Lawyers … And Everyone Else

This Wednesday night, the New York City Bar Association is holding a panel discussion on how to promote your law firm through a blog. Bill Gates, the e-flyer notes, says the value of websites and email distribution is declining, and blogs, with their unique RSS technology, are the future of internet business. To be discussed are such topics as how to implement and market a blog, the ethics of blogging, how lawyers have bettered their reputations through blogging, and the value of RSS feeds and other blogging functions.

I’m uninterested in learning how to promote a law firm through a blog, but am intrigued by the discussion because of my general interest in Long Tail trends, and of course my personal interest in blogging.

This panel discussion happens to be given for CLE (Continuing Legal Education) credits as well. New York attorneys need to earn a total of 24 CLE credit hours every two years, so the Bar Association offers several CLE programs throughout the year and gives its members a discount on them. Being a public interest lawyer, discounted though they may be, I still can’t afford the Assocation’s fee for the credits, so I earn mine either through my job (which gives the classes to its attorneys for free) or a criminal defense organization in NYC that makes them available to government and non-profit lawyers either for free or for a nominal fee.

Anyway, I’ve already earned all of my credits for my upcoming registration, so I’m not interested in attending the program for credit. So I called the Bar Association to make sure it was okay if I attended either for free or for a nominal fee since I did NOT want the CLE credits, and was told that I couldn’t attend unless I paid the full amount for the panel discussion — $195 for members, $305 for non-members. This is a 3-hour-long program. I re-emphasized to the person I spoke to that I did not want any credits, I merely wanted to sit in, and she repeated that I still had to pay the entire fee.

Media Bistro, a professional media arts guild here, and the Women’s National Book Association, an organization promoting women and publishing, have both held similar panel discussions. For theirs, Media Bistro charged $25 for members, $30 for non-members, WNBA’s cost was $0 for members, $10 for nonmembers. I understand charging a slight bit more if you’re going to have panelists who will give you workbooks and very specific step-by-step how-to’s, but the panels I’ve attended there have been just as general as the ones I’ve attended elsewhere (ie: people talking about their own personal experiences and successes). Plus, if you’re actually going to buy the Association’s “materials” there’s a separate charge of at least $100 more. And, they haven’t even mentioned who the panelists are going to be. I don’t understand. Does anything really justify this difference in cost?

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