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What Does a Program Attorney Do?

Cali Franks

What Does a Program Attorney Do?
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Continuing Legal Education, or CLE, is a way to sharpen legal skills and receive updates on changes and legal trends; however, it is sometimes seen negatively as a necessary evil by many. After all, attorneys spend hours of their year watching and attending CLE programming to ensure their competence (and licensure) is up to standard. But because these programs carry a wide range of topics, from case law updates to hot topics like “Free Britney” and everything in between, there is always a topic someone will find interesting. Because things in the law are usually never black and white and are constantly evolving—which is a perfect storm for constant programming ideas—a program attorney will enter into their role to sort through and create the content for CLEs.

Not Your Average Legal Path

Not many people go to law school intending to become program attorneys; many law students (and practicing attorneys) have never heard of a program attorney. I certainly fell in that group, but fortunately, this amazing job found me. After graduating from law school and passing the Texas Bar, I began working for a civil litigation firm. In my spare time, between billable hours, I became involved with the local young lawyer’s bar group. During my first meeting, they asked for volunteers for the CLE committee to work on creating CLEs that would draw the interest of new attorneys. Being eager to help, I raised my hand and soon became the chair of my local bar’s CLE committee and created many CLEs for our state bar members. Eventually, this volunteer role would lead to an opportunity to become a program attorney and ultimately shape the rest of my legal career.

Using Those Often Forgotten Legal Skills

Creating CLEs requires creativity and listening to the lawyer instinct cultivated and forged during law school and your legal career, but it also requires utilizing skills beyond those honed in a “normal” legal career, like drafting motions and appearing in court. It also requires networking skills beyond the “potential client” baseline interactions that most attorneys are accustomed to and creating genuine connections within your network. Creating CLEs also allows you to gain expansive knowledge of various legal fields from those most passionate about it.

I describe myself as a passionate person; I have always enjoyed listening to someone talk about a tree in a forest if they were excited about it—and then promptly go out to the said tree to experience it myself. The ability to create a genuine connection with individuals based on their passions made my transition from traditional law a no-brainer. Finding someone’s passion and exploring that passion, as it takes shape into a CLE program, is a journey. Sometimes attorneys do not realize the importance of their passions; it’s an honor for me to shine a light on them. Seeing attorneys in their element presenting topics they are enthusiastic about is one of the most extraordinary things about this line of work.

Existing outside the Average Legal Job

Although CLEs are not always enjoyable for everyone, either watching or creating them, it is possible to find ways to make them full of excitement and intrigue—you could even say it is one of my passions! This reverence for CLEs, and the creativity I was able to explore and expand on in my bar service, led me to the position of program attorney at Lawline, a leader in online CLEs that offers CLE credit in all states. Our CLEs empower the legal profession’s pursuit of justice and have topics that could interest any attorney seeking legal education in any topic.

For me, the days of e-filing and taking depositions are gone. Instead, I spend my days finding and meeting excellent attorneys across America (and the world) who are passionate about the law and want to share their knowledge. I watch countless CLEs and review numerous news sources to find the next hot topic or legal trends—I never have a shortage of interesting dinner table legal news.

There is something magical about being at the forefront of the legal world. The law will always remain a passion of mine. But as a program attorney, the creativity and insight I get to offer the legal world by finding incredible attorneys and creating engaging CLEs is my contribution to the betterment of the legal community. Although I did not start law school even knowing this job existed, I am very thankful it found me. To be successful in law, you need passion and education, and as a program attorney at Lawline, I get a front-row seat to both.