Legal Residency at Colorado Law

Law graduates, law firms, and legal departments face a Catch-22. Everyone wants trained, experienced lawyers, yet few employers or clients are willing to pay the high costs of training new lawyers in the traditional legal model. As a result, some new legal graduates struggle to find opportunities that will provide them with the experience that they need in order to become trained, experienced lawyers.

The University of Colorado Law School has partnered with the University of Denver Sturm College of Law to introduce the Legal Residency Program to the Colorado legal community. The Program provides: (1) new graduates with a valuable post-graduate experience by offering them 12-18 months of legal training and experience, and (2) employers with legal staffing at reasonable cost and the opportunity to help train the next generation of lawyers. Modeled after the medical residency program, the Legal Residency Program is designed to provide new lawyers with employment and training opportunities that may not otherwise be available to them.

How does the Legal Residency Program work?

Participating organizations can hire one or more Residents from a pool of new JD graduates provided by the two Colorado law schools. Residents will work for a 12- to 18-month term depending on the employer’s needs. Employers are not expected to make permanent offers at the end of a Residency, although they may do so at their discretion. This is not a substitute for first-year attorney positions. Rather, we see it as a unique program designed to provide new lawyers with employment and training opportunities that do not currently exist. 

Once an employer decides to seek a Resident, we can typically provide employers with candidates within a short timeframe. While application windows are flexible to suit employer needs, the law schools encourage employers to post opportunities within one of two application windows:  August 15-September 15 and October 15-November 15. We ask that Residents be hired and working in their positions by February 2015.

Why should my organization consider the Legal Residency Program?

Employers have the benefit of cost effective assistance from Residents, and the knowledge that they are contributing to the future of the legal profession. They may also end up discovering high quality legal talent that they may not have considered through traditional hiring practices, and can make long-term hiring decisions after observing a Resident during his/her residency. After last year’s successful pilot program with the two Colorado law schools, the Denver Metro area is now the first community-wide Legal Residency Program established to propel the careers of the next generation of lawyers. 

How are Legal Residents paid? 

Participating employers determine pay rates for Residents. Participating employers are expected to pay a reasonable wage, understanding that it will be a downward adjustment from traditional entry-level salaries to reflect the nature of the Program (in that it is a type of apprenticeship). In the first year of the Program, Resident salaries ranged from $40,000 to $70,000 per year. If you have questions about how to determine appropriate salary levels for Legal Residents, please contact our Career Development Office.

What type of work will Legal Residents perform? 

The intent of the Program is that Legal Residents will have a substantive post-graduate experience in one or more areas of law. The scope of work performed by the Legal Residents is entirely up to the employer, but our Career Development Office is happy to work with you to determine a job description that suits the needs of the employer and satisfies the intent of the Program. Keep in mind that each Legal Resident will have graduated from an accredited law school and passed the Colorado Bar exam.

How are Legal Residents supervised, mentored, and trained?   

We ask that employers provide substantive legal or policy work, appropriate supervision, and meaningful feedback. We suggest that employers create learning plans with Residents that outline the parameters of the residency, including the type of work the Resident will perform, the types of skills the Resident will build, and the experiences that will help the Resident strengthen his/her sense of professional identity. A learning plan should also set forth the employer’s expectations and establish a mechanism for regular, meaningful feedback. We are happy to assist employers with this piece of the Program upon request.   

How do I hire a Legal Resident? 

Once an employer decides to participate in the Legal Residency Program, it creates a job posting that is submitted to both law schools. The law schools have established two primary application windows for Resident applications (August 15-September 15 and October 15-November 15). Employers may seek applicants outside of these windows, however. Each school gathers applicant materials and then, at the end of the posting period, submits the application materials to the employer. The employer is then responsible for selecting and scheduling applicants for interviews. 

For more information, please contact Marci Fulton, Assistant Dean for Outreach, Engagement, and Alumni Relations, at marci.fulton@colorado.edu or (303) 492-7015.