Message from DBA YLD Executive Council Vice Chair

The DBA YLD is seeking new board members for the Executive Council. The Executive Council consists of 11 members who help serve the Denver legal community and its members. Council members identify new strategies to engage the legal community and organize networking events, CLE’s and other opportunities for young lawyers. This includes developing new ideas, marketing and communicating, coordinating with other bar sections, promoting the YLD and assisting other young attorneys in our community. Council members are required to attend monthly board meetings at 6 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the Denver Bar Association offices. In addition, members attend various DBA YLD events throughout the year and commit to serving a three-year term.

Interested persons are strongly encouraged to attend the next Council meeting on March 8th at 6pm. Applications, including a current résumé and a letter of interest detailing the applicant’s relevant experience and characteristics including why these qualities would make them a valuable addition to the Council, should be submitted to Jim Fogg and Heather Folker by Friday, April 7. To be eligible you must be a current Denver Bar member, and under the age of 37 or within your first five years of practice.

Do not hesitate to reach out to Jim Fogg, Heather Folker, or any member of the current Executive Council with questions regarding the position or time commitment.

Jim Fogg
DBA YLD Executive Council Vice Chair

Posted in DBA YLD News

Why I Volunteer with MVL

By Steve Cook

I genuinely believe that the more we give, the happier we feel. When we are doing good for others and the community, it provides a natural sense of accomplishment that instills a sense of pride and identity. However, by volunteering with MVL, we really do accomplish another goal: the strengthening of our community.

Parents who are receiving timely child support are obviously better equipped to care for their children financially. That in turn decreases their stress and makes them better parents emotionally. They will be more likely to be happier at work and more responsible for their physical health.

Parents who are able to have a physical connection and parenting time with their children are less likely to abandon their responsibilities as caregivers for their children. Theoretically, that will decrease the likelihood that those children will act up at school or engage in hurtful behaviors toward themselves and others.

Since we all live here, we are all impacted by our neighbors’ misfortunes, problems and other challenges. We can improve the quality of life for the less fortunate among us with a small commitment to use our legal expertise to assist them in addressing their problems in a pro bono capacity. While the work can be challenging, such challenges are outweighed by the reward of seeing someone motivated by the eased financial or emotional tension in their life and the newfound opportunities that lie before them.

Steve Cook of Smith and Cook LLC is on the Metro Volunteers Lawyers Board. He can be reached at steve@smithandcook.com. This post originally appeared in The Docket.

 

Posted in Volunteering

Don’t Let Life Pass You By

By Sarah Myers

Your Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) is happy to announce our new COLAP Wellness Corner in The Docket. You will now find in every issue an article with simple yet thoughtful advice about how to reduce your stress levels and increase your life satisfaction.

The New Year has come and gone, and we are well into 2017. How has it been for you so far? Are your experiences fulfilling, emotions hopeful and positive, and accomplishments making you proud? Do you enjoy the time you spend with others? Or have you been a bit anxious and overwhelmed, with too much to do and not enough time to do it? Maybe it’s a matrix of these feelings. Life is busy these days, and many attorneys report that they feel as if life were passing them by.

Sometimes we experience anxiety over cases, working with difficult people, dealing with large workloads and worrying about the future. Sometimes we feel depressed and isolated because we don’t have the support we need to be effective in our personal or professional lives, or because our workload has been too slow for a while. Sometimes we just feel overwhelmed by the amount of responsibility on our shoulders, or the amount of tasks we have to accomplish in a day. Regardless of the reason, when we feel stressed, anxious, depressed or overwhelmed, we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy the present moment, and life does seem to pass us by.

Research in neuroscience suggests that engaging in mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, mantras, and exercise, such as yoga, helps relax the brain and the body, reduce stress levels, and increase overall happiness levels. Studies also suggest practicing more gratitude, listening to fun or calming music, having pets, gardening, and cultivating meaningful relationships with friends and family to improve your health and wellbeing. Improving our diets and moving around more throughout the day can also help shift our body’s chemistry to improve our life experiences. Most of us have heard about ways by which we can take better care of ourselves, but are we taking the time to do them?

The quickest and simplest way to reduce your stress and increase satisfaction with your life is to slow down — your thoughts, movements, speech, decision making, etc. When we slow down the “momentum train,” we can discern what is best for us. (What kind of food does your body really want or need?) We can choose more helpful thoughts that lift our mood rather than bring it down by focusing on resources and solutions rather than on the problem itself. We can respond civilly to the people around us rather than succumb to the emotional excesses of a survival mentality. Slowing down allows us to behave with maturity, grace and wisdom. The people you respect the most are probably people who, despite being in difficult or stressful situations, respond with these qualities to the world around them. Research shows that people who are the most well-liked aren’t necessarily those who are the most intelligent, the most attractive or even the most gregarious. People who are sincere, consistent and compassionate rank as the most likeable. To be consistent in our moods and behaviors so that people feel safe around us, to be sincere and honest with those around us, and to show understanding and compassion rather than judgment of others, we have to slow down and contemplate our words and actions.

Mindlessly operating in the “rat race” and spending more time with our technology than the people around us doesn’t endear other people to us — and certainly doesn’t make us feel proud of ourselves. Life doesn’t pass us by when we slow down to appreciate the people or the things in our lives for which we are grateful. The stressful cases, the difficult clients, the massive to-do lists and the glitches along the way that interrupt our plans aren’t going to disappear. If, however, we learn how to handle life’s ups and downs with more patience and dignity, we can learn to enjoy more of the ride. Carve out some time in every day to slow down and breathe mindfully and purposefully. Think about the big picture rather than the details of what you are doing and give yourself a pep talk. Things always get better when we shift our perspective because the parts of the brain focused on survival can calm down long enough for the parts of the brain responsible for happiness, joy and overall life satisfaction to take over. So hurry up and slow down — the sooner, the better.

 

Sarah Myers, J.D., L.M.F.T., L.A.C., is the clinical director for the Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) and can be reached at smyers@coloradolap.org. COLAP provides free and confidential services for judges, lawyers and law students. If you need resources for any issue that is compromising your ability to be a productive member of the legal community, or if there is someone you are concerned about, contact COLAP at 303-986-3345. For more information about COLAP, visit coloradolap.org. This post originally appeared in The Docket.

Posted in Wellness

Beyond the Safety Pin: How To Be an Active Ally

By Jill Mullen

In late November, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report called “Ten Days.” The document noted there were more than 900 reports of harassment or intimidation in the 10 days following Donald Trump’s election as the next U.S. president, a situation that the Law Center considered “a national outbreak of hate.” In Colorado, people have taken to Facebook and other social media outlets to bring attention to local instances of vandalism and bullying. A transgender woman in Capitol Hill woke up one morning to find her car covered in swastikas and derogatory terms. An African-American woman said her daughter heard a student boast, “now that Trump is president, I am going to shoot you and all the blacks I can find.” Learning about these incidents is painful and disheartening.

On a cold November evening, the South Asian Bar Association hosted a presentation titled “Beyond the Safety Pin: How To Be An Active Ally” with speakers from nonprofit and legal organizations. The event drew a large crowd of concerned and anxious lawyers. It was clear there was a prevalent sentiment that lawyers could do something to discredit or prevent this hate speech. However, there was some disagreement as to the best approach.

Acting U.S. Attorney for Colorado Robert Troyer had some consoling observations to allay anxiety about the direction of the new administration. Troyer explained that all 93 U.S. attorneys work autonomously, giving them considerable latitude when enforcing laws in their states. Therefore, a change in president or attorney general will have little effect on how each individual U.S. attorney chooses to enforce the law. Troyer promised to enforce all laws protecting civil liberties and affirmed he would not be persuaded to pursue a case he considered to be illegal or discriminatory, even if there was external pressure. As he sees it, the Rule of Law will always safeguard the ideals we hold immutable.

Another speaker, Tim Brauhn, an interfaith community leader and the communications manager for the Islamic Network Group, gave a humorous and insightful presentation on how to defuse tense situations. His first piece of advice: It never helps to call someone a bad person. In essence, you will not convince a white supremacist to stop being a white supremacist with New York Times articles and public shaming on Facebook. Brauhn says a better way to handle hateful situations is to change the conversation. For example, Brauhn recently visited a friend in Chicago. While he was at a grocery store, a drunk man started verbally harassing a woman. Brauhn quickly interrupted to ask the man whether he might be able to give directions to the baseball field. Clearly caught off guard, the man stopped yelling and started pointing directions. (Brauhn added that they were wrong.) While this might be not an intuitive response to such a situation, Brauhn says it works.

Finally, Suneeta Hazra, the chief of the Criminal Division of the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, offered some legal advice for dealing with confrontations. First, she encouraged everyone to report to local law enforcement any actions that might be considered a hate crime. If law enforcement is not helpful, inform the FBI. Additionally, always keep all evidence; your determination of what might be relevant might differ from the FBI’s. And it never hurts to report, as some acts that might not necessarily be considered hate crimes could potentially amount to criminal activity under a different federal statute.

Local bar associations will continue to help as much as possible. But, increasingly, it appears we may be entering a presidency requiring the judicial branch to (begrudgingly) take a larger role in political battles. Since Trump’s election seems to be the catalyst for a surge in hate crimes, the courts may take on a role as more of a moral arbitrator. When courts condemn these actions, it will hopefully send a message that bigoted and racist behavior is not to be tolerated. And it would be heartening to see more news coverage of small acts of kindness as opposed to reports of hateful conduct.

 

Jill Mullen works in the legislature as the Civic Engagement Director for the Colorado Senate Democrats. She earned her J.D. from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and her B.A. from New York University. Jill is also a DBA YLD Council member. She can be reached at mullen.jill@gmail.com. This post originally appeared in The Docket.

Posted in Community, Professionalism

Toothbrushes for Tots Drive Starts Next Week!

The DBA YLD is sponsoring a Toothbrush Drive to benefit Kids In Need of Dentistry (KIND). KIND is a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality, affordable dental care to children in need throughout Colorado. We are looking for firms to collect toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss. All donations will be picked up the week of Feb. 27. Sign up your firm to collect donations today. Click here for a flyer. Questions? Contact Robin Hoogerhyde.

 

Posted in Community

Why the Centennial State is Perfect in the Millennial World

A Brief History of LGBT Rights in Colorado — This blog post is a reflection from two different view points, on our Jan. 26 Coffee Talk about LGBT Rights in Colorado that was presented by Former Senator Pat Steadman.

By Maha Kamal and Ronnie Walls:

In 1991, I was a kindergartner. I liked wearing polka dot skirts with leggings, or the occasional pants with suspenders. Looking back on it, my post-tyke fashion was pretty androgynous for a 6-year old. Meanwhile, Wilma Webb was in the Colorado State Legislature introducing a bill to add sexual orientation to the state’s hate crimes law. It would take 14 years after her bill was introduced for the legislation to pass in 2005.

The next year, in 1992, I learned about the Aztecs, raised butterflies, and enthusiastically cheered on the election of Bill Clinton. It was pretty impressive for a second grader. Meanwhile, Colorado voters approved Amendment II, which banned the enacting of any law or policy that provided Coloradans protection based on their sexual orientation.

In 1996, I was drawing my own book about the history of Colorado in fourth grade. That same year, Amendment II was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans. It was a landmark victory for the LGBT movement. If I had known, I’m pretty sure I would have drawn another page in my book to mark the occasion.

In the 1990s, Colorado really was growing up a lot like I was, with its own legislative let downs, achievements, and the occasional grounding from its parents (See Romer v. Evans).

 

First, let me begin by stating that I’m a Denver transplant.  I traded the beaches of Miami for the mountains of Denver and have not looked back.  Denver consistently graces the top of many “best places to live” rankings, specifically for Millennials.  Denver has plenty of sunshine, vast green spaces, and dynamic cultures that influence everything from the arts to the local cuisine.  I now regret the many years that I spent without green chili.  However, it was not until this particular event that I truly saw what made me appreciate Denver, and the great state of Colorado:  its continuous march for equality.

As a former Legislative Aide, I have run the gambit of listening to legislators speak.  Senator Pat Steadman is the embodiment of a dynamic speaker:  his neighbor next door approach eloquently combines the history of an advocate, colored with kindness, to tell the tale of the journey of LGBT rights across Colorado.  His timeline of events was not presented by a reciter of facts, but rather told through the sparkling eyes of someone who served on the front lines, who lobbied at the Capitol, and who testified before his fellow legislators.  

 

As I sat and listened to Senator Steadman’s lecture, I began to appreciate how truly historic the LGBT rights movement was in this state during a time period that I was too young to appreciate its significance. Conservatives, like Marilyn Musgrave, introduced bills to limit marriage to one man and one woman. She also fought to ban same-sex parents on birth certificate, and won. Liberals, like Senator Steadman and Wilma Webb, did the complete opposite and were often faced with hostile governors or unwilling voters.

But things started to change in the early 2000s. Colorado began recognizing LGBT rights in employment, adoption, and hate crime laws. By 2011, it had recognized civil unions too. The pinnacle of this movement is arguably the issuance of the Windsor (2013) and Obergefell (2015) opinions, which struck down key parts of the Defense of Marriage Act and legalized same-sex marriage.

The Senator’s lecture stopped in 2016, with he introduced one of his last bills to address legal issues for those who had civil unions and later married. The lecture stopped and left us thinking about the future, particularly in the context of the Trump administration. Would the Supreme Court overturn its opinion about same-sex marriage? Would Colorado see a new wave of conservative legislation, echoing the legislative let downs of the 1990s? Would we be okay?

The Senator didn’t have a single answer for such loaded questions. One could hardly blame him. He dedicated his political life to implementing legal rights for Colorado’s LGBT community. And now he, like many others, are faced with uncertainty as to the future of these rights.

 

As the floor opened for questions, the conversation quickly turned to our post-election era.  How do we as everyday citizens, attorneys, and voters continue to impact our communities?  The desire to bring positive change to our environment is notably highlighted as a defining characteristic of the Millennial Generation. 

 Senator Steadman’s solution:  be present. 

 Tell your story, be proud of who you are, connect with your communities.  Whether you are a gay attorney, a biracial child, or you trace your roots to our founding fathers, raise your voice.  It is out of our shared experiences that we will find understanding and ultimately, the ability to continue to move forward as a community, a state, and a nation.

 I grew up in a small Midwestern town; an ordinary town that prides itself on waving to strangers.  I am also the child of an international adoption, an event that was unique to my town.  Thankfully, I grew up in a supportive environment.  My experiences led me to Family Law.  What I find encouraging is that Colorado has a rich history of fighting for the rights of all families.  Senator Steadman reminded us that the conversation in our country has evolved:  we value families and their core rights as Americans.  We must continue to write our country’s history with the brushstrokes of empathy and understanding.  Thank you Senator Steadman for reminding the legal world that our country and its laws are a living and breathing entity; that every voice matters.

 

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Ronnie Walls, Former Senator Pat Steadman, and Maha Kamal

Maha and Ronnie are partners at The Colorado Family Law Project.  They left big firm life to bring affordable and quality family law services across Colorado

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Posted in Diversity

Establishing a Strategic Plan for Your Balanced Legal Career — Workshop, Feb. 15

Don’t miss this unique workshop organized by the CBA’s Balanced Legal Career Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the DBA. In this interactive workshop, private practice lawyers will envision and begin formulating a strategic plan to achieve a balanced legal career.

Recognizing that everyone has a different definition of what a balanced legal career is, Kirby Gamblin Joseph, Managing Partner, Joseph Law Firm and President of Strategy4Success, will guide participants through a structured process that focuses on mission, vision, and firm culture, and establishes a framework for taking control of your practice.

You will also have the opportunity to hear from several seasoned practitioners from a variety of law firm settings about how they have achieved their own balanced careers.

Click here for more information and to register.

Posted in Life Work Balance

A Better You: Becoming a Mindful Lawyer

“One of the many benefits of meditation is that you begin to be able to see trouble coming up from inside you before it reaches the surface. This doesn’t mean you never get overly angry or say a careless word, but it does lessen the chances of those things happening. Anger, depression, resentment—all those things form in your thoughts first, of course, and the practice of meditation helps you see them while they’re still tropical storms, before they reach hurricane stage.”

 —Roland Merullo, Lunch with Buddha

The practice of law can be stormy, sometimes reaching hurricane stage. Such violent weather does not serve the lawyer, whether acting in the professional role of advisor or advocate, and it certainly does not serve the clients. How can lawyers calm the weather without sacrificing professional competence? One answer to that question not only eases gales but also can give the lawyer additional tools and increased competence in the practice of law. And, it reduces the toll the strain of a storm can take on health and contentment.

What is it? Mindfulness.

Mindfulness, which can be a result of meditation, has many benefits in addition to weathering the storms of feelings and thoughts. A recent article in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry listed four components of mindfulness: attention regulation, body awareness, emotional regulation, and change in perspective on the self. Although each of those components is neutral in itself, when used wisely and toward positive and wholesome purposes together, they can provide great assistance to lawyers. For example, mindfulness can reduce stress, enhance problem-solving, and improve client service. Not sure how mindful you are? You might begin a self-assessment by taking a look at the questions on the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). The MAAS is available many places on the Internet and can be found with a quick search. Below are a couple of the questions from its set of 15:

  • I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later
  • I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention
  • I find myself preoccupied with the future or the past
  • I snack without being aware that I’m eating

The more mindless one is, the more he or she will find that these are apt self-descriptions.

There are several other ways of looking at mindfulness that may be helpful. Consider it to be an attention skill. How well can you attend to, pay attention to, what is happening inside you (those feelings and thoughts mentioned above) as well as what is happening around you—in this moment right now? Or still another way of seeing mindfulness comes from Harvard’s Dr. Ellen Langer. Her deceptively simple way of describing mindfulness is: The process of noticing new things.

Ways of examining and conceptualizing mindfulness are plentiful, but for purposes of helping you assess yourself, here is one more: Mindfulness is the ability to observe yourself, to watch yourself thinking, acting, and reacting. Can you step back and see yourself as if watching another person’s mind, brain, and behavior? Are you able to watch yourself taking one perspective—and then take another? Are you able to have patience with not immediately knowing an answer, and remain with poise in the uncertainty until a good answer or solution becomes apparent, or is reached? Or do you feel uncomfortable with the unknown and jump to a quick and perhaps inadequate conclusion because of the discomfort? Are you self-authoring or are you always searching for that expert or book or technique to rely on for solutions to problems? As with all of these lenses through which you can look at mindfulness, this one too affects not only your peace of mind, but also the way you interact with opposing counsel (and others in the legal system) and help your clients.

Let’s say you want to increase your mindfulness. Not everyone is drawn to the formal practice of meditation, of course. For those who are not, there are many other methods for developing or expanding mindfulness. The options are numerous and seem to grow daily, e.g., contemplative photography, focused journaling, yoga, in-the-moment walking or running, writing about your day in third-person. At one Colorado Contemplative Lawyers Society meeting, a lawyer explained that his mindfulness practice is riding his motorcycle; and a lack of mindfulness on the bike may give the rider some quick and hard-to-ignore feedback!

Mindfulness practices are not Procrustean or one-size-fits-all. Mindfulness definitely is not developed only by sitting on a meditation cushion as some people may imagine. Knowing what practice or process works best for you will help you to stick with it. Start with these three steps. First, have an idea of why you want to incorporate mindfulness in your life; keeping that purpose in mind will guide you past procrastination or the times when you would much rather be doing something else. Second, choose a definition of mindfulness that seems most compelling to you—one you can use as a touchstone. And then, through experimentation, choose your practice.

The studies about the effects of mindfulness are plentiful; it is a popular focus of research. For those who want to stay current, Mindfulness Research Monthly is a valuable (and free) resource. Subscribe at www.mindfulexperience.org/newsletter.php. Reading this research about mindfulness each month is another way to motivate yourself to stick with the practice you have chosen. You don’t have to take the benefits on faith; science continues to prove its value. Mindfulness is not always easy, but it typically returns your efforts many times over. For the sake of your health, your personal satisfaction, and professional success, why not give it a try?

By Stephanie West Allen, a non-practicing lawyer and long-time mediator who speaks, writes, and trains on the topics of the neuroscience of conflict resolution and the benefits of mindfulness and attention. She blogs on those topics and others related to lawyers at idealawg.net and brainsonpurpose.com. This post originally appeared on The Docket blog.

 

Posted in Life Work Balance

The DBA YLD Suit Drive was a GREAT Success!

The DBA YLD collected suits for students from low-income families participating in the Mock Trial Competition from Arrupe Jesuit High School and La Academia – Denver Inner City Parish. Members of the DBA YLD board delivered the donations earlier this month and hosted pizza parties for the teams. Board members then stayed to help the teams practice for their upcoming scrimmages. Team coaches, including retired Judge Jack F. Smith who has coached the La Academia team since 2004, commented on how the professional clothing will really help these students’ self-confidence when they compete against teams from well-known private high schools. Thank you to everyone who made this drive happen!

 

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Posted in Community

Call for Volunteers — Denver Mock Trial Tournament, Feb. 3 and 4

Volunteers are needed for the upcoming Denver High School Mock Trial Tournament — Feb 3 and 4 at the Denver City and County Building!

The CBA High School Mock Trial Program affords an excellent opportunity to be involved in a rewarding and fun learning experience for our young people. This can only happen with hundreds of attorney, paralegal and community volunteers assisting. Please consider being a part of this incredible educational experience!

We are looking for presiding judges, scoring panelists and courtroom monitors. There are 2 rounds each day (12-4 and 4:30-8) and each volunteer position requires approximately 3 hours of your time. Sign up here for either day by scrolling down to the “Denver City/County” option. Thank you for your time!!!!

 

 

Posted in Volunteering

Immigration Under President Trump

By Courtney Butler

Immigration has always been a hot button political topic, and no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there is no doubt that President Trump and his administration will change immigration policy in a way that will affect lives throughout the United States.  As an immigration attorney, I am already witnessing the potential effects of these policies firsthand, but as they become even further defined, even those outside the immigration field will feel the results.

One of the biggest concerns among immigrants facing a Trump administration is the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program, which President Trump has promised to repeal.  While not a path to any type of permanent residency or citizenship in the United States, this program gave lawful status to thousands of undocumented students who had come to the United States at a young age.  These DREAMERS, as they became known, were able to come out of the shadows, obtain work authorization, and feel slightly safer in a country they had always known as home.  Because the DACA program was an executive action, President Trump has the authority to roll the program back on day one of his presidency, causing thousands of immigrants to lose their status and their work authorization.

Additionally, the Obama administration promised the DREAMERS that if they applied for DACA and willingly gave the government their information, it would not be used against them for deportation purposes.  However, the governmental FAQs for the DACA program also stated that the promise could be “modified, superseded, or rescinded at any time without notice.”  It is currently impossible to tell what will happen to the DACA program, and what will happen to the nearly 750,000 young people who are currently in status and working with authorization under the program.

President Trump has made many other promises regarding immigration, including the fact that he will build a wall on our southern border and make Mexico pay for it, that he will ban all Muslims from entering the United States, and that he will deport the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  Practically speaking, many of these promises will be tough to carry out.  Unlike DACA, many immigration benefits, such as lawful permanent residence, are statutory, and would require the consent of Congress to change.  Moreover, deporting the millions of undocumented immigrants present in the United States is a greater challenge than President Trump indicates that it will be.

First, priorities for deportation already exist, and they already assign the highest priority to the severest of criminals.  Think threats to national security, border security, and public safety, including terrorists, felons, and those apprehended while trying to cross the border illegally.  The priorities also include those convicted of “significant” misdemeanors, those who have entered the United States illegally since 2014, and those with final orders of deportation issued on or after January 1, 2014.

Even if President Trump wanted to ramp up deportations and deport those who are not current priorities, he would be facing significant backlogs in the immigration courts.  Even immigrants have due process rights, albeit not quite as strong as those given to United States citizens.  All immigrants have the right to a hearing before a federal immigration court to contest allegations and charges of removal.  However, the immigration courts are understaffed and overloaded, and hearing delays are significant.  In fact, the Denver Immigration Court has the longest delays in the nation.  In March 2016, the average waiting period for a removal hearing was 933 days (that’s 2.5 years!), and there were 9,420 cases pending.  If President Trump wants to increase deportations, he will either force an increase in the already-significant waiting time for a hearing, or he will have to increase the federal budget to fund an increase in immigration judges.  Neither option is ideal, and President Trump’s promise to “immediately” deport the undocumented immigrants in the United States is not feasible.

While no one knows exactly what immigration will look like under President Trump, one thing is for certain: we are a country of immigrants, and immigrants will continue to live in our communities, go to our schools, and participate in our economy.  I encourage you to put a human face to the term “immigrant.”  Personalize the issue, and perhaps then we can achieve the comprehensive immigration reform that we so desperately need.

 

Courtney Butler is an Associate Attorney at Joseph Law Firm, P.C., a boutique immigration law firm.  She earned her JD from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and her BA from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Posted in Immigration Law

Hanging Your Own Shingle with Kids

By Lara Zarzecki

These days, there are so many of us hanging our own shingle for a number of different reasons – flexibility, low overhead, the desire to interact directly with clients and the ability to curate your own clientele – and so many of us solo practitioners or small firm owners are also new parents or thinking about entering parenthood.  As a new mom and owner of my own practice, I have experienced many of the joys and difficulties this work/lifestyle has to offer.

It goes without saying that when you run your own practice you are often the lawyer, the IT guy (lady), the bookkeeper, the legal assistant, the envelope stuffer, the website designer, the keeper of the business receipts, the tax preparer, the event organizer, the document drafter, the face of the firm, and the backbone of the practice. Wearing all those hats is the toughest (or one of the toughest) part of being your own boss; but those hats come with an incredible amount of freedom and energizing power when you’re able to harness it. When things go right, the credit’s all yours.  Good for you! When things go wrong, you only have yourself to blame: a process that can be seriously painful, but at most times ultimately enlightening.

When you have a baby, or multiple children on top of all that, sometimes the to-do lists can seem insurmountable. Drowning in home and work tasks is not the only harrowing part; it is the unsaid but subtly pervasive biases about being a working mother that can be truly challenging. There is so much out there on this very topic: the “motherhood penalty” (the idea that working mothers encounter systematic disadvantages in pay, perceived competence, and benefits relative to childless women); the fact that a child helps your career, if you’re a man; the idea that we’re expected to do our jobs as if we don’t have children – and then raise our children as if we don’t have jobs; the cruel joke that is “work life balance;” the list goes on. As Katrina Alcorn, author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink puts it: “If you think about the model of the ideal mother, it’s the person who sacrifices everything for her child.  The ideal worker is someone who can drop everything and go on a business trip at a moment’s notice, and who can stay late – not leave at 5 o’clock to pick up kids. So if you’re trying to be both, then you are faking it.”

I find that quotation to be even more glaringly apparent when you run your own shop. When your boss is yourself, I have found that I will nearly kill myself bending over backwards for my own firm and for my family simultaneously. I can’t get miffed at a boss if I have to pick up my kid late because of a project because I SET THAT DEADLINE.  And if I have to reschedule a client meeting three times because my child has a lingering ear infection, I’m the one who has to make the call to the client, again, pleading for a new date.

It’s exhausting, and it might seem that this is a manifesto on why not to be a mom and run your own practice. That’s not the truth of it though, the beautiful thing about being a business owner and a lawyer and a parent is that you are constantly challenged, constantly growing, and hopefully making yourself a better lawyer/mom all the time. Having a baby gave me an injection of perspective like I had never experienced; I think that’s something you can only understand if you have kids, and I am absolutely certain that it has helped me as a lawyer. It is the day-to-day struggles, the questions you overhear about whether you “want to be a lawyer or want to be a mom” that can nearly break you, but just like anything else, that’s the stuff that makes you stronger.

My overall impression of this career choice is that it is absolutely a doable one, but, in my experience, only if you have a strong support network, and colleagues that believe in you and are willing to help push you along. I am grateful that I have all of theses things, which allow me to be with my son, the joy of my life, and allow me to work on the type of legal matters that I love with clients that I adore at the same time.

I realize I’m only a short way into this journey, and having one baby and doing this dance is quite a bit different than having multiple kids with demanding schedules, but here are just a few things I’ve learned so far:

  • Rely on colleagues and be proactive about asking for help; often times you can trade helpful sessions with other solos or small firm lawyers because they need the help too.
  • Organization is key. Get one calendar for everything and make sure you are diligent about entering all meetings, events and deadlines (use different colors for personal and work).
  • Outsource! Get a program for invoicing/accounting/cloud storage; hire a great accountant; use services like Mod Assistants to help with day-to-day things (these costs will be worth it).
  • When you take time to be with your kid(s) make a diligent effort to turn everything else off or else the whole point is lost.
  • Have courage because you can absolutely do it and you will be grateful you did.

 

Lara Zarzecki is an attorney at Griffith Legal Group, a boutique Denver practice advocating for entrepreneurs, creative communities, and small businesses. She specializes in business and intellectual property law for companies across a wide array of industries. She can be contacted at lara@griffithlegalgroup.com.

Posted in Career Development, Solo Practice

Not Your Typical Mentoring Program — Coffee List Mentoring

By Matthew J. Broderick

This past August at a happy hour I had an interesting conversation about legal mentoring.  The happy hour took place at a law firm’s new office space, and after a beer and a tour I found myself in a circle of attorneys discussing typical lawyer topics.  As soon as someone mentioned an idea for a mentorship program, the discussion abruptly shifted. The newer attorneys in the circle described mentoring programs as awkward arrangements, and the more seasoned attorneys complained about the time commitments for mentoring programs, as well as the lack of mentee participation.  In fact, in response to the new mentoring idea one attorney cried out, “Not another mentoring program!”

This conversation made me want to learn more about legal mentoring, and six weeks later I was having coffee with Ryann Peyton.  Ms. Peyton is the director of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP), the Colorado Bar Association’s legal mentoring program.  We discussed legal mentoring, the challenges many programs face, and the concerns raised by the attorneys at my August happy hour.  After I shared my story, Ms. Peyton mentioned CAMP’s newest mentoring program: Coffee List Mentoring.

Coffee List Mentoring is not another mentoring program, and it is anything but typical.  As. Peyton explained, Coffee List Mentoring is an informal program that allows mentors and mentees to participate at will.  There are no monthly meeting quotas, no prescribed mentor-mentee arrangements, and no year-long commitments.

Instead, Coffee List Mentoring provides a list of mentors willing to talk to other attorneys about nearly any topic (except for ethical issues which are handled by the CBA’s Ethic Hotline).  Answers to questions about billing, handling difficult clients, drafting your first complaint or other substantive inquiries are just a phone call or e-mail away.  These Coffee List Mentors are also available to attend networking events with mentees, review resumes, perform mock interviews, and assist with client referrals.  Mentees are free to call anyone on the list, and as 2017 begins, Coffee List Mentors represent 27 different practice areas.

CAMP’s hope is that mentees who contact mentors on the list will develop an organic mentor-mentee relationship over several phone calls and emails.  At that point, CAMP is able and willing to place the duo into one of its formal programs (should the mentor and mentee desire).  But this result is not required.  If a mentee contacts a mentor about a question, there is no obligation for a second call.  Conversely, if a mentor is inundated by calls or emails from mentees, she is free to withdraw from the list at any time.

As Ms. Peyton and I finished up our coffee, we thought it odd how legal mentoring programs often face difficulties despite the consensus that mentorship is crucial to the success of our legal profession.  The DBA-YLD believes that Coffee List Mentor’s innovative approach to mentorship may be a helpful way to address this issue, and we encourage young attorneys in Denver to use the list.  Call, e-mail, or grab a cup of coffee with one of the mentors available and spread the word to other young attorneys that these folks are willing to chat.  And for those of you with a few years of experience, consider adding your name to the list.

Posted in Career Development, Mentoring

Office? Where We’re Going, We Won’t Need an Office!

By Doug McQuiston

You’ve read about the “paperless” office. You may even be working in one right now. You are already using a wide range of tech tools to do more for more clients in less time. We all know it is no longer optional that lawyers learn all they can to become technologically competent. We need this know-how to keep up with the pace of our demanding practices.

But where will you go with all of that tech? Though I despise the phrase (one of the most painfully vacant expressions in modern usage), maybe it’s time to (gulp) “think outside the box” — that square space you’re sitting in right now.

You, there, in that nicely appointed Herman Miller chair, comfortably ensconced behind the handsome solid-cherry desk, resting firmly on the office-appropriate Berber carpet of your high-cost downtown office — I’m talking to you. Have you ever thought of busting out, of kicking down the walls that confine you? What’s holding you back?

We’re fortunate in Colorado. In my multi-state professional work these days, I have the benefit of seeing how things are done in other states. None of their court systems are as technologically advanced as ours. None of the states I travel to out West have court systems that are more well-suited for virtual practice than ours. Here, we are unencumbered by the anachronisms that plague the pursuit of progress in many other states.

With statewide electronic court filing, the electronic exchange of documents, teleconferences and videoconferences becoming the preferred way to talk with clients, counsel and even courts, we can “practice anywhere.” So, why don’t we?

Why are we still crawling into our cars every morning and slogging through rush hour traffic to our “box,” neatly aligned with all of the other square boxes, in the large stack of square boxes that is our office building?! Heck, The Lincoln Lawyer debuted six years ago. We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we? Yeah, I know. I don’t look like Matthew McConaughey either. And I don’t drive an old Lincoln.

But I digress by thinking out of the box.

The means to “practice remotely” are all within your grasp. You may already have the tools you need. If your firm already uses electronic files, electronic case management, etc., then there is nothing tethering you to your desk.

I mentioned my “multi-state” professional existence earlier. My work involves extensive travel to states throughout the West. There is no way I could do what I do without the ability to work in real-time wherever I am. My practice requires me to be as professionally effective in Seattle, Salt Lake City, Scottsdale and Sacramento as I am at my desk in Denver. So, I had to deploy all the tools that the present affords us to make that reality happen.

My “office” is wherever I am — not the four walls back in the Mile High City. When I am in any of my cities, my desk phone rings straight through to my iPhone 7. I don’t leave an “out of office” message because it wouldn’t be true. Most callers don’t even know I am not in Denver sitting at a desk. On my laptop (and, hopefully soon, a tablet) I am able to quickly navigate to their electronic file, (or to any of the other files in the six offices I work with), via a secure MiFi device tunneled through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). (Don’t worry — all of that structure fades into the background before you know it). I can even stay in touch on the home front with Facetime on my iPad Air.

If I have a question of one of my assistants or other lawyers, I shoot them a text on an internal messaging application. Most respond immediately, often more quickly than if I had to walk down the hall to talk with them, because they may be “remote.” If needed, I can open a videoconference with them as easily as dialing their phone. While I haven’t escaped my “box” altogether as of yet, the day will come when that happens organically. Many of you are already there, aren’t you? It is easier today than ever before to begin, manage and thrive in a “virtual law office” practice setting.

The key to it all is connectivity. None of this works if your office systems aren’t up to it. There are plenty of resources, blogs and articles out there (and right here, in back issues of The Docket) that detail the hardware and software needs you’ll face in “going virtual.” You’ll see plenty of good advice on hardware and software that will deliver what you need: a highly reliable, secure connection to your office’s files and systems (if you’re still “logging on” to the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, stop. Such networks are completely insecure).

But more important than the machines is the mindset. Too often, I have seen lawyers’ emotional reticence about technology derail them before they ever get up from their desks. They fear that all that tech will quit on them when they need it most. They fear they will never be able to “get away from work” if they are “always connected.” They worry that they will be “isolated” if they were to step away from the office. Maybe (like me), they worry that if they aren’t there to “keep an eye” on everything, it will all fall apart. I’m not here to tell you these concerns are unfounded. They’re not. But they can all be overcome, easily, with sound planning, professional execution and the right state of mind.

The answer may seem incongruous, but other “virtual” practitioners will likely agree: Remember what I said about “connectivity?” I didn’t just mean the hardware.

Just because my office is “everywhere” doesn’t mean I don’t also need to share real, face-to-face contact with my fellow professionals. In fact, that face-to-face interaction is even more important when we practice virtually. In my organization, that means getting around to my other offices to check in, talk with the teams, and keep them well-trained, well-motivated and headed in the right direction. In the broader professional sense, my “virtual” office practice makes it even more critical that I take advantage of my bar association membership.

Face-to-face contact with other professionals should never be lost when you step away from the office. On the contrary, it makes all the difference. Just because you can run your practice from the banks of your favorite trout stream or your cozy home office doesn’t mean you never need to get together with other lawyers.

By joining and getting involved in state and local bar committees pertinent to your practice, an Inn of Court, or other professional group, you retain all the best aspects of an “office practice”: the camaraderie, collegial collaboration, brainstorming and “idea factory” aspects of being down the hall from other lawyers while also gaining the advantages and time-leveraging of a virtual practice. Even getting together with professional colleagues over coffee or microbrews on a regular basis helps keep this critical form of “connectivity” active and vibrant. That “analog” connectivity is essential to a virtual practice.

The day may come when even large firms base themselves in the “virtual” world, with no fixed real estate to call home. In fact, it may already be here. (See http://blog.specialcounsel.com/employment-trends/practicing-in-virtual-law-firm/.) But we will never lose the need to connect, both virtually and actually. The secret to success in the “virtual” world is to retain the “analog” connections that nourish us professionally, while freeing ourselves from the real estate that can otherwise confine us.

And about that “always on” worry? All those tools come with convenient “power off” buttons.

Doug McQuiston has specialized in civil litigation, complex tort, professional liability and insurance law for more than 35 years. He is a member, contributing writer and past chair of the Docket Committee. He can be reached at mcquisd@nationwide.com.

 

This article originally appeared in The Docket.

Posted in Technology

First Semester of Law School: Has Stress Ever Been This Real?

By Jessica Cordero

As a graduation newborn, I thought studying for the LSAT was hard. I remember considering all of the brilliant people out there going through the same process and wondering if they thought it was just as hard. When test day came and went, I allowed myself to breathe and forget about the hypothetical smart people who sat through the same mind-melting four hours I did.

Before I fully realized what was happening, it was time to leave everything I had ever known to move to Denver and pursue a career in law. I was filled with a roller coaster of emotions, the most prominent of which were fear and wonder, as I had never met a lawyer prior to law school and had no real idea how this was all going to play out. I was essentially walking into a dark tunnel, unaware of where I was going. Armed with street smarts and dreams of changing the world, I took a deep breath and walked into the glass doors of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

After each chapter of my life, I like to evaluate where I have been, how I have changed and whom I want to be going forward. I always ask myself, knowing what I know now, what would I have wanted to tell myself five years ago? Ten years ago? This self-reflection has enabled me to connect with the past versions of myself so that I can learn and grow into whom I want to be going forward. During one particular thought session, I decided that although law school was notorious for being competitive, I was going to be kind and open to other people and their stories. I realized my big-city mentality of keeping strangers at an arm’s length did not make sense anymore because I had left the comforts of home and was suddenly surrounded by strangers. These strangers were all of the forgotten, hypothetical people I had imagined during my LSAT days. Now they had faces, names and a unique perspective that I wanted to know and discover. Getting over the “heebie jeebies” of meeting new people was not too difficult, but I found myself wondering when the ball was going to drop. I was meeting all of these wonderful people; I was in beautiful Colorado; and my school seemed amazing. My professors, although intimidating, were brilliant. Then the work began.

I thought my time management and study methods were spot-on before walking through these glass doors. But I realized that law school not only changed the way I saw the world, it challenged the way I operated within myself, and I was slowly changing. Procrastination was out of the question, and I had to really think before I spoke, lest I be corrected by a brilliant professor in a way that was both embarrassing and infuriating.

Nothing really prepares anyone for law school. The free time/work time rhythm shifts on its back, and after reading the same page three times, I realized I had just spent an hour trying to understand what justices of the past were trying to tell me. It was irritating and an insult to my perceived intelligence that it took all night to get through a few pages for each class. I wondered how these brain workouts were going to pay off. Then the weeks passed, and I could issue-spot the first time through! I knew some lingo and, to some extent, a bit of old school Latin. However, for every advance I made, there was another challenge waiting for me.

In the big bad world out there, there is a calm after the storm of stress surrounding a goal. Law school knows no such calm. It is an onslaught of “challenge, stress, finished work, existential crisis” that keeps repeating itself. I had been through quite a bit in my life but nothing like this.

There is no such thing as a “weekend.” Sure, my friends and I will set something up, contemplate canceling because of our homework to-do list, figure we deserve a few hours away from being students of the law, have fun and instantly regret the hours not spent being productive. The weekend bliss felt as an undergrad has ceased to exist. I look at the undergrads, dressed to the nines, enjoying life, and suddenly remember that was a very real point in my life. Where did that time go?

Do not get me wrong — I love every agonizing second of law school. I was built for this, and although I complain at times, I feel I have met my tribe. All of us “Type A’s” who compare how many hours we studied and laugh through the stress are people I have come to love and appreciate. We are those who stress about not being stressed, and no one had ever understood that. In earlier chapters of our lives, when we were all randomly put together with people with other life goals in mind, being smart or different was not always celebrated. Here, it is embraced. Our awkwardness and social anxiety bonds us, melds us into confident people with inspiring stories. We are more interested in what each of us brings to the table than in surface conversation. I have met remarkable people who not only share and challenge my interests, they encourage me to be inspired.

Facebook memories reminded me while writing this article that I took the SAT 6 years ago. How the time has passed! If I could tell the awkward teenage me who always felt like an outsider that I would find a group of people who dared to dream and who have bookshelves full of books they have actually read, then I would have never believed it. These people exist? Yes, they do. They are my home away from home, and even though I never thought law school would have opened these doors for me, I am as thankful for its trials as I am for its highlights.

Jessica Cordero is a 1L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. She can be reached at jcordero19@law.du.edu.

 

This article was originally published in The Docket.

Posted in Law Student

Legal Marketing Etiquette in the 21st Century

By Meranda M. Vieyra

Good etiquette doesn’t cost a thing. Bad etiquette can cost you everything.

In the legal industry, we have our own ways, customs, standards and norms when it comes to marketing etiquette. Lawyers can use etiquette as a tool to cultivate relationships with potential client sources, establish their professional reputation and develop their personal brand. Use this guide to incorporate modern etiquette into your legal marketing strategy.

Marketing Etiquette: In Person

  • The Name Game. There are thousands of lawyers in Colorado, and at networking events it can feel like they are all in one place at one time. Don’t take it personally when a professional contact you have met before can’t remember your name. Rather, handle this situation with class by doing them a favor and reminding them of your name. You can kick up your own marketing game by doing your best to remember names and something anecdotal about what the person shared with you the last time you met.
  • Give Your Attention. When you are speaking with someone, actually look at them. Take the time to pay attention to what they are saying. They can tell if you are looking around or over their shoulder during your conversation to find the next person to chat with. In networking situations, try to listen more than you speak and be sure to engage in the conversation by asking questions and making eye contact.
  • Overdressed Is Better than Underdressed. Law firm culture is generally conventional and conservative. Although many firms support a casual Friday policy, not all of them observe the same protocol. If you are attending an event at another law firm or at a client’s office, make sure that you are dressed appropriately, from head-to-toe, even if it’s a Friday.
  • Use Titles. There are a handful of elevated positions in the legal industry that have titles, and you should address justices, judges and magistrates accordingly unless they insist otherwise. There are also lawyers with political job titles that should be used as well.
  • Be On Time. Be mindful of what time an event starts, and try to arrive shortly after it begins. If you are meeting a client or referral source for lunch, you should arrive exactly on time. Being late is not fashionable. If you are invited to someone’s house, be there on time and bring a gift for the host. (A bottle of wine or a bouquet of seasonal flowers are two excellent options.)

Marketing Etiquette: In Writing

  • Timing is Everything. When you meet someone at an event whom you want to stay connected with, make sure that you follow up on your initial meeting promptly with a LinkedIn request and an email. Although you can send electronic correspondence at any time during the day, be mindful that your email is sent during normal business hours and on a weekday. Although many lawyers do not bat an eye at receiving an email near midnight on a Sunday, that is not necessarily the practice in other industries.
  • Notecards 101. Handwritten notecards are one of the fastest and most effective ways to stay “visible” in your network and showcase your manners. At a minimum, be sure to send a handwritten notecard to the referring attorney when they send you a case. You should also send a notecard to your client at the closure of their matter to thank them for their business. You can also send notecards to acknowledge a client or referral source’s awards, new additions to their firm or other professional successes.
  • Emailing and Texting. Emailing and texting can be two of the most informal forms of communication in marketing. If you are communicating with a professional contact in writing, regardless of the medium, make sure that you are professional in tone and text. Steer clear of casual abbreviations (BTW, etc.) and typos. Trend toward formal on any closing salutations.
  • Be Respectful. Make sure to respond to invitations promptly. Ignoring an invitation by not responding is not a declination of the invitation. It actually creates more work and uncertainty for the event host if they don’t know whether or not you will come. When you are at an event, be respectful toward all people that you meet, regardless of their current position and views. Remember that one day the in-house associate that you are speaking with won’t always be an associate. Everyone will (and should) remember how you have treated them during their career.
  • Don’t Criticize. Your reputation will always precede you. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career or what you have accomplished, it is never appropriate to criticize other people in the legal industry. The Colorado legal community is small. Gossip and meanness will earn you a reputation that will not be conducive to business development or marketing your practice.

Marketing Etiquette: Online

  • Social Media. Many lawyers and law firms are embracing social media platforms in their marketing strategies. However, posting is not a free-for-all, and more is not always better. Marketing etiquette on social media is centered on respect for people’s time. The value of your insight and legal services is the most important aspect of what you post. Avoid over promotion on social media and limit posting to what will effectively reinforce your brand or marketing message. A great rule of thumb to follow is for every three informational posts on social media, post one promotional piece.
  • Lawyer Ranking Sites. More and more, meeting new clients doesn’t necessarily happen in a traditional setting. Every year, there are new websites coming out to serve as online portals related to law. Websites, such as LegalZoom, have revolutionized legal document preparation by removing local lawyers from the equation. There are also sites, like AVVO, that are meant specifically to connect lawyers with potential clients. Some of these sites allow reviews of lawyers to be written by former clients. In the event of a negative online review, first try to take the review down by researching the site’s guidelines to find applicable exceptions. If you are unable to have the review removed, it is critical to respond to it professionally if the site allows you to do so. In your response, be sure to address the issue that the negative review speaks of in a respectful tone. Keep in mind that the angry former client will not be the only one reading your response — potential clients and professional peers will be doing so as well.
  • Email Marketing Campaigns. Marketing by email is a great way to get in front of new and current clients. Be sure to follow the current spam laws with these types of messages. Your email campaigns should include an “opt out” option so that your newsletter doesn’t work against your marketing efforts by becoming an annoyance to someone who does not want to receive it.

Meranda M. Vieyra is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing LLC, which was founded to bring her years of experience in high-level legal marketing to solo practitioners and small law firms. Her impactful marketing services focus on recognition, promotion and visibility for Colorado lawyers in all practice areas. She can be reached at meranda@denverlegalmarketing.com.

 

This article originally appeared in The Docket.

Posted in Marketing

Building Our Dreams: The Finances of Law Firm Startups

By Drew Hefflefinger

Who is tired of making someone else’s dream come true? The sacrifice, the hours, the faceless P&L reports. Learning how passionate and dedicated attorneys are, it is no wonder that many seek entrepreneurship as a means of providing a greater, more focused service to their clients. According to the American Bar Association’s “Lawyer Demographics of the Year 2016,” nearly half of all attorneys work in groups with five or fewer members.

For those considering, or already in the depths of solo/small firm ownership, I congratulate you. Operating a wealth advisory firm has enabled me to tailor every detail of my business to the unique needs of the people I serve. I suspect an attorney’s motivation is no different.

To inform, and perhaps provide a little motivation, this article offers a handful of financial considerations that an attorney should take into account before making the jump, what to consider as the doors open and what to contemplate when the business starts to thrive.

BEFORE THE JUMP

Financially speaking, the theme before day one is to reduce outgoing cash flow and reduce financial risk. New businesses are cash monsters, and expenses tend to be unusually high in the first couple years of operation.

Hoard cash. There is plenty of existing information on what the cash will be spent on, but how does an attorney “hoard” cash? First, save effectively. Review current expenses and see where costs can be cut without reducing the current lifestyle in question. Some examples include consolidating personal insurance, considering a different car or cutting subscriptions that are no longer in use. Second, consider reducing expenses that lack personal value. Eating out versus bringing a bagged lunch will still satisfy an appetite, but one costs three times as much.

Review debt. Have a mortgage? Consider refinancing household debt in an effort to acquire the lowest monthly payment possible. In many cases, a borrower can apply for a 30-year refinance and significantly reduce outgoing cash flow. Also, it would not hurt to establish a home equity line of credit to provide another easy source of cash if necessary.

Have student loans? Consider an income-based repayment plan to temporarily reduce monthly payments. It will be more advantageous to apply after severing ties with the current firm since current income, or lack there of, is the main driver of the repayment calculation. In some circumstances, the borrower can nearly eliminate payments in year one.

Balance risk. Salary-based income earners have little volatility in their income. This steady stream of income enables employees to be fairly aggressive with their investable savings (401(k), etc.) due to the low likelihood of using the savings within a short period of time.

An entrepreneur’s income is much different. Income is typically volatile and subject to the immediate successes and failures of the business. By having a variable stream of income, it is prudent of business owners to be more cautious with their investable savings (Rollover IRA, etc.). In a balanced world, the entrepreneur is increasing risk in his or her ability to generate income and reducing risk in investable savings. This balanced approach provides an attorney with another stable cash lifeline, regardless of the conditions of the outside economy.

Develop a relationship with a Certified Public Accountant. Make sure they have experience in small businesses and are willing to give tax advice. Some accountants only file returns based on the information provided and fail to dig deeper into their clients’ unique circumstances.

By implementing the above, an attorney becomes risk averse in nearly every aspect of his or her financial life. This enables the concentration of risk taking toward the new business venture.

OPENING THE DOORS

The next step focuses on benefits. In the past, benefits were generally taken care of by the employer, which is not the case anymore. An attorney is now building his or her own self-sufficient island, and nothing comes for free.

Healthcare. Technically everyone needs to have it; the failure to do so can lead to a tax penalty. Working with an independent healthcare broker will do wonders. They have the ability to diagnose existing circumstances, family dynamics and identify a suitable plan.

Disability income. I worked with a former anesthesiologist who, at 40, developed a form of multiple sclerosis that left him unable to practice medicine. He was unable to provide for his family on his own but wisely transferred the risk of disability to an insurance company at an early age. Today, he and his family are still accomplishing their financial goals despite his inability to generate a doctor’s income.

Life insurance. The family’s goals are bigger than those of any one person. College, retirement, and lifestyle are important, and without the breadwinner’s income, many of these goals could never be accomplished. Should the unthinkable happen, make arrangements so that loved ones are still poised to succeed.

THRIVE

The firm is growing, clients are happy, referrals are flowing in — the dream is becoming a reality. But the firm is not the only goal. How does the firm connect with the other important aspects of the business owner’s life? Here, an attorney is typically looking at his or her personal life and considering college for the kids and retirement flexibility. By building net worth, an attorney stands in a strong position to accomplish these personal goals.

Go back and review debt. Rising cash flow affords the opportunity to get back on track with student loans, mortgage and other debt obligations. By decreasing these liabilities, the business owner increases net worth.

Go back and review financial risk. Since income may not be as volatile as it was when the doors first opened, it may be prudent to increase risk in investable accounts (Rollover IRA, SEP-IRA, etc.).

Establish a retirement savings plan. A retirement savings plan is arguably the biggest facilitator in connecting the firm’s financial success to the family’s personal goals. The result is less income in top-income tax brackets and big steps toward building net worth.

PARTING THOUGHTS AND MOTIVATION

When I left the corporate world, my former mentor watched over me as I packed my personal belongings into a cardboard box before leading me to the elevators. It was all very stereotypical; I could hardly hold myself back from laughing at the sheer audacity and rigid formality of the situation.

But I was tired of being on the receiving end of other people’s energy. As I stepped into the elevator with my cardboard box, a powerful inversion occurred. Energy started flowing outward. My old life was over; I was going to make my own dreams come true.

Best of luck and cherish the opportunities you create.

Drew Hefflefinger is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ at Engage in Wealth in Denver. He specializes in working with attorneys by helping them grow and protect wealth while achieving personal goals. He can be reached by phone at 303-459-4355 or by email at drew@engageinwealth.com.

 

This article was originally published in The Docket.

Posted in Finances, Solo Practice

DBA YLD Member Highlight: William Benjamin King

1. Why did you become a lawyer?
It has always been in my nature to be protective of others. The word “advocate” comes from the Latin word advocātus, which means to be “called to one’s aid.” Being a lawyer allows me to be a voice for the voiceless. Most of all, I wanted to make my father William “Bill” King proud. Bill, aside from being my role model, is a family law attorney who has been faithfully serving Colorado clients since 1977.

2. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
But what is most important is that you have to dig deep down, dig deep down and ask yourselves, who do you want to be? Not what, but who.

3. What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of your career?
I believe America is the greatest country on Earth. America is a society preserved by law and justice. I cherish the fact that I have a role in making this ideal a reality — however small.

4. How do you achieve work–life balance?
Colorado is an adventurer’s paradise. Some of life’s most rewarding memories can be found atop any one of Colorado’s 14ers.

5. What sparked your enthusiasm for the DBA?
Some of Colorado’s finest litigators are DBA members. The DBA provides a wealth of experienced attorneys who are always eager to mentor those who seek it. The DBA is an invaluable resource for young lawyers in Colorado.

6. What is your favorite book and why?
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. This coming-of-age story serves as a constant reminder to us adults not to become a “phony” and contribute to the hypocrisy, pretension, superficiality and shallowness the world already has plenty of.

7. What is your biggest pet peeve?
The rising cost of postsecondary education. We as a society want to produce the best and brightest to ensure the best future possible. I fear many of today’s youth will either avoid college altogether or be burdened with an insurmountable debt lifelong. I also detest those people that text during movies.

8. If you could change anything about Denver, what would it be?
Nothing. According to the United States Census Bureau, Denver is the fastest growing major city in the United States. As a Colorado native, it is wonderful to see the city grow and flourish. Still, Denver could always use more dog-friendly establishments.

9. If you could be a superhero, who would you be and why?
Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles … mostly because I love pizza.

10. If you weren’t a lawyer, you’d be:
Dead? Retired?

More about you:
Hometown: Centennial, CO
Lives in: Highlands Ranch, CO
Lives with: My beautiful wife, Breanna
Works at: McConaughy & Sarkissian, P.C.
Practices in: Douglas County, Arapahoe County, Jefferson County
Law School: The University of Miami (FL) School of Law

Posted in Member Profiles

Pro Bono, Public Interest and More: A Look at a Student-Led Initiative to Elevate the Public Good at Denver Law

By Alexi Freeman and Katie Steefel

“The first thing I lost in law school was the reason I came.” This famous line from well-known law professor Bill Quigley’s article, “Letter to a Law Student Interested in Social Justice,” has represented the disheartening reality for countless generations of law students. Research over the past 40 years has shown how students arrive at law school to find a job to “help others” but leave law school with no such plans. In fact, in the 1970s, Robert Stover studied this phenomenon at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Stover polled students entering law school at Denver Law and again during their third year to identify what type of full-time job they would most enjoy upon graduation. Thirty-three percent of students rated public interest as their first choice at the beginning of law school. However, within just three short years, that number had more than halved, falling to 16 percent. Stover summarized his qualitative observations as follows: “I found considerable evidence that my classmates’ view of the world, and of the legal world in particular, was altered in ways that diminished their desire to practice public interest law, by markedly changing their expectations concerning certain types of jobs.”

Much has changed at Denver Law and in legal education since the 70s. The overall trend to embrace experiential learning and to emphasize students’ burgeoning professional identities are just two shifts that may help combat this “public interest drift.” However, despite such advances, a public interest drift still exists at most legal education institutions. According to the National Association for Law Placement, only 7.3 percent of all 2014 law graduates are working in public interest jobs. Legal scholars have long speculated and continue to research why students’ passions and career plans are prone to drastic change during the course of three short years. Factors like financial debt, changed interests, the job market at any particular time or in any specific geographic location, a lack of institutional career development or curricular support at certain schools, and the traditional style and content of legal education (especially during the first year, which some argue even disorients students’ feelings regarding morality and rightness) all likely play a role.

A student-led effort has been underway at Denver Law to try to chip away at this phenomenon. Members of the Chancellor’s Scholars Program — a program that provides scholarships for students who demonstrate a strong commitment to public service — are especially attuned to how legal education can feel a bit isolated from ideals and values centered on the public good. Compelled to create some way to ensure that such values and ideals do not disappear from students’ hearts and minds, the group, with the support of more than 20 other student organizations, developed The Pledge for the Public Good. The Pledge is an effort that aims to show how all areas of the law involve the public good and to help students understand the moral dimensions and social context of the law across subject matters. To do this, faculty members are asked to sign The Pledge, therein voluntarily agreeing to: incorporate a discussion concerning the social context of cases; bring in a practitioner to share a practical perspective; dedicate a session to a public interest lecture; or utilize another tool to lift up the public good in their classes.

To help illustrate how The Pledge can come to life, some faculty members have shared how they incorporate the public good in their lessons. For example, one corporations professor discussed how she continually presses her students to consider the social responsibility of a corporation. She regularly asks questions like, “In an era where the corporate form is being vested with increasing rights and powers, does it also bear increasing obligations? Is the sole purpose of the corporation to make money for its shareholders or should it do more? And, did corporate law need the addition of the ‘social benefit corporation’?” The professor emphasized that “issues concerning the public good arise frequently in all subject matters and can easily be emphasized without detracting from doctrinal coverage.” Her perspective was that it simply “becomes part of the conversation.”

A professor who teaches a first-year course on contracts shared this anecdote:

I try to highlight the issue and other factors that may seem to imply that one party is disadvantaged when in fact they may not be. We often read cases where one party has less education than another, and it is easy to assume that the less educated party is therefore less capable of protecting their interests. I stress that education and intelligence do not correspond! Nor does one’s economic situation in life dictate intelligence. At the same time, these factors must be considered to the extent the law is working unfairly to take advantage of particular classes of people, as in the Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture case.

These examples show us how a number of professors already engage in the methods outlined in The Pledge. Thus, The Pledge validates their efforts and encourages them to continue to embrace such techniques. For those who may not already intentionally seek out ways to integrate a public good component in their classrooms, these examples demonstrate how efforts do not have to be hugely burdensome but can make a real difference in the student experience. In fact, after the first semester of The Pledge’s implementation, a survey of approximately 260 students indicated that 72 percent of them identified professors making connections to the public good.

At present, more than 60 full-time Denver Law faculty have voluntarily signed The Pledge. This is a remarkable example of faculty unity. It serves as a reminder that fostering consciousness of the public good is important and relevant for all future lawyers, regardless of where they may end up. Here at Denver Law, a group of students’ vision has ultimately invigorated students, faculty and staff commitment to fulfill our university’s mission: “to be a private institution dedicated to the public good.” We are eager to see how The Pledge for the Public Good grows and evolves over time, destined to promote the public good in many different ways.

If you are interested in engaging with The Pledge or other public service related activities at Denver Law, contact Alexi Freeman at afreeman@law.du.edu.

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Alexi Freeman is an associate professor of the practice at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, as well as the director of Externships & Public Interest Initiatives. She can be reached at afreeman@law.du.edu.

 

 

 

steefel-headshot-3Katie Steefel is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. She can be reached at ksteefel17@law.du.edu.

 

 

 

 

*This article is adapted from the authors’ previous law review article written on this subject: Freeman and Steefel, “The Pledge for the Public Good: A Student-Led Initiative to Incorporate Morality & Justice in Every Classroom,” 22 WASH. & LEE J. CIVIL RTS. & SOC. JUST. 49 (2016), and published in The Docket.

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Posted in Volunteering

Women in the Legislature

By Jill Mullen,

In 2016, Colorado had the highest percentage of women in the legislature in the entire country with 42% of the Colorado legislature being female politicians. This anomaly was the inspiration behind the documentary “Strong Sisters: Elected Women in Government” — which was recently aired at a DBA YLD event in Boulder. The film examines some of the reasons why Colorado exceeds many other states in numbers of female legislators. The film makes several good points which provide helpful advice to all women in leadership positions or seeking a leadership role.

One of the most striking observations made by the film is the difference between women and men when it comes to the decision to run for office. Men are quick to tell you, “I am going to run for Governor” or “I am running in Senate District X, vote for me.” On the other hand, women like to be asked or encouraged to run. Women legislative candidates often float the idea around first before committing by asking friends, coworkers, and mentors, “should I run for office?” to make sure there is a positive response.

“Strong Sisters” notes that women can be shy about self promotion, which can hurt when appealing to constituents for their vote or donors for their money. Despite the hardship, many women have overcome these impediments, because women not only make up half the population of Colorado, they also bring a unique perspective to the legislature. For example, in 2013, when the Senate passed civil unions, it was women on the Republicans side who joined Democrats to ensure the bill was passed. Additionally, women from both sides of the aisle have banded together to vote against several bills that might have been harmful women’s health.

The film also highlights some of the other struggles women legislators initially faced — such as a lack of bathrooms in the Capitol, and frequent criticism for spending too much time away from their kids. To me, it sounded like some of the same issues faced by women in the legal profession. Women in the legislature have to fight to have their voice heard, as political bodies (and law firms) can be an “old boys’ club.” At least in the legislature the members almost always have to recruit votes, forcing both men and women, republican and democrat, to work together to get something passed.

Women in Colorado still have a long way to go, Texas has already had two female Governors and it is Colorado’s turn. But, movies like Strong Sisters are excellent reminders that women should fight for the opportunities they deserve.

If you are a woman, and interested in running for elected office – consider looking at Emerge Colorado. They run a program that provides training and assistance for women looking to get involved in public service.

Jill Mullen works in the legislature as the Civic Engagement Director for the Colorado Senate Democrats. She earned her JD from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and her BA from New York University. 

Posted in Community