Do you suffer from ‘seminar syndrome shame’?
Most of us have suffered from seminar syndrome shame (“SSS”) — the “lost opportunity disease” that occurs when we expend valuable time and money on educational seminars only to accumulate CLE hours and nothing more. But the nation’s current economic environment has forced us to search for new ways to further maximize our hard- earned paychecks.
What steps does your firm take to ensure the maximization of CLE dollars and time spent? First, make a list of all CLE programs you’ve attended in the past one or two years. Then note beside each program the portions that were most useful and valuable to you and your firm.
The next column should reflect what changes you have implemented (or are still hoping to implement) as a result of attending each CLE program.
The final column is your “catch-all” spot for miscellaneous comments or deadline dates.
Why bother to do this when you’ve made a mental note at a program to make certain changes based on things you learned? To answer that question, we only have to think back to all the seminars we’ve attended throughout our careers, and ask ourselves how often were we motivated by innovative ideas shared by motivating speakers and went back to our offices with every intention of quickly implementing what we learned?
The reality for most of us is that we returned to our offices excited about what we could do differently, put our seminar materials in a safe place and then decided to tackle some of the catch-up work awaiting us before starting work on implementing our planned changes in the very near future.
Unfortunately, the “day in the future” almost never comes. Instead, our countless seminar books sit faithfully in the same spot they were put when we returned from each program.
Before we know it, a month passes, six months, a year — and still we haven’t gotten around to making any changes, and usually we haven’t even shared our ideas with anyone else in the office.
The bottom line: Our best intentions have been laid to rest right alongside our seminar manuals yet again.
So let’s go back to our extremely simple form above. If nothing else, we should use this or a similar “cheat sheet” to make note of changes desired and add a weekly recurring reminder to our computer calendars.
These simple steps will keep us mindful of our seminar enthusiasm and up the odds that we will indeed take steps to make the worthwhile new ideas and planned changes a reality. Otherwise, they remain just good ideas like any of our other good intentions that get lost in the chronic busyness of our days.
What else can we do to maximize the value of time and money spent on CLE programs and materials? Here’s a starter list:
– At least a few days ahead of each CLE program, make a list of questions regarding the topics to be taught. This kind of list helps remind you of the subjects of most interest to you and your firm and allows you to frame more specific (and better quality!) questions for the speakers;
– Take along post-it type self-sticking “flags” to mark key points of interest to you in the handout materials for easy referral post-program;
– When note-taking during the program, include in the right or left margins the relevant page numbers in the handout materials;
– Have a specific, separate place to note your questions or desired clarifications as they arise so that when Q&A moments arise with the various speakers, you will not forget anything;
– Make sure you obtain the speakers’ contact information in case future questions arise about their materials or presentations;
– Within 24 hours of the program, jot down all the highlights from the CLE and the ideas you think may work well in your office (see the simplistic form above);
– Calendar frequent reminders so that your great intentions and ideas don’t fall victim to your 90 mph days;
– Schedule a mini-workshop in-house for appropriate attorneys and/or staff members during which you share what you learned and make your suggestions for specific changes. Plan enough time for a short brainstorming session regarding potential new systems and other changes after you’ve shared the highlights of the CLE program;
– Set target deadlines for implementing ideas that are agreed upon; and
– Monitor your progress and hold yourself and others accountable to do their individual parts to better ensure successful (and lasting!) results.
This list is by no means all-inclusive, but it is a good place to start.
Avoiding the multiple losses caused by SSS is a great way to help maximize your firm’s investment in its people and to broaden and enhance continuing education efforts. I hope you remain “SSS-free” and that you refuse to settle for just CLE hours ever again.
Former practicing lawyer Nancy Byerly Jones is the author of “Easy Self-Audits for the Busy Law Office,” available from the American Bar Association.
Please visit her Web site at www.nbjconsulting.com.
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