Kiki Council ('17), an associate in the commercial litigation group at Holland & Hart LLP, knew a career in the law would allow her to combine her passions for reading, writing, analysis, oral advocacy, and lifelong learning. As a first-generation college and law student, Council credits mentors and her professional network from Colorado Law and beyond with helping her navigate the corporate legal world and serving as a valuable support system.
Where are you from and why did you decide to attend law school?
I was born in Denver and raised in Aurora, Colorado. I decided to attend law school because I knew law was a profession where I could combine all of my passions: reading, writing, analysis, oral advocacy, and lifelong learning. Like many other lawyers (especially those who choose Colorado Law) I also have a social justice bent and knew that I could use my law degree to further the rights of others, especially women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a "typical" work day look like?
I am an associate in the commercial litigation/appellate practice group at Holland & Hart. The bulk of my work is oriented around general commercial litigation (think contracts disputes and business divorce). I also assist with labor and employment, as well as government contract matters. It's hard to say what a typical day looks like for me—it always depends on the needs of the firm and my clients. Sometimes, I can spend an entire day researching a complicated legal issue for a motion and the rest of the week drafting that motion. But it's just as likely that I could spend an entire day interviewing witnesses for an FSLA lawsuit and turning those interviews into declarations. Or, I might spend a day conducting and responding to discovery requests. It really varies, but I enjoy the fact that I am not doing the same thing day in and day out and that I have a variety of cases.
How did you find your job?
I found my job through On-Campus Interviews (OCI) at Colorado Law.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
A couple of important ways. First, though I ultimately dropped out of the program, I participated in the Pledge to Diversity. Through the initial networking events and group interview process, I was able to meet a ton of attorneys at big law firms in Colorado. This is actually how I first met attorneys at Holland & Hart! Second, I attended every single job fair and networking event that I could, even if it wasn't necessarily in a practice area I was interested in. I really bought into the idea that the bigger your network, the better. Third, I followed the Career Development Office (and former Dean Phil Weiser)'s advice to follow up on those networking opportunities. By staying in contact with attorneys at Holland & Hart (and elsewhere!) I was able to make sure they remembered me and seriously considered me when the time came for OCI. It worked!
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
Writing, writing, writing. I took as many writing/paper classes as I could at Colorado Law and was on the Colorado Technology Law Journal (CTLJ). I really urge that students take the opportunity to write as much as they can in law school! Unless you're going to be a trial district attorney or public defender, writing is going to be the main component of your job. There were also some very specific courses, like Professor Scott Moss' Federal Litigation: Everything but the Trial, that helped prepare me for some of the basics I would encounter as a commercial litigator, such as client intake, depositions, motions to dismiss, and motions for summary judgment. Though I am not in court as much as I would like, the motion and trial advocacy classes, as well as the mock trial team, helped me to learn how to think on my feet and to become a persuasive oral advocate. Those skills transfer readily to depositions, which I am now beginning to take on my own at the firm.
Please talk a little about "people skills" and relationship building. How have your professional acquaintances (and friends) made a difference in your career?
As I alluded to above, I am a huge fan of networking and relationship building. My professional relationships serve many different purposes. First, and foremost (especially right now) my professional network serves as a source of support and understanding. I am not sure how I would have weathered the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the civil unrest that followed without support from my contacts in the Sam Cary Bar Association or the Colorado LGBT Bar Association. It's critical for young attorneys, but especially young diverse attorneys, to have a sounding board and place to vent or commiserate, and not just during times of social unrest or hard times, either! Those of us in the LGBT Bar Association shared a moment of joy recently with the SCOTUS Title VII ruling. Second, my professional relationships have helped me navigate the corporate legal world. I am a first-generation "everything" student—both college and law school. I had never stepped foot into one of the buildings on 17th Street, let alone a big law firm, before law school. My network guides me and answers all of my questions. I know I would be totally lost without their help.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Again, network and follow up with whomever you're networking with to get your foot in the door! But once you do: be patient and don't take rejection or lack of immediate follow up personally. I could paper my house with rejection letters that came several months after an application or interview. Because rejection is inevitable, it's important to keep a growth mindset. If a rejection follows an interview, it likely means that you simply were not a good fit for that office or chambers. If you weren't a good fit, that decision ultimately benefits both you and that potential employer. If you suspect you were rejected for another reason, follow up and learn from that feedback. Many law firms and judges are candid about why they chose to go with another applicant. Also know that if you get an interview, you are qualified for the position— again, interviews are more often than not about fit! Have confidence in yourself and your skills from the outset. Keep grinding, and something will come your way.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
Learning the law is critical, but Colorado Law offers students so much beyond basic academics. The clinics are amazing, the journals are great, there are some really fantastic student organizations, and the Career Development Office is invested in helping students find a legal career path that will work for them. Also, think about the location—there's more to life than studying and the law. We live in a beautiful state where you can go outside and enjoy nature regularly! Also, minimize your debt any way that you can—fight for scholarship money at the outset and apply for scholarships for your 2L and 3L years.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
I chose Colorado Law specifically because former professor Dayna Matthew convinced me. After my gap year, I knew I wanted to come home to Colorado for law school, but was stuck between CU and DU. Both schools offered me similar scholarship amounts, but I was concerned about diversity as well as travel time from Denver. Professor Matthew is a Black woman law professor whose opinion and thoughts I took very seriously as a Black woman law school applicant. I ultimately believed Professor Matthew when she told me that Colorado Law would be the best choice for me and my desired career path, and I am glad I chose CU over DU. Representation matters!
See more in our Promising Starts series, which highlights recent Colorado Law alumni who have found satisfying, meaningful employment in their first five years after graduation.