Thursday, May 10, 2018

Pennsylvania "Dissolves" Its Continuing Education Subsidiary -- What's Next?

This summer I will attend (and be a speaker for) the two-day Elder Law Institute hosted by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI).  It is the 21st time the annual institute has been offered and I think I've attended 20 of them.   Many of the movers and shakers in elder law from the national scene, including my blogging colleague Stetson Law Professor Becky Morgan and Justice in Aging's Eric Carlson, just to name two, have been keynote speakers over the years.   I find the Elder Law Institute to be not only educational in the traditional sense of classroom learning, but an important place to catch up with the informal ways that our profession is changing and moving on.   

So, it was with a real dose of surprise when I was catching up on local news today and learned that PBI's parent organization, the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA), voted in mid-April to "dismiss" the governing body for PBI and to, in essence, shut it down as the educational arm of the bar association.   Financial problems are cited in one article from Law360 as the motivating reason:.

... Dennis Whitaker, a partner at Hawke McKeon & Sniscak LLP who was removed as the president of PBI's board of directors as a result of last month's vote, told Law360 on Thursday that the takeover plan had come as both a complete surprise and despite what he said were viable plans to right the institute's finances.
"The action was unexpected and we all felt it was unwarranted," he said. "We were on a path to turn the organization around."

Whitaker said that the bar association's move to dissolve and absorb the institute, which has provided continuing legal education programming as an independent entity for more than half a century, was unveiled at a meeting between the leadership teams of the two organizations on April 11.

"We had no notice this was coming," Whitaker said.

That news was supplemented by the Pennsylvania Bar Association's announcement via email today that PBI will become "a department" of  PBA, and will continue producing live programs and publications.   

Signs of the times -- including a sign of what seems to be the legal profession's impatience with traditional formats for mandatory CLE.  In my experience, the demand for modular, portable education is growing -- but that type of product isn't necessarily more cost effective to produce.

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