A Personal Journey to the CLM
April 1, 2007 Publication Source:
December 2006 / January 2007
by FREDERICK J. ESPOSITO Jr., CLM
Director of Administration, Meyer Suozzi English & Klein, P.C.
Headline: A Personal Journey to the CLM
On October 10, 2006, I received the official notification from ALA that I had met the requirements for certification and passed my CLM examination. It’s official: I am now a Certified Legal Manager! As one can imagine, the news made my day and had me catching my breath frequently as I called relatives, friends and well-wishers about my recent achievement. Colleagues at my firm were ecstatic and quite proud of my accomplishment – so much so, they threw me a party featuring a tiramisu cake! Life can be sweet.
After the initial excitement had settled and I started thinking about my accomplishment, I realized that it was important to share my experience with other ALA members. Strangely enough, for some the idea of working toward the CLM has a stigma attached to it. Based on my personal experience and discussions with others, it seems this stigma actually keeps people from taking the CLM journey.
Admittedly, I was very hesitant before booking my passage. A plethora of thoughts went through my head, and at the top of the list was my fear of failure. If I failed the exam, would it mean I was stupid? What would my colleagues think? Would that impact my professional reputation? The anxiety was ever-present, but after a year or two of mental hopscotch, I finally decided in May 2006 to “catch the wave” and sail into the CLM exam in September 2006.
I began my journey by pursuing pre-qualification for the program and exam. This process can be just as tedious as the exam, but taking the time to organize my education credits to meet the established prerequisites was a worthwhile experience in itself. After sorting out all of my continuing education course material from the past two years, I sent the information to ALA headquarters with my application fee and prayed that I would be pre-qualified. Within a day or two, I received the e-mail that would change my life for the next several months: My CLM journey was a “go.” I promptly completed my reservation for the September 14 exam and sent it along with my payment for passage, and thus my journey began.
I later discovered that many who embark on the CLM journey keep it under their hats for the reason I expressed before: fear of failure. I knew, however, that in order for me to get through this journey successfully, I would need to disclose my plans to my colleagues and friends, and I did! I met with some of the newest CLMs in Philadelphia and talked with other CLMs around the country. What a great support system! Everyone took considerable time to assist me and point me in the right directions for efficient studying and preparation.
However, in my haste to tell everyone I was pursuing the CLM, it occurred to me that if I fail, everyone would know about it. Nevertheless, I had made the decision AND commitment to move forward, so I was determined to let the chips fall where they may.
HITTING THE BOOKS
During the summer, I spent seemingly every free moment studying for the CLM exam. My resources included the Barry University Study Guide, The NYC Chapter Study Guide (which I highly recommend as a resource – thank you Rita Thompson, CLM), the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as many of the resources listed in ALA’s CLM Information Packet. Studying, reviewing and digesting all of the information represented a constant challenge.
As this part of my journey progressed, I started to feel a sense of accomplishment in knowing that I was learning a lot and working to improve my skills as a legal administrator – and that was when it really hit home! Pursuing the CLM wasn’t so much about failure and what others would think, but more about how I got there – the process and the journey. After that epiphany, I strived even more to refresh my well of knowledge.
A few weeks before the actual exam, I received a 25-question practice exam from ALA. I quickly took the exam and answered only 13 of 25 correctly. Needless to say, I was a bit discouraged, and I started having second thoughts about taking the real exam. I spoke to at least five CLMs, all of whom reassured me, but the one who really encouraged me to stay on track was Barbara Foley, CLM. She reminded me of the value in the journey and that a potential first-time failure was OK – after all, I could take the exam again. It was simple advice, but it rang true. The message once again was to experience the process and put aside my fear of failure.
THE BIG DAY
Finally, September 14 arrived, and I sat for the CLM exam. The exam room and proctoring reminded me a bit of the SAT; the only thing missing was picking up the test and smelling the mimeograph solution before proceeding! The exam began, and I sat for the entire four hours. The CLM exam was not as bad as I anticipated, but it was difficult, and I definitely needed to be prepared for it. My studying efforts were clearly not in vain.
I was the last person to leave the room, and when I left, I felt a bit light-headed and really didn’t know how I did. Then it dawned on me that I would have to wait four to six weeks to receive my results! The anxious waiting game began, and I started fielding questions about the exam and whether I had heard any news of my results.
About a month later, the envelope from ALA materialized in my mailbox. I opened all of my other mail first and then finally worked up the courage to open the mail from ALA. I ripped open the envelope and went right to the bottom line. … I passed!
Words cannot adequately describe how I felt at that moment. The past several months converged into that one moment, and I really felt like I had accomplished something important and that my journey had real meaning. I immediately sent e-mails to my senior partners and the many friends who had cheered me on during my journey. I also sent flowers to Rita Thompson, CLM, author of The NYC Chapter Study Guide, thanking her for her guidance and encouragement.
Some of the highlights included phone calls from my family – from my 86-year-old grandmother (who in between bowling and gambling trips told me she was very proud of me) and from my mother, who was also very proud of me. She went on to say that if my father were alive, he would have also been very proud. I guess you’re never too old to need approval from your parents.
Attaining the CLM designation was indeed a source of pride for my family, and even colleagues in my firm, but it meant so much more to me. I have a new confidence in my abilities, and I’m proud of myself for taking the chance. I did it!
TAKE THE JOURNEY
Why am I sharing all of this with you? It is very simple. I want to tell you that the journey to the CLM is not a frightening one, but rather one of enlightenment. So many people elect not to take this journey because of fear of failure and what others might think if they do not make the grade. And we often worry about what we’ll think of ourselves if we fail! My friends, take it from someone who felt the same way. It’s like having your cable go out during a great movie and you never know how it ended. Put your fears aside and go for it! You’ll never know unless you try. It can be a very tedious journey at times, but it is well worth it in the end.
I was fortunate enough to pass the exam, and if I hadn’t, I would have taken it again until I got it right! You will be amazed by the support system available to you. So many ALA colleagues will support and encourage you. As legal administrators, we all possess that drive to succeed in our jobs, but the success I’m talking about is personal – your own.
My journey to the CLM was a challenging one. It wasn’t that scenic, it had some rough spots, and I can’t speak much for the cuisine. But it is affordable, and you’ll meet some great, supportive people along the way and learn so much about your profession. More importantly, you’ll learn more about yourself and that you should never sell yourself or your abilities short. On many levels it is a testimonial about the human spirit. Challenge and invest in yourself and grow from the experience.
I give “Journey to the CLM” “two thumbs up” and recommend that you check it out. The next CLM exam will be administered on April 29, 2007, in Las Vegas, Nevada, in conjunction with ALA’s 36th Annual Educational Conference and Exposition. For more information, visit the education section of the ALA Web site at www.alanet.org/education/cert.html.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Frederick J. Esposito Jr., CLM, the Director of Administration at the regional law firm of Meyer Suozzi English & Klein, P.C., graciously submitted this article for publication in ALA News. Contact him at email@example.com.