual webinar. Carefully consider how your AI CLE enables audience participation in some meaningful fashion for the learning benefit of everyone.

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Photo of Dennis Garcia Dennis Garcia

Dennis Garcia is an Assistant General Counsel for Microsoft Corporation based in Chicago. He practices at the intersection of law, technology and business. Prior to joining Microsoft, Dennis worked as an in-house counsel for Accenture and IBM.

Dennis received his B.A. in Political…

Dennis Garcia is an Assistant General Counsel for Microsoft Corporation based in Chicago. He practices at the intersection of law, technology and business. Prior to joining Microsoft, Dennis worked as an in-house counsel for Accenture and IBM.

Dennis received his B.A. in Political Science from Binghamton University and his J.D. from Columbia Law School. He is admitted to practice in New York, Connecticut and Illinois (House Counsel). Dennis is a Fellow of Information Privacy, a Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States and a Certified Information Privacy Technologist with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Please follow Dennis on Twitter @DennisCGarcia and on his It’s AI All the Time Blog.