Jim, a Colorado native, always knew that he wanted to be a lawyer. His dad is a lawyer, so he grew up learning about the legal profession and learning that it was (at its core) a profession about helping people. He was interested in what being a lawyer actually meant at the end of the day. Helping people provides Jim with a motivating factor, other than money, to not only come to work but to work hard.”
According to Jim, “It would be difficult to go to work every day if the bottom line was to make money. Although being an attorney is an extremely difficult career path, the hard work that is required is worth it because I know that I am making a difference in someone else’s life. I am interacting with folks at the worst time of their life. Being able to help them navigate their problems and shoulder their problems is obviously stressful, but motivating. The core idea that I am helping people makes it easy to work the long hours.”
The fact that his skill set is attuned to writing and reasoning instead of math and science only pushed him toward degrees that lent themselves to law. Jim joined his high school mock trial team, pursued a degree in environmental studies and eventually worked for a law firm in college, which affirmed that he would enjoy the challenges and clients that a profession in law presents. Yet, if you asked 1L Jim what field he would be entering, he would have said environmental law.
So how does one switch from environmental law to business litigation, malpractice, and trust and estate law? Jim equates this change to his mock trial experiences. Since his first practices in high school, he learned that he loved the thrill of arguing in the courtroom, meeting with his mentor attorneys, making directs, playing a witness and even presenting an opening without practice (since another member ditched a competition). The trial team in law school reaffirmed his love for mock trial. Even though he pursued opportunities with both environmental law and trial litigation in mind, Jim decided at the end of the day that arguing in a courtroom was more exciting for him and he would be able to directly help clients.
However, entering the “real world” was still difficult. Even with his courtroom experience, academia did not prepare him for the challenging transition into a career. Within academia, Jim only had to worry about the consequences of his actions. Working with clients meant that his actions affected others, a stressful and challenging idea to come to grips with right out of law school. Although working with clients provides deep satisfaction and motivates him to work hard, he realizes that it is difficult to transition out of law school.
As the Chair of the DBA YLD, Jim knows that the world seems much bigger and more complex after leaving law school because he underwent that transition as well. Navigating the legal community is challenging, but he wants the DBA and DBA YLD to help young attorneys get adjusted to the legal community. He enjoys getting to know people who are going through this transition and helping them because by doing so, Jim is giving back to the community as a whole. By finding ways to make the process easier and sharing ideas on how to navigate the legal community successfully, Jim hopes to make an imprint on the Colorado legal community and make it more inclusive to newly admitted attorneys.
His advice for young attorneys:
1. Find a regimen or routine that works for you because routines make things easier. Once you understand that baseline routine, realize that there will be periods when your routine goes out the window. So work hard, knowing that you’ll be able to slow down and regain that routine.
2. Reach out to more experienced attorneys and ask how they balanced the transition from law student to lawyer.
3. Take all the advice you can get but use your own judgment to decide which advice is good or bad.
4. Have fun. Enjoy being an attorney.
Finally, find time to pursue other hobbies. In his spare time, you may find Jim running with Gus the Aussie-doodle, fly-fishing, attempting to play golf or traveling with his wife, Becca. Yet no matter if Jim is in court or fly-fishing or practicing his golf swing, he always wants to help young attorneys. Jim is always looking for feedback on how to make the DBA YLD better for its members. Whether it is having more events to enhance skills or simply network, Jim wants to help young attorneys with the transition into the “real world.”