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Frequently Asked Questions

Studying for the Exam

Why doesn't ALA sponsor a CLMSM test prep course?

ALA follows the standards and guidelines established by the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). Their standards recommend that the certifying body of an organization be separate from the education function. ALA is not structured that way and since it is the certifying body, does not offer an exam preparation course.

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Is there a single source I should use to prepare for the CLMSM Exam?

No single resource is adequate for preparing for the exam. Potential resources are:

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What is the most successful way to study for the CLMSM exam?

There is no one specific way to study for the exam. All adults learn in different ways. You need to analyze yourself to determine your best learning style. One good technique is to try to attend a session on adult study skills and exam preparation. Perhaps you can arrange for the chapter or local educational institution to provide such a course in their professional development and life skills program.

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How many hours do I need to spend studying each week?

If you have an established study group in your chapter, you should add individual study time too. Depending upon the length of your study program – 12 weeks, 6 months, etc., you should plan to dedicate a fairly significant amount of time for self-study – between 5 and 15 hours a week is not unreasonable. Study consistently and commit to it as a routine habit each day.

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Is the Essential Competencies course a good way to prepare for the exam?

The Essential Competencies program is designed to provide foundational skills and knowledge required for successful law firm management. Those new to the profession, less experienced administrators, or functional specialists wishing to expand their knowledge in other areas, will benefit from this foundation. It is NOT designed as a preparatory course for the CLMSM exam however.

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Chapter Study Groups

Are there specific types of programs (other than the core competency sessions) you would recommend to include in a Chapter Study Program?

Many chapter study groups have begun to include a session on study skills, exam preparation, and reading through exam items.

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What does Core Competency mean?

In 1995, 2000, and again in 2007, ALA conducted the Competency-Based Education, Job and Needs Analysis. Through this extensive research project, ALA investigated the job of a legal administrator and identified the body of knowledge needed to perform the job successfully. Core Competencies, then, are the essential areas of knowledge legal administrators must have to best perform their job.

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I am the only one in my chapter preparing for the exam. How can I get the chapter – or vendors – to help educate me?

Since all of the information covered on the exam is also relevant to the effective execution of the daily responsibilities of legal administrators, request that your chapter education committee schedule some sessions that would assist you as well as be of interest to chapter members. In addition, once you determine the areas of knowledge you need help with, look for vendors or other educational resources in your area that could augment your written resources. You might set a breakfast meeting with a vendor that would be designed to educate you on some specific area, such as BOMA or insurance issues.

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What can ALA do to assist in developing study groups?

ALA makes several resources available online including the CLMSM Information and Application Packet and the Guide to Developing a CLMSM Study Group. ALA Staff are also available to answer questions about the application process, educational requirements, suggested speakers, etc.

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How can chapter leaders help chapters develop CLMSM Study Groups, or programs – especially when many of the members don’t want to tell anyone they are going to sit for the exam?

Although it is difficult to develop a “formal study group” if members are reluctant to tell anyone that they plan to sit for the exam, chapters can take a pro-active approach in developing their educational programs to ensure that all chapter members who plan to sit for the exam have opportunities to participate in programs specifically developed around the body of knowledge necessary to pass the exam. Chapters must also take special precautions to ask speakers to delineate between state specific and federal laws – especially as they relate to human resources issues. Chapter leaders must continually promote and support the concept of the CLMSM program, the use of study groups and educational sessions with the chapter to help members obtain proper educational opportunities. Chapter leaders must assist in identifying members who can lead this charge to a successful CLMSM study group.

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What can chapter leaders do to help generate excitement about the program?

Chapter leaders should use the experience of local chapter CLMs and the services of ALA HQ staff, directors, and regional representatives to promote the CLMSM program. Chapter leaders should stress the importance of the program to committees and members at every opportunity.

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How can chapters use vendors to assist in developing study groups?

Vendors are an excellent resource for speakers. They may either have speakers to offer, or know of speakers relevant to your topics. Additionally, vendors may be willing to sponsor programs or study groups, or provide the study group with a meeting location.

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