Patrick Furman ('80)

Clinical Professor Emeritus

I had long wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer for a variety of reasons.  For starters, my mom will confirm that I love to argue.  More seriously, I believe that the rule of law is fundamental to a civilized society, that the proper administration of the criminal justice system is essential to the rule of law, and that criminal defense lawyers (along with other players) are essential to the proper administration of the system.  Growing up, I had a lot of advantages that many of my fellow citizens did not, and felt a duty to pay back in some small measure, what I had been given.  I prefer representing the underdog as opposed to the party with the power.  I don't think money ought to play a role in the meting out of justice.  All these beliefs led me to being a Public Defender.

So, after graduating from Colorado Law in 1980, I joined the Colorado Office of Public Defender and spent nearly seven years there, representing indigent defendants in every type of criminal case in various jurisdictions in Colorado.  I started out in La Junta, making $17,000 per year and loving every minute of the challenge and excitement that came with the job. I spent nearly seven years as a Public Defender, then went into private practice.

 In 1988, there was an opening at Colorado Law for a Clinical Professor in the Legal Aid & Defender program, and I applied.  I did not think I would get the job because I was not a particularly good student, and most faculty spots are filled by lawyers with much higher grades.  But the job called for someone with practice experience in criminal defense, and the school hired me.  It was an even better job than being a Public Defender. I got into court on a daily basis, and got to help smart and dedicated students navigate their way into the criminal justice system.  With great delight, I see my former students acting a public defenders, private lawyers, judges and, yes, prosecutors, all over the state.

 In 2001, I joined Jim Scarboro '70, a partner in the law firm of Arnold & Porter, in founding the Colorado Innocence Project. (CIP) The CIP was formed under the umbrella of the Colorado Lawyers Committee, a non-profit, non-partisan consortium of law firms that engages in pro bono work. From the very beginning, students at Colorado Law took an active role in administering the project.  They read letters from applicants, researched the claims and allegations made in those letters, made recommendations about whether to accept those cases, and then worked with pro bono lawyers or court appointed lawyers who stepped in to handle the cases.  In order to institutionalize the connection between students and the project, Colorado Law approved the Wrongful convictions Clinic and that clinic began operating in 2002.  Students were now able to get credit for the difficult and complex work they were doing for the Colorado Innocence project.  In 2010, the CIP moved to its current home at Colorado Law.  As part of that transfer process, students re-reviewed every case inquiry that had been made to the CIP, and updated and regularized the procedures. The CIP continues its operations today under Clinical Professor Ann England.

 After twenty years at Colorado Law, I retired and took emeritus status.  I continue to teach course in Evidence, Criminal Procedure and Trial Advocacy, and am greatly enjoying the reduction in workload.

I have been very lucky in my life, and I am under no illusions that I would be where I am today without the help and support of a great many people- family, teachers, friends and fellow lawyers.  But I also know that if you have a goal and work towards it, some luck will follow.  I know that if you care about a cause, then working towards that cause is reward in and of itself.  And I know that the happiest lawyers are not the ones with the biggest offices or paychecks or vacation condos, but the ones who are doing a job they believe in, slugging away day after day in pursuit of a goal they deem worth fighting for.

 In addition to helping out with Colorado Law's trial advocacy teams, I help coach high school and college mock trial teams. In recent years, I have recruited law students who are interested in trial advocacy to help coach.  It has been a great experience for both the law students and the team members.  The law students benefit from having to learn and understand trial skills well enough to model and teach them, and the team members benefit from having smart and enthusiastic young coaches.  (Plus, it means less work for me!)