After 34 years of providing continuing legal education (CLE) to Maryland’s lawyers, the Maryland Institute of Continuing Professional Education for Lawyers (MICPEL) will close its doors on February 28, 2010. Since 1976, thousands of Maryland lawyers have gained valuable education, information and training through MICPEL and its experienced faculty of volunteer lawyers and judges who serve as the Institute’s instructors and publication authors. But a combination of financial woes brought on by the recession, stiff competition from 80+ other CLE providers and rapidly advancing technology ultimately overwhelmed MICPEL.
Since its inception, MICPEL has served as a valued CLE resource for Maryland lawyers. MICPEL was created as a 501 (c) (3) corporation with its own Board of Trustees and Officers by the Maryland State Bar Association, the University of Maryland School of Law and University of Baltimore School of Law. The Institute recruited experienced practitioners who shared their knowledge and skills with Maryland lawyers through substantive CLE live programming and legal publications.
In the last decade, MICPEL has struggled with severe financial challenges as it competed with a growing list of for-profit CLE providers, local bar association CLE programs and online CLE options. Essentially, the CLE landscape has changed dramatically in the last 15 years, crippling MICPEL’s program attendance and, thus, its revenue. Due to these insurmountable circumstances, MICPEL will cease its operations, with deep regret, at the end of this month.
According to MICPEL’s Board of Trustees, the primary reason cited for its closing was “a lack of financial resources which impeded MICPEL’s ability to adopt new technology, develop new products and maintain sufficient staffing levels to generate the revenue to cover its necessary operating expenses.” Increased competition from for-profit CLE providers, combined with the recent economic meltdown, created a “perfect storm” of unfortunate circumstances that MICPEL was simply unable to navigate.
Unfortunately, MICPEL was unable to weather the storm. MICPEL thanks the many volunteer lawyer instructors “who ultimately became leading lights of the Maryland community” and “allowed many of us to be taught by some of the best legal minds in the state.” It also thanks its dedicated staff.
Looking ahead, strong and effective CLE will continue in Maryland, and it is of vital importance to MSBA. Currently, MICPEL Trustees and the MSBA are in continuous consultation, and a special MSBA Board of Governors task force has been formed to oversee the unraveling of this organization.
MSBA is working with this task force to assess all legal options and will continue to support its MSBA Sections that have, and will continue to be, the source of excellent CLE. MSBA Sections will continue developing outstanding CLE programs and will utilize webinars and other technological innovations to deliver CLE to its members.
MICPEL’s farewell to Maryland’s legal community from its Board of Trustees - “the decision to close MICPEL was difficult and painful.” The Trustees are “saddened to say goodbye to an institution that has successfully fulfilled its mission for so many years.”