Application Requirements

Congratulations! You've made the decision to take the CLM exam. You're on your way to demonstrating your mastery of legal administration. Your first step is to apply for the exam.

A note for international applicants: Legal management professionals in Canada and other countries are eligible to apply to take the certification exam. They must realize, however, that major portions of the examination are based on U.S. federal law.

Employment and Experience Requirements

All applicants must meet the following employment and experience criteria:

I. Applicants must fall under one of the two following categories:

  • Applicants who are principal administrators or branch office managers (see Job Descriptions 1-2 below)
  • Applicants who are functional specialists (see Job Descriptions 3-8 below)

Job Descriptions

Must have three full-time years of experience as a principal administrator or a branch office manager of a law firm or legal department in an exempt-level position. Applicants who are principal administrators or branch office managers (see Job Descriptions 1-2 below):

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 Job Descriptions 3-8 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 Job Descriptions 3-8 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.


    Must 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.

    II. All applicants must provide evidence of having completed, within the 24 months preceding the date of application, at least 10 hours of coursework as described for all applicants. A maximum of 12 hours can be obtained in interactive, technology-based self-study programs.

    Education Requirements for All Applicants

    Applicants must complete, within 24 months preceding the date of application, at least 2 hours of coursework in each of the five Management Skill Categories that follow. Coursework may be completed in any of the competencies or combination of competencies that comprise the category.

    Management Skill Categories:

    • Writing Skills: To meet the criteria of writing skills, it must show how to write effectively, clearly and concisely. It can include grammar skills, writing memos, emails, policy manuals, proposals, etc. 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, it 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, it must cover how to acquire and/or improve a skill that manages one’s self and ultimately one’s 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, it 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, it 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.

    Education Requirements for Functional Specialists

    Functional specialists (see Job Descriptions 3-8 above) must provide evidence of having completed, within 24 months preceding the date of application, the 10 hours of educational coursework as prescribed for all applicants and an additional 15 hours of coursework distributed in areas other than the field in which the functional specialist is primarily employed:

    • 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 Contents of 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 1 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.

    The following activities are not eligible for 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.

    Self-Study Criteria

    A maximum of 12 hours of self-study coursework can be used to meet the education requirements for 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 of 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.

    Video Conferences or Webcasts

    Some fully on-demand/recorded education will be accepted for recertification credit only. This includes passive learning experiences such as video conferences or webcasts. These programs must still meet the education criteria, including that educational objectives must be published for the program.

    Self-Study Webinar Criteria

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

    2. 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

    What Does NOT Count for Self-Study:

    The following are examples of what does not count as interactive self-study:

    • 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: A maximum of 12 hours can be obtained through self-study programs

    III. All applicants shall affirm that they endorse the ALA Code of Ethics (Complete Form)

    IV. All applicants 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.

    Application Submission Options

    There are two options for application submissions. Please note that applications must be submitted or postmarked by the application deadline. Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply early to increase the likelihood that they will secure their preferred exam location. However, the preferred location is not guaranteed.

    1. Applicants can submit their applications online. Applicants will be asked to complete their application, pay their exam fee and submit their Education Worksheet.

    2. Applicants can submit their applications via mail if paying by check.

      After completing and signing this application, please send it with the exam fee along with your 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