In November 1941, a special edition of the Massachusetts Law
Quarterly included a report from the Massachusetts Bar
Association's Committee on Recommendations which expressed a strong
need to provide "conferences on subjects of a legal nature, legal
Sixth months later, continuing legal education (CLE) in
Massachusetts was officially born under MBA President Mayo A.
Shattuck with the establishment of the first two-day annual
conference in Swampscott in May 1942, called the Massachusetts Law
Institute. The event became known as the Swampscott Institutes and
served as the annual legal education refresher for the state's
attorneys for many years.
As CLE in Massachusetts enters its 75th year in 2017, the MBA's
commitment to legal education continues today through the delivery
of professional and thought-provoking CLE programs.
"As the MBA celebrates our 75th anniversary of offering CLE, it
is a time to contemplate the hundreds of thousands of hours of
valuable teaching disseminated to lawyers over those many years.
This demonstrates the MBA's value to the legal community in
educating lawyers to help them to become the best they can be for
their clients," said MBA President Jeffrey N. Catalano. "More
recently, we have offered CLE free to members, which is further
proof of the MBA's deep dedication to education."
Today, the MBA offers between 80 and 100 free CLE programs every
association year. This includes courses, luncheon programs, legal
chats and seminars. In addition, the MBA facilitates eight major
conferences per association year in different locations throughout
the state (Probate Law, Family Law, In-House Counsel, Labor Law,
Labor and Employment, Health Law, Complex Commercial Litigation,
Dispute Resolution). Later this spring, the MBA will present its
first Child Welfare Juvenile Justice Conference.
The MBA also annually provides seven Practicing with
Professionalism (PWP) sessions for newly admitted attorneys in
Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Lowell and Taunton. Launched in
2014, the course was developed in response to Rule 3:16, which
mandated that all newly licensed attorneys in the state attend a
day-long PWP course.
In addition to courses and conferences offered in-person, the
MBA's CLE program went digital with the launch of MBA On Demand in
2010, allowing members to watch a recorded program online anytime
from the comfort of home or the office. Certain programs also
feature a live webcast where members can watch them in real-time
from a remote location.
While CLE has evolved since that first meeting in Swampscott
(see related timeline), it remains a voluntary yet vital part of
the legal profession in Massachusetts, as lawyers hold fast to
their belief in the importance of a highly-educated and
"Education has been one of the major reasons why the association
was formed. It's an important part of your practice, not only when
you begin, but also as you continue and keep current with the law
throughout your career," said MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief
Operating Officer Martin W. Healy. "Massachusetts, as a whole, has
been on the forefront of continuing legal education, even though
it's not a requirement that's set out by our court in order to
continue being licensed."
Keeping up with changing times
As new laws and emerging technologies continue to reshape the
legal landscape, CLE provides a way for attorneys to stay current
and relevant within the profession.
"The law is so dynamic and changing that it's impossible to keep
your skills sharp and confident unless you attend CLE," noted MBA
past President Denise Squillante, who previously served on the
MBA's Education Committee.
Whether it has been alimony reform, new child support
guidelines, attorney-led voir dire or even the legal implications
of drones, the MBA has been and continues to be at the forefront of
offering both timely and relative CLE programs to keep its members
informed of the latest changes and developments in the law.
And MBA members have been instrumental in keeping CLE up to date
through the years.
Ideas for applicable CLE courses come from several sources
including Section Councils, core curriculum from the MBA's program
services department, collaboration with the Young Lawyers Division
and discussion threads on My Bar Access. There is also an online
submission form for members to recommend a CLE program on a
particular topic of interest.
"The process for submitting, approving and executing programs is
more streamlined than ever before," noted Marc A. D'Antonio, senior
programs manager at the MBA.
Value beyond the classroom
Hon. Bonnie H. MacLeod (ret.), chair of the MBA's Education
Committee, estimates that she has attended more than 100
MBA-sponsored CLE programs while also serving as a moderator or
panel member for more than 20 programs. CLE has been a constant
benefit throughout her legal career on both a professional and
"The benefits of attending CLE through the MBA lie not only in
the high-quality of the presentations and the materials, but also
in the networking and mentoring opportunities they provide.
Connections that will last a lawyer's entire career can be made at
such events," acknowledged MacLeod. "I know this is true for me.
Professional relationships and friendships of decades' duration
were forged through the MBA."
MBA past President Marsha V. Kazarosian, a former member of the
MBA's Education Committee who was president in 2014-15 when the new
"Free CLE" benefit gave members unlimited access to CLE courses,
agrees that the educational value of CLE extends beyond the
specific course material being taught.
"You're not only learning what they're teaching you, you're also
having an opportunity to meet and relate to the bench in a way that
you normally wouldn't, especially as a young lawyer," Kazarosian
said. "You're learning not only from what the faculty is teaching,
but also from the questions that are asked and how they're
The benefits of CLE are part of the reason it remains so popular
despite being voluntary.
According to the American Bar Association, Massachusetts is one
of just four states (in addition to the District of Columbia) that
does not have a mandatory CLE requirement for its attorneys.
Maryland, Michigan and South Dakota are the other three states
without the requirement. Connecticut just recently added a
mandatory CLE requirement as of January 2017.
Kazarosian co-chaired the MBA's Task Force on Mandatory
Continuing Legal Education with current MBA Treasurer Christopher
A. Kenney in 2011-2012. The task force conducted research and
ultimately reported to the House of Delegates that mandatory CLE
was not a necessary course of action to pursue.
"Massachusetts has an extremely high percentage of lawyers who
still do continuing legal education," remarked Kazarosian, "not
because they have to, but because they want to."
From Swampscott to laptops:
the evolution of CLE in Mass
Continuing Legal Education is born in
Massachusetts under the leadership of MBA President Mayo A.
Shattuck. The first two-day annual conference at the New Ocean
House in Swampscott includes the Massachusetts Law Institute, which
remains for decades the state's most important forum for refresher
courses. WWII veterans are in particular need of such courses.
MBA President Raymond Barrett attends
a national conference on continuing legal education sponsored by
the American Bar Association and the American Law Institute at
Arden House in Harriman, NY. Consensus of the meeting is that bar
associations should have the responsibility of providing continuing
legal education courses to lawyers.
Chairman of the MBA Committee on CLE,
Laurence Lougee, gets Board of Delegates approval and $10,000 for a
statewide education program.
Richard Millstein is hired to
implement statewide CLE programs for the MBA; for the first time,
Massachusetts has continuing legal education courses available
across the commonwealth to every member of the bar.
Massachusetts Continuing Legal
Education (MCLE) is organized from a collaboration between the MBA
and the Boston Bar Association to bring an end to conflicting and
MBA adopts resolution that CLE should
be on a voluntary, not mandatory basis.
The MBA hosts its first Labor and
Employment Law Spring Conference. The conference marked its 37th
year in 2016.
The Chaplin Report recommends the
Supreme Judicial Court not adopt mandatory CLE.
The Supreme Judicial Court issues an
advisory opinion accepting the recommendation against mandatory
The MBA reaches a new agreement with
MCLE, which allows the MBA to offer its own CLE courses without any
The MBA hosts its first Family Law
Conference, which becomes a popular annual event for the next 25
The MBA hosts its first Western Mass.
The MBA hosts its first In-House
MBA On Demand is launched, allowing
members the opportunity to watch an MBA program online from the
comfort of their home or office at a time that suits their
schedule. Real-time webcasts are also available for members to
watch a CLE program live from a remote location.
MBA President Richard P. Campbell
creates a Task Force on Mandatory Continuing Legal Education to
study the issue.
The Task Force on Mandatory
Continuing Legal Education, co-chaired by MBA Vice President Marsha
V. Kazarosian and Christopher A. Kenney (a region 10, Worcester
County delegate), provides an overview of its report to the House
of Delegates. "The message was Massachusetts lawyers are a very
self-motivated group," Kazarosian said. "Many are not against CLE,
just the mandatory aspect of it."
The MBA hosts its first Probate Law
The MBA begins offering free
educational programming to members, excluding conferences and the
In response to Rule 3:16, the MBA
begins to offer a mandatory Practicing with Professionalism (PWP)
course to newly admitted attorneys in Massachusetts. The day-long
program is offered in different locations throughout the state.
The MBA hosts its first MassBar
ski-LE event, combining legal education with a fun afternoon of
skiing and networking at Wachusett Mountain Ski Area.
The MBA hosts its inaugural Complex
Commercial Litigation Conference.