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CLM Application Requirements

Legal Management Certification: Where to Start

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to take the CLM exam and committed to showing you’re at the top of your legal management game. Your first step is to apply for the exam.

This page outlines the application requirements for the exam. It’s a lot to take in — if you have any questions or need to talk through the process, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected]. Plus, our online application will walk you through all the steps outlined below and prompt you for the necessary documentation.

A note for applicants based outside the United States: We welcome legal management professionals from other countries to apply to become a Certified Legal Manager. One caveat: Major portions of the examination are based on U.S. federal law.

We’re Here to Walk You Through the Steps to Certification

Should you have questions at any time, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected].

Those applying to take the CLM exam must be currently involved in the full-time work of managing a legal organization, such as a private law firm, legal clinic, government agency, corporate legal department or court system, or have been working in such full-time employment within 24 months of the date of application.

Additionally, CLM applicants must have three full-time years of experience as a principal administrator, branch office manager (see numbers one and two below) or functional specialist (see numbers three to eight below) of a law firm or legal department in an exempt-level position.

Unsure if your job description matches up? We know you may still have questions. Please feel free to out to us at any time at [email protected].

Our job descriptions can help clarify, too:

1. Principal administrator: A legal management professional who is responsible for overall management of activities for a law firm or law department, including principal elements or supervision of all the following functional descriptions (see numbers three to eight below), including management of most of the following activities: policymaking, strategic and tactical planning, business development, risk management, quality control, organizational development, and other general management functions beyond mere attendance at management meetings.

2. Branch Office Manager: A legal management professional who is responsible for the day-to-day administrative operation of all or most support functions of a branch office within a multi-office law firm. Supervises the support staff responsible for various office operations including functional descriptions (see numbers three to eight below). Received function direction about branch administration from other management in firm in areas such as finance, insurance and leasing. May report to office managing partner and/or executive director or directors in the same branch or other branch offices.


Applicants have three full-time years of experience in a supervisory position as an exempt-level specialist in a law firm or legal department in any of the functional areas. A supervisory position is one in which the candidate has primary responsibility for employee selection and termination, evaluation, salary determination and assignment of work.

3. Financial Management: Including management of most of the following activities: planning, forecasting, budgeting, variance analysis, financial reporting, operations analysis, general ledger accounting, rate determination, billing and collections, cash flow accounting, banking relationships, investment, tax planning, tax reporting, trust accounting, payroll, ERISA accounting and other financial management functions beyond mere recordkeeping.

4. Human Resources Management: Including management of a majority of the following activities for the legal, paralegal and support staff: recruiting, selection, placement, orientation, training and development, performance evaluation, salary administration, employee relations, motivation, counseling, disciplining, discharging, benefits administration, workers’ compensation, personnel data systems, organizational analysis, job design, resource allocation and other human resource management functions beyond mere recordkeeping.

5. Systems Management: Including management of a majority of the following activities: systems analysis, operational audits, procedural handbooks, cost/benefit analysis, computer systems design, programming and systems development, information services, records management, library management, office automation, document construction systems, information storage and retrieval, telecommunications, litigation support, legal practice systems and other systems management functions beyond mere procedure manuals and computer program documentation.

6. Facilities Management: Including management of most of the following activities: space planning and design, office renovation, purchasing, inventory control, reprographics, records management, reception switchboard services, telecommunications, mail, messenger and other facilities management functions beyond mere purchase order processing.

7. Marketing Management: Including management of most of the following activities: participation in planning and developing firm, departmental and individual attorney marketing plans; collection and analysis of marketing research data; preparing and managing marketing budgets; developing and implementing marketing programs; coordinating marketing efforts among new departments and offices; and participation in developing strategies to identify, select and promote new services, offices and attorneys.

8. Practice Management: Including management of one or more of the following activities: lawyer recruiting, lawyer training and development, legal assistant supervision, practice development, work product quality control, substantive practice systems and other practice management or administration of any legal organization.


All CLM applicants must provide evidence that they’ve completed at least 10 hours of coursework within the 24 months preceding the date of application — at least two hours of coursework in each of the five Management Skill Categories listed below. A maximum of 12 hours can be obtained in interactive, technology-based self-study programs. Functional specialists have additional education requirements, which are outlined below.

Coursework may be completed in any of the following competencies or combination of competencies that comprise the category.

Management Skill Categories

  • Writing Skills: To meet the criteria of writing skills, the course work must demonstrate they can write effectively, clearly and concisely. Examples include grammar skills, writing memos, emails, policy manuals and proposals. Writing skills also includes education that provides vital information about creating technical documents such as employee handbooks, requests for proposals (RFPs) and job descriptions.
  • Communication Skills: To meet the criteria of communication skills, the coursework must cover communication skills — either verbal or nonverbal — such as effective, clear and concise oral presentations to staff and lawyers, interpersonal and interaction skills, performance counseling skills, body language skills, listening skills, etc.
  • Self-Management Skills: To meet the criteria of self-management skills, the coursework must cover how to acquire and/or improve a skill that manages yourself and ultimately your job, such as time management, stress management, (simple) project management, priority management, memory skills, problem-solving, producing plans and schedules, self-motivation skills, resilience-building and boundary-setting, etc.
  • Information Technology: To meet the criteria of information technology skills, the coursework must cover the “how to” aspect of information technology. Information technology includes the features and capabilities of computer network hardware and software systems, including practice support systems, document assembly and management systems, training in the use of computer systems, such as word processing, and accessing informational databases, etc. It also includes important features such as the ethical and security aspects necessary for rolling out, for example, an extranet.
  • Organizational Development: To meet the criteria of organizational development skills, the coursework must focus on developing effective management and leadership skills that lead people, departments and organizations, such as leadership styles and techniques, team development, management principles, and organizational development techniques such as change management skills, coaching skills, negotiation skills, culture management techniques, conflict management techniques, etc.

Additional Education Requirements for Functional Specialists

If your role is a functional specialist, you also must show you’ve completed the 10 hours of educational coursework as noted above, as well as an additional 15 hours of coursework in areas other than the field in which you primarily work. (The educational coursework must be completed within the 24 months preceding your application date.)

These areas include financial management, human resources management, legal industry/business management and operations management, which includes technology management. For a complete listing of subject areas, see the Body of Knowledge

Of the 15 hours of coursework required for functional specialists, a maximum of 12 hours can be obtained in interactive, technology-based self-study programs. (See Self-Study Criteria below.)

Each course must meet the following criteria:

  • All educational courses or sessions must be at least one hour in length.
  • Each 60 minutes of educational instruction can include no more than 10 minutes of introductory remarks, breaks or other noninstructional activity.
  • These courses may include accredited college or university coursework, workshops, seminars, live webinars and conference programs offered by ALA or its chapters; the American Bar Association; state and local bar associations; the International Legal Technology Association; the Legal Marketing Association; the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants and state CPA associations; the International Facilities Management Association; the Society for Human Resource Management; the American Management Association; and other law-related associations and nationally recognized professional education providers.
  • Acceptable programs of learning must be intended and designed to maintain or increase the professional competence of legal managers. The program must be an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction and qualified instruction.
  • The program has a course description that includes specific educational objectives.

What doesn’t count for eligible credit? Social activities, business meetings (chapter or other), roundtable discussions, idea exchanges, or business partner or consultant presentations that are product-specific and intended to promote a product or service.

A maximum of 12 hours of self-study coursework can be used to meet the education requirements for all applicants. An interactive, technology-supported self-study program is defined as a program that uses interactive learning methodologies that monitor learning or participation in the course using software or online technologies.

Technology-supported self-study programs must include all the following:

  1. The program has a course description that includes specific educational objectives.
  2. The program requires participant response to questions that test for understanding and provides feedback to participant responses indicating the response is correct or incorrect.

A certificate of successful completion from the provider of the program (if outside of ALA) must be submitted for consideration of any interactive, technology-based self-study program. Note that recorded webinars have separate requirements for approval as self-study programs.

Self-Study Webinar Criteria: What Counts and What Doesn’t

Webinars will count if …

Live webinars are considered as regular, live sessions (not self-study).

Recorded, on-demand webinars are considered self-study eligible for CLM credit only when they include all the following elements:

  • Participants can contact the presenter to ask questions and they will receive a timely response.
  • Participation is monitored throughout the program using a system that requires periodic responses from the user.
  • Fast-forwarding is disabled.

Webinars will not count if they entail …

  • Online programs that lack the interactive elements of the self-study criteria.
  • Listening to an audio program that lacks the interactive elements of the self-study criteria.
  • Watching a video that lacks the interactive elements of the self-study criteria.
  • Reading an article or book that lacks the interactive elements of the self-study criteria.



All applicants must read and endorse the ALA Code of Ethics. You'll also find a PDF there to download and sign. 

Now you’re ready to take that step to show your commitment to the legal management profession. We strongly encourage you to apply early to increase the likelihood that you will secure your preferred exam location. However, the preferred location is not guaranteed.

There are two ways to apply:

  • Submit your application online. You’ll complete the application, pay our fee and submit your education worksheet.
  • Submit your application by mail. After completing this application, please send it along with the Education Worksheet. All fees submitted with applications sent by mail must be paid by credit card or by personal or organizational check, money order or cashier’s check payable to the Association of Legal Administrators. Send to:

    Association of Legal Administrators
    CLM Certification Center
    P.O. Box 95583
    Chicago, IL 60094–5583

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