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Professional development is a major key to success, not just for lawyers, but also across many industries. Many firms and organizations happily pay for professional development that is related to your position, or to help you advance within the firm or company. Some will even provide employees with their own budget for any kind of education.
But, when your firm or company won't foot the bill for courses to help you advance, let alone your CLEs, do you really owe it to them to do job-related development? What about when they're only willing to pay for job-related courses?
If you're actually trying to climb that ladder, talk to your boss, mentor, or whoever is in charge of professional development, to see what the company is looking for and can offer. Showing initiative by seeking out training and advancement opportunities is, usually, something firms and companies like to see.
If you're not interested in the available opportunities at your organization, or there are none, you may need to reevaluate your path, or at least your professional development. If you can afford time away for CLEs in areas you may be interested in, it can really pay off. Meeting the top horse lawyer could be how you finally break into a whole new industry and life. But don't neglect policies that might require you to complete certain CLE courses, or other trainings.
Also, depending on your organization's culture, you may need to keep your professional development in other areas on the down-low. Although, you could just keep your secret desire to transition into equestrian law to yourself and pretend that weekend in Montana was just a V-CLE.
Even if your plan is to jump ship, taking the courses your current organization is looking for or offering might not be a waste of time. If the development offerings can help you at a new employer, and your current employer will foot the bill, or maybe just give you credit for your hours, take advantage. If you signed a contract, reread the terms about reimbursement for, or other sections about, development.
If you're planning your exit, and your organization's offerings only focus on learning to make the company Kool-Aid, or helping you improve in your current role, looking into other opportunities for development may be necessary. Requesting reimbursement for those other opportunities should only be done after reviewing your company's policies. You may need to provide justifications for taking courses that might not be, or may only be tangentially, related to your role.