Thomas Morales' (JD '19) story is one of constant evolution and skill-building that he hopes to use to help others with his new University of Colorado Law School degree in hand.
Morales will start as a litigation associate with Holland & Hart LLP's construction practice group in its Denver office. But growing up in Carlsbad, California, Morales didn’t have his mind set on college.
He spent his post-high school years in the music industry. From there, he transitioned to retail. And retail to construction. By his mid-20s, Morales felt a tug toward something else.
“I felt like I was missing something," Morales said. "That something turned out to be education."
Morales started taking classes online and fell in love with political science. Listening to Supreme Court arguments in a class, the first-generation student found he really wanted to be an attorney. He wanted to be part of the types of debates he heard between Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
"I picked Colorado Law for several reasons, but primarily for its community," said Morales. "After speaking with law students, staff, and faculty, I knew the school and the legal community as a whole would be a place I could thrive academically and personally. That is exactly what I found."
Morales said law school was difficult at first, but the long hours and hard work became easier with support from classmates and professors.
"Programs like the Pledge to Diversity and support from the school's Career Development Office were invaluable," said Morales.
He also kept thinking back to his first week in construction.
"To be honest, I was horrible at it," Morales said. "I dropped tools, I was clumsy, I was slow. I wanted to quit and go back to the comfort of my previous job."
Morales told himself to give it another week, in which it did get easier. That week led to a month, and a month eventually led to the title 'director of operations.' Morales put the same work ethic to use in law school.
"Last summer, when I accepted an offer from my top choice firm, I realized I made the right decision. The hard work paid off," Morales said.
He hopes to volunteer in drug courts, helping low-level offenders find treatment before progressing further into criminal life.
"Recovery is particularly important to me," Morales said. "I'd like to use my law degree to help others recover."