In 1981, at a time when most legal services programs anticipated great retrenchment and the loss of an organized training program at the national level, the Director of the Region IV office, Majorie McDiarmid, convened representatives from the region to encourage the development of a structure to produce and deliver training without formal regional support. The resulting organization, the Committee On Regional Training (CORT), has successfully designed and produced 6 - 10 multi day interstate trainings each year. Originally there were four states involved - Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Virginia elected to withdraw and collaborate with states in the Southeast Region. CORT was the first multi-state membership legal services training organization. In the 1990’s, CORT began its ongoing collaboration with the Management Information Exchange (MIE) to design and present management and legal work supervision trainings. In 2008, CORT began its “First Fridays” webinar series. In January 2015, Indiana became a member of CORT.
CORT is an independent non profit organization which is funded by dues paid by member programs. Initially, the dues were based on a percentage of LSC funding only, but in light of the shift to non federal funding, the dues are currently .15% of each member program’s previous year’s annual revenues. Payments are made out to Committee on Regional Training. The Board is comprised of attorney, non attorney, client, and "state support" representatives from each of the four states, which are chosen in a manner determined by each state. Many of the Board members are themselves actively involved in designing and producing trainings. The Board meets semi annually, and is increasingly holding one of these meetings by conference call.
How Training is Planned
CORT sends out an annual survey to learn about programs' training needs and plans for the coming year. The Board members then select the trainings to be offered in the coming months, and solicit volunteer programs for producing the trainings. The Board also identifies the needs for new training packages which may then be developed. CORT generally sponsors only skill trainings and substantive training that is susceptible to regional training (e.g. developments in federal consumer, housing, SSI laws, etc.)
The program(s), who agree to sponsor a training are responsible for:
- advertising the training,
- arranging the facilities,
- recruiting trainers and other volunteers who may be needed,
- providing copies of training materials.
In Michigan and Ohio, many of the logistics are undertaken by the State Support programs. However, in Indiana and West Virginia, various staff may be assigned. CORT has a detailed training protocol which outlines the steps to be taken. In general, experienced trainers may volunteer to advise a program or person who is sponsoring a training for the first time. After trainings are completed, the Board reviews evaluations, and makes recommendations for improvements.
How Training is Financed
CORT dues pay for:
- trainer travel, room and board at the event;
- meeting facilities;
- consulting fee if needed for trainers outside legal services programs,
- training specific expenses such as materials, volunteer fees (for witnesses, e.g.),
- board meetings
- a small administrative fee, and
- an annual audit.
Dues paying programs are able to send as many participants as capacity allows without any registration fee. Non dues paying programs in the CORT region are charged $300 plus a pro rata share of the cost of the particular training. Programs outside the CORT region pay a set registration fee. Most programs especially if they plan to send more than one or two persons to training in a year - find it more economical to pay dues. Local programs are responsible for the travel, room and board trainings for their own staff.