As the legal industry becomes more complex and competitive, there’s never been a greater need for competent managers. Legal managers play a crucial role in a law firm or organization.
Though legal managers may rise through the ranks of legal administration or make a career switch from a related industry, in either case, it’s crucial to have the expertise and core competencies to manage effectively.
If you’re interested in becoming a legal manager or moving up in your career, becoming a certified legal manager (CLM) demonstrates that you have the skill and depth of knowledge required in law firms. Here’s everything you need to know about getting a certification in legal management.
What Is the CLM Legal Certification?
The Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) is the credentialing body of the Certified Legal Manager (CLM)® Program. This certification allows legal management professionals to demonstrate a mastery of core areas of knowledge in their field through a standard examination process.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Certified Legal Manager?
There are many benefits to becoming a certified legal manager, including:
Increased Professional Credibility
No matter the stage of your career, becoming certified adds to your professional development and instills confidence in your skills and competencies. It also shows a dedication to your field and continually improving yourself professionally, which is appealing to employers.
Career Advancement Opportunities
Being a legal manager can earn a high salary, but it varies by education, skills, experience, and certifications. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re seeking to level up in your career, having a certification can widen your prospective job pool and command a higher salary.
Enhanced Knowledge and Skills
The certification sets the standard for the industry and ensures that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform in your role. Junior-level professionals gain top-tier knowledge while senior-level professionals can stay current and competitive in their field.
Recognition of Expertise
Getting certified ensures professional recognition of your expertise – much like passing the bar exam for a lawyer or being a boarded medical professional. A governing body that set the professional standards verified that you meet or exceed them, giving employers confidence in your abilities.
Competitive Advantage in the Job Market
The legal job market is becoming more competitive, especially for a growing field like legal management. Having a certification can help you stand out in a pool of similar candidates with similar education and experience, giving you more options for prospective jobs and an opportunity to negotiate job offers from a strong position.
Access to Exclusive Resources and Updates
As a member of the Association of Legal Administrators, you will have access to members-only resources and industry updates to help you stay at the top of your field.
Ability to Navigate Complex Legal and Business Environments
Passing the CLM exam ensures that you have the knowledge and management skills to perform in your role at a 30- to 50-attorney law office and offer advice and guidance without the input of others.
Who Should Obtain Their CLM?
A CLM can enhance your current career and make you a more attractive candidate to law firms and highly sought organizations. CLM certifications are appropriate for:
Education Requirements for CLM Certification
To attain a CLM certification, candidates must have a minimum of three years of full-time work experience as a principal administrator or branch office management of a law firm or legal department. This can include work as a legal manager, legal department manager, legal operations professional, or law firm administrator.
There are no specific requirements for CLM education but earning a bachelor’s degree in related fields like business administration, management, or law can be helpful in developing skills necessary for the legal industry.
All candidates are required to complete at least 120 hours of coursework in writing, communication, self-management, information technology, and organizational development. This can be done with workshops, seminars, or conference programs through the ALA, colleges and universities, or professional organizations. This must be completed within 24 months prior to the application date.
Functional specialists, such as human resources, facilities managers, or finance managers, must complete an additional 15 hours of coursework in designated areas to apply.
Once you have your certification, you are a CLM for three years. After that time, you can become recertified every three years by providing evidence of participation in 36 hours of continuing professional education in designated fields.
4 Tips to Prepare for the CLM Exam
Interested in taking the CLM exam? It’s not easy, so here are some tips to prepare:
1. Create a Study Schedule
It can be difficult to balance work and preparing for the CLM exam. Create a study schedule to ensure that you prioritize time to focus on your studies. Choose the time of day that works best for you, whether that’s early morning, evenings, or weekends.
2. Review Exam Materials and Study Resources
The ALA offers helpful study materials to help you prepare and excel at the exam. The official Study Guide for the CLM Exam Practice Questions, Preparation and Reviews covers the four functional areas of the exam with review questions and a 100-item practice exam.
3. Take Practice Exams
The Study Guide for the CLM Exam Practice Questions, Preparation and Reviews includes a helpful practice test and review questions that you can use to test your knowledge and skills prior to the exam. If you have study groups in your area or online, working on the review questions and practice exams together can be helpful.
4. Stay Updated with Industry Trends
Some of the CLM exam covers issues the legal industry is facing from a managerial perspective. It’s important to be well versed on legal trends and updates, including the increased adoption of legal practice management software and how it affects law firms.
As a working CLM, you may need to provide input and guidance in choosing and implementing new legal technology in your firm or organization. This may include getting a buy-in from management and illustrating the benefits of legal case management software for improving firm efficiency and productivity.
Continuing Education for CLM Certification
As mentioned, CLM certification requires continuing education to maintain your certification periodically. There are many ways you can go about your education requirements, including:
Attending conferences, seminars, or workshops relevant to legal administration
Taking online courses or webinars focused on legal administration and management
Completing university or college courses focused on legal management
Engaging in professional development programs or certification courses
Writing articles or presenting at industry conferences or events
Volunteering for professional organizations or committees
Participating in mentorship programs
Staying updated on trends with industry publications, journals, and legal management resources
Earning additional professional certifications to bolster your CLM status, including the PracticePanther certification to demonstrate mastery of legal practice management software
Outlook on Becoming a Certified Legal Manager
Whether you’re currently working in legal management or looking to make a career change, earning a CLM helps you showcase your mastery of the core areas of legal management and stand out in a crowded field of potential candidates.