On the Legal Marketing Association’s listserv there is chatter as to whether or not a business development program is eligible for CLE credits.

On his Lawmarketing.com listserv Larry Bodine began a thread with “Law Firm Marketing’s Academic coming of age,” referencing the launching of a graduate seminar in professional services public relations by Kent State University in Ohio.

Then, this morning, I read the Altman Weil summary of their 2008 Chief Legal Officer survey where 49% of those surveyed are planning on increasing their in-house staff, and decreasing their use of outside counsel.

All three of these issues would seem to point the way towards the acceptance by lawyers (and the state bar associations) that in addition to being really smart attorneys and understanding the application of the law where their clients are concerned, they also need to embrace legal marketing, business development, communications and PR in their efforts to remain relevant with their clients.

And while receiving validation from higher education that what we do has merit is nice, and offering CLE credits to attorneys will get more of them to show up at business development programs, I question how any of this aids a lawyer in becoming a rainmaker or more business development savvy.

When I offer business development and marketing programs for attorneys there is no CLE credit provided, but I do serve great food and the rooms are usually full. Looking around the room, I am more concerned at who did not show up as opposed to who is there. I can always count on those who make rain, and those they shower upon, to be there. They are self-motivated. For everyone else, if there are no CLE credits attached it’s a waste of their time. They could be billing on a matter for a client someone else brought in the door. If in the rooms, these are the same people who will be on their Blackberry or marking up a document, but never listening or paying attention to the speaker … but they’re getting CLE credits!

How short sighted of them, and of us. Rainmakers cannot be developed with CLE credits alone. There has to be a measure of self-motivation that we can then develop.

I very much agree that lawyers must value what we do in order for us to be successful and to assist them in being successful. I also believe that lawyers need to be taught the elements of business, including business development and marketing. I also believe that we should reward them with a number, including CLE credits … if that’s what it takes.

However, until law schools change their curriculum to include professional services marketing courses, and state bar associations recognize that the fundamentals of business administration are as necessary to the practice of law as understanding recent case law and legislation, it will remain up to individual attorneys to take responsibility for their personal and professional development, no matter what type of incentives we provide. After all, the L in CLE is for legal.