A strong network of faculty and adjunct professors whom he met both in law school and through the Silicon Flatirons Center helped Ethan Jeans find his job as an associate at the Washington, D.C. telecommunications practice group, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP. In his words, finding a job “takes a village,” and luckily, having cultivated a healthy network, he had a community of supporters to help him.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I am a first-year associate in the telecommunications practice group at Wilkinson Barker Knauer’s D.C. office.
Working at a firm with 44 partners and only seven other associates, there (blissfully) haven't been many "typical" work days. After downing as much espresso as humanly possible and (occasionally) remembering to tie my shoes, on any given day I might help write a policy paper addressing spectrum availability for 5G telephony, research and write summaries of FCC Orders, attend a Hill hearing, sift through state laws on wireless infrastructure siting, or cite check a Supreme Court amicus brief. Our more senior associates have developed clients of their own and tend to have more focused practices, but as a newcomer I'm given opportunities (as the firm requires) to move between different teams, developing a greater understanding of the field and my own interests along the way. It’s a bit like drinking through a fire hose some weeks, but it’s never dull!
How did you find your job?
Short answer? Two words: “Silicon Flatirons.”
Long answer: I was first introduced to one of WBK’s partners while volunteering for the Colorado Technology Law Journal (CTLJ) at a conference. Nothing big—I certainly didn’t make any asks—but it let me show earnest excitement about the field without looking cheap or sycophantic. Then, while working in D.C. as a Hatfield Scholar my 2L summer, I got to know more members of the firm over coffee and drinks, talking about shared interests like the NBA and science fiction. One of my classes my 3L year was taught by an adjunct professor who, coincidentally, was also a partner at the firm. Additionally, I went to a pair of telecommunications moot court competitions as a member of Barrister’s Council and, also coincidentally, ended up arguing in front of firm personnel.
In hindsight, it maps neatly, but at the time, I was just trying to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. When the time came to actually interview, the firm already knew me and I already knew them—and from those personal relationships, I knew why I wanted to work there.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
It’s less that Colorado Law “helped” with my job search, and more that attending CU was my job search in and of itself. As I said, the circumstances that led me to Wilkinson all started with opportunities available through the Silicon Flatirons Center. Beyond that, Professor Bauer talked me off a ledge and helped me prepare for the (alien) process of interviewing at a law firm; Professor Griffin proofread multiple cover letters for me; the CTLJ advisors—Professors Reid, Surden, Ohm, and especially Dean Weiser—went to bat for me, offering coaching and recommendations. It takes a village, and I had one standing right behind me.
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 most-used daily skill? Terseness.
I so badly want to leave the answer there. Really, it all boils down to legal writing; concise, clearly presented ideas are our stock and trade. Colorado Law helped me kill two birds with one stone by offering opportunities to develop doctrinal legal knowledge and writing skills simultaneously—drafting a student note for the journal, working for clients in the Technology Law and Policy Clinic, taking classes with expanded written elements like Telecommunications Law, even banging out briefs for moot court. As a subpoint, I'd add that all of my writing as an attorney has been collaborative in some form—as was every experience and course mentioned prior.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
The "1L-attending-orientation" part of me still cringes at how transactional “networking” sounds. Reality is, however, every opportunity I’ve had to date came in some unexpected fashion out of my network; it's just a matter of scoping the word to match your strengths. I’ll never be Cocktail Party King, so my focus as a student was on the long play—building a concentrated network of meaningful relationships through venues where it's possible to flash a little substance: through internships, through time in a clinic, through public-facing student organizations like the Colorado Technology Law Journal and Barrister’s Council. Admittedly, my career so far has been short (to put it kindly), but it's hinged entirely on having meaningful relationships with mentors, connecting "vertically" with Colorado Law alumni who share similar interests, and connecting "horizontally" with peers who are also nuts about the same topics. So far, no one's shivved me with a rusty knife.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Volunteer for every event under the sun, and show up having done your homework, with three talking points in hand, and an open mind. As students, we might not offer value through expertise (yet)—but we have energy, and we have time. Try as many extracurriculars as possible; no one activity is for everyone, so sample your heart out until you find the perfect fit, then pour yourself into it. Be passionate, and build your resume to prove your dedication—that beats having a great handshake with nothing to back it up any day. Find opportunities to hone your writing every semester, whether inside or outside the classroom. Having a crisp, succinct writing sample is compelling. Most of all, don’t give into the stress-driven feedback loop of measuring yourself against your peers. For every student at Colorado Law, there are a dozen different possible endgames for a great career. Focus on yourself, cheer your classmates on, and have faith that if you really push, you’ll succeed. You wouldn’t have gotten in otherwise!
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
The obvious/“classic” metrics—our killer journals, our enormous clinical program, the wide range of summer experiences, the breadth and depth of our alumni program nationwide, our employment and salary numbers—speak for themselves. The real value add, the thing that doesn’t show up on paper, is our culture. When my laptop died halfway through second semester my 1L year, the number of classmates who sent me unsolicited copies of their notes was overwhelming. I’ll use CTLJ as an example because it’s near and dear to my heart—for Volume 13 alone, we had members inviting one another to their weddings, dressing toddlers in onesies bearing our logo, holding a sci-fi book club, attending happy hours and barbecues together, holding pie-baking days and movie marathons. The only downside to taking a job in Washington? Being 1500 miles away from the nest.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
Hopefully, by this point, my answer’s obvious. The education and community are first-rate, and you graduate a member of a tradition worth belonging to and taking pride in.