Ashley Telleen believes in the value of networking. She used her summer internships to create lasting connections at the public defenders offices in Denver and Golden. Telleen’s networking helped her land her dream job as a public defender. She recommends that all law students develop a strong network and seek out mentors in their field of interest.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I am a Deputy Public Defender for the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office. I am assigned to the Boulder Regional Office. As a Public Defender I assist indigent clients with their criminal cases from the time that charges are filed against them all the way up through the jury trial stage. A typical work day as a Public Defender is often long and very busy. I appear in court frequently either running a docket, litigating in hearings, or trying cases in front of a jury. I also spend quite a bit of time meeting with clients either in the office or at the Boulder County Jail and investigating cases.
How did you find your job?
My 1L year of law school I got involved with the Colorado Innocence Project. I got so much out of that experience that I decided to apply for internships within the Colorado Public Defender’s Office. I interned in the Denver Regional Office the summer following my 1L year. I then got a certified internship in the Golden Regional Office after my 2L year that allowed me to actually appear in court and litigate county court cases under the Student Practice Act. My connections with both of those offices and the system as a whole helped me get my job as a Deputy Public Defender right out of law school.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
My job involves a lot of litigation so all of the practical classes really helped me develop my skills. I had the opportunity to participate in both the Criminal and Juvenile Law Clinics. Both clinics gave me the opportunity to appear in court and hone my skills. I also took both Trial Advocacy and Advanced Trial Advocacy to further develop my courtroom and litigation style. I would highly recommend those classes to anyone who has aspirations of becoming a trial lawyer.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
The Public Defender’s Office is very invested in hiring people that believe in the cause. Internships played an important role in creating a professional network of people that were willing to mentor me. I was able to get to know a lot of Public Defenders working in both the Denver and Golden Offices. By the time I started my job search I had a huge number of people who were able to serve as references. Being able to work with a lot of different Public Defenders also helped me develop my skills as a trial lawyer by getting to see a lot of different styles and techniques. I still seek out advice from people in my professional network as I move forward in my career.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Try to figure out what area of law you are interested in early on and seek out internships based on that. The Career Development Office is great, especially if you want to do public interest work. They host a lot of brown bags where you can actually go and meet people who are currently working in the area of law that interests you. Those people can be good connections and give you an idea of what the job really looks like on a daily basis. I have actually presented at a few brown bags since becoming a Deputy Public Defender. The Career Development Office knows the steps you need to take in order to become a Public Defender specifically.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
I was accepted to several different law schools and I could not be happier that I chose Colorado Law. The professors are experienced and available. The school is very dedicated to public service which is something that I value highly in my legal career. I also found the environment to be more collaborative than the cutthroat nature of a lot of other law schools. That was something that was important to me as well. They provided me a very clear path to employment with one of the best public defender systems in the nation.