Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : September 2006

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MICPEL Celebrates 30 Years

~Looks to high-tech future~

For 30 years, the Maryland Institute of Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers (MICPEL) has served as a comprehensive CLE resource for Maryland lawyers, providing high-quality legal education programs and publications to sharpen practitioners' legal skills so they may better serve their clients. MSBA's legal education arm has catered to the CLE needs of Maryland attorneys for three decades, keeping them abreast of the latest legal trends, new laws and most recent developments in over 20 substantive areas of the law. This year, as MICPEL celebrates its 30th anniversary, it salutes its cadre of volunteers and Maryland lawyers for their ongoing support.

Attorneys still
hunger for a live
connection; they
want to listen to
and interact with
a live person.

Brent Burry
MICPEL Executive Director

For the last three decades, MICPEL has shaped the foundation for legal education in Maryland's legal community and advanced CLE as an important component of today's law practice. It has honored its commitment to provide traditional CLE programming to Maryland lawyers while artfully adapting its curriculum to the ever-changing legal marketplace and legal landscape. MICPEL continuously adds new publications and programs to reflect timely "hot" legal topics that are relevant to contemporary practitioners and is now streamlining its CLE delivery system through advanced new technology.

Since its inception in 1976, MICPEL's basic tenet has been members of the bar and the bench raising the professional level of the legal profession by sharing information and expertise with colleagues at the Bar, according to Brent Burry, MICPEL's Executive Director. "We help lawyers do a better job for their clients," says Burry. "Our altruistic vision is to promote civility and professional excellence; this is what MICPEL is all about."

It is also about dedicated and committed volunteers. Burry applauds MICPEL's 600-700 annual volunteers who help Maryland lawyers. "Many of the names of the volunteer faculty members who presented courses during MICPEL's formative years are still at it 30 years later," exclaims MICPEL's Executive Director. "They are still contributing their time and talent to MICPEL to help raise the level of lawyer competence and professionalism in Maryland."

Challenges
Although MICPEL has faced major challenges in three decades (some considered insurmountable at the time), this valuable CLE resource has persevered and is thriving as the primo CLE resource for lawyers in Maryland. While it has undergone numerous changes, some things have remained relatively the same.

For one thing, "we are still a non-profit, self-supporting institution in a non-mandatory CLE state," explains Burry. MICPEL operates in one of only seven states where CLE is still voluntary. "The differences are profound between voluntary and mandatory CLE states," where attorneys must take a certain number of credits every year.

Then, there is the Internet, which has profoundly affected the way society seeks and finds information today. "MICPEL now competes in an electronic market with online competition from numerous Internet providers," explains Burry. "We compete with for-profit commercial CLE providers to stay in business, not to mention competition that has resulted from a major consolidation in legal publishing."

"Electronic competition makes it more difficult to attract attorneys to traditional, live CLE programs where they have to leave and spend time outside of the office," remarks Burry. "But, paradoxically, MICPEL's registration is still increasing," he adds, "and attorneys still hunger for a live connection; they want to listen to and interact with a live person." This may be one of the reasons MICPEL still enjoys participation from a solid share of lawyers in the state.

Milestones
Over the years, MICPEL has achieved many milestones, most notably its impressive list of significant publications and well-respected legal education programs. "Our publications are truly significant," proclaims Burry, "and many are now authoritative bibles for lawyers and judges." He cites MICPEL's civil and criminal pattern jury instructions and many books as examples.

In addition, MICPEL has gone from an annual operating budget of $80,000 to $2 million, increased staff from one part-time person to 14 full-time and four part-time employees, and institutionalized close to 40 annual and semi-annual meetings in 12 different practice areas. It also moved to MSBA headquarters in the late '90s and, according to Burry, now enjoys an "even stronger partnership with MSBA."

Burry praises MSBA for its partnership and on-going support of MICPEL. "[I am] thrilled MSBA President Ed Gilliss has made CLE a priority this year. It's so gratifying," beams Burry. "MSBA's focus on this core value of the legal profession puts even more emphasis on the fundamental aspect of what MICPEL and MSBA are all about."

"MICPEL has come a long way," exclaims Gilliss. Congratulating MICPEL on 30 years of outstanding service to Maryland lawyers, he adds "MICPEL has grown in three decades, adapting to meet the changing needs of practitioners. The quality of MICPEL's offerings continues to be excellent and one would be hard pressed to find an attorney's library that is without MICPEL publications on the shelf."

Background
MICPEL was created by MSBA and University of Baltimore and University of Maryland Schools of Law in 1976 to consolidate the state's CLE efforts into one non-profit, independent agency. "We started in the basement of the University of Baltimore School of Law with an $80,000 loan from MSBA and held our first seminar in January 1977, presenting a total of 30 courses that year," reports Burry.

Since then, it has constantly added courses, seminars, audiotapes and publications and stepped up its CLE marketing efforts. In 1999, MICPEL was reorganized, and Burry became its new Executive Director. Under Burry's leadership, MICPEL began forging closer ties with MSBA Sections to foster a true collaborative CLE effort. "MICPEL seeks suggestions from all Sections on programs, scheduling and ideas. We want to work with each individual Section and give members what they want and need to help them keep that competitive edge in their area of practice," states Burry. He actively works with the Sections, "drawing on their expertise to present basic, intermediate and advance programs in their substantive area."

Burry also began capitalizing on technology to prepare MICPEL for the evolving high-tech electronic information market and strengthen its role as a full-service CLE resource. In 2001, MICPEL began exploring new technologies, user-friendly programming formats and other contemporary innovations to streamline its delivery system and give practitioners across the state a competitive edge." Several years ago it upgraded its website, www.micpel.edu, to be more user-friendly and convenient to its customers: Maryland attorneys.

This year, working with MSBA, MICPEL will focus on delivery systems that utilize technologies and user-friendly programming formats so it may better connect its CLE opportunities with all Maryland lawyers. "More and more of MICPEL's enormous amount of content and legal resources (taped presentations, audiovisual tapes, lecture outlines, polished edited treatises) will soon be available online and more readily accessible, as will online payments, to make financial transactions easier for our customers," predicts Burry. This is not only a major leap; it is a major undertaking.

Celebration
For the next 12 months, MICPEL will be commemorating its 30th anniversary with special programs and other attractions. In April 2007, it will host an anniversary gala, "a fun celebration tied to our new emphasis on attracting financial support to build MICPEL's endowment," reports Burry. Planning for this is already underway by a special committee led by MICPEL President Gilbert Holmes, Dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law.

"We will engage in a fund-raising campaign, and conduct marketing efforts to publicize notable milestones in MICPEL's first couple of formative years as part of our celebration," reports Burry. "We will also focus on MICPEL's current vitality and relevance as Maryland's primary source for continuing legal education and law practice resources (through seminars, books and other media products) and our plans to expand our accessibility through online content."

As MICPEL celebrates its 30th anniversary, it is already looking forward to the next 30 years. Our priority is and has always been quality – in programming and in customer service," asserts Burry. "MICPEL will continue to help lawyers do a better job for their clients."

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: September 2006

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