Michael Hines, assistant director of adult services for the Judicial Branch, left, is interviewed for the Calendar Call podcast by Statewide Bar Counsel Michael Bowler.

On the heels of making 12 hours of Minimum Continuing Legal Education training mandatory for all Connecticut attorneys in 2017, Connecticut’s Judicial Branch is now making it easier to tally up those hours from just about anywhere, for free, via a recently launched podcast.

Calendar Call is the name of the new program, launched last month under the leadership of Statewide Bar Counsel Michael P. Bowler. Bowler said he pitched the idea to external affairs Director Melissa Farley last August and received immediate approval from Chief Court Administrator Judge Patrick J. Carroll.

“We spent $125 on a podcasting microphone that we got on Amazon,” Bowler said, “and we downloaded some free software. So we’re doing this on a shoestring budget.”

During the late summer and fall of 2018, a dozen podcasts were recorded on subjects ranging from MCLE rule compliance to a judicial pathways program geared toward people suffering from opioid addiction. Biweekly postings began in January.

“We feel the MCLE rule is very easy to comply with, but it still was requiring members of the bar to find and pay for CLE credits, which is difficult, especially for younger members of the bar and especially solo practitioners,” Bowler said. After posting the first podcast on Jan. 7 and letting word get out, he added, response has been “universally positive. People are happy to be able to comply with the MCLE requirement in a very straightforward and versatile format. You can listen at your desk, in your car, or while you’re making dinner.”

With podcasts coming out every two weeks, enough material should accumulate to give listeners plenty of options to complete the annual 12-hour MCLE requirement. That includes a mandatory two hours of ethics and professionalism credit. “Some of these CLEs that we’ve recorded for the podcast not only meet the lawyer’s general CLE requirement, but also meet the ethics and professionalism CLE requirement,” Bowler said. Additional materials are offered via direct links and PDF documents with each podcast entry.

Bowler said iTunes is carrying Calendar Call, with additional podcast outlets expected to list the program. It is also available via RSS feed.

Compliance with Connecticut’s MCLE requirement is honor-based, with attorneys checking a box during annual registration with the Statewide Grievance Committee, indicating completion of credit hours.

While anyone can go to the Judicial Branch’s podcast page to listen to Calendar Call, Bowler said he hopes attorneys will subscribe to the service, whether it be on iTunes or via RSS feed, to help gauge interest and support continuation of the service. “The more people who are subscribing and finding these helpful, the more we’ll be able to broaden the subjects of our podcasts and the guests that we interview,” he said.

For subscription options, visit www.jud.ct.gov/podcast/ and look to the right-hand side of the page, which currently offers iTunes and RSS subscriptions. Additional options are expected to be added in the near future.

Bowler said a team of dedicated staff members deserves kudos for its efforts in getting Calendar Call up and running, including the Judicial Branch’s External Affairs Office and its Information Technology Department. “This was really a group project,” Bowler said. “Judge Carroll has been nothing but supportive, too. They are great people.”