John Cook knew that he wanted to work in-house since his first year of law school, but he did not let that prevent him from exploring a variety of opportunities in different fields. Nevertheless, Cook built a network during his time at Colorado Law which aided him in finding his current in-house counsel position at DISH.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
One of the things I love about being in-house counsel is that there is seldom a “typical” day. I may start a day with a list of deals I expect to work on and then spend the whole day on completely different matters. My practice specializes in technology transactions, so I primarily support DISH’s technology, product development, and IT teams with contracts and deal negotiations. Most days I work with our businesspeople to define deal terms, negotiate those terms with counterparty’s counsel, and draft contracts to protect DISH’s interests and reflect accurately the agreed-upon deal terms.
How did you find your job?
Unlike most law students, I had a pretty clear idea that I wanted to work in-house after law school. During my 1L year I began talking to 2L and 3L students to determine which corporate counsel opportunities were available in Colorado. This led to a coffee meetup with a Colorado Law student who had interned at DISH, which I was surprised to learn hired graduates right out of law school. I then met with then-Dean Phil Weiser and explained my career goals, and he thought that DISH would be a good fit for me. Phil recommended me to DISH’s general counsel, Stanton Dodge, and I interviewed with DISH through the On-Campus Interview (OCI) program at the start of my 2L year. After receiving a summer internship offer, I interned for DISH the summer before 3L year and received a full-time employment offer.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
Colorado Law provides plenty of opportunities to meet employers and pursue opportunities that lead to that elusive first job. Because I was interested in technology law and policy, I became involved in Silicon Flatirons and developed a great network through that. Lunch speakers provided opportunities to introduce myself to influential people and make valuable connections. Competitive events like mock trial, drafting competitions, and the Venture Capital Investment Competition also facilitated those connections. But I can’t give enough credit to Phil Weiser, who advocated for me and made the connection that led to my job.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
Colorado Law provided courses that are unique for law schools and helped me develop practical skills. In Technology Transactions, the entire course was devoted to negotiating a deal between a large and small company and drafting the related contracts. Transactional Drafting, as the name suggests, was directly relevant to my current practice. I occasionally work on regulatory matters and a 1L course, Legislation and Regulation, provided the basis for understanding our complex regulatory framework. I highly recommend courses taught by adjunct professors who are also practitioners in the area; one of my favorite (and useful) courses was a Maymester course on telecommunications policy taught by Bryan Tramont, a telecom lawyer in DC.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
I think your professional network is inseparable from your career. What are careers if not successive and expanding networks of professional relations? Networking is critically important for developing a career, but I don’t think it works if you’re doing it solely to get your first job (or the next one). I think of networking more as building relationships—friendships—with people who have similar professional interests or perspectives. A common mantra around Colorado Law and Colorado’s start-up scene is “Give First.” To me, that means that you go into networking opportunities looking for how you can help others, and the opportunities will follow from that. And be bold—I’ve never been turned down by an attorney whom I asked to coffee.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Cast a wide net and start early. When I started law school I thought I wanted to work as in-house counsel, but I was open to any opportunity that provided challenge and professional growth, be it law or business, public or private, law firm or corporation. I tried to find internship and externship opportunities in as many areas as possible and ended up with experience working for the State of Colorado, at a law firm, and at multiple companies. Not only did this help me figure out what I enjoyed doing, but it expanded my network of possible employers. Ultimately, I think that employers just want smart, hardworking people, and there’s no better way to demonstrate that you have those qualities than through work experiences. Also, it allows you to interview your potential employers—I chose to work at DISH largely because of the fantastic attorneys with whom I get to work.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
Come for the strong and supportive community, incredible surroundings, and great network in Colorado and beyond.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
1) I wanted a school with a strong technology and telecommunications program.
2) I wanted to move back to Colorado (my home state).
3) It is Boulder!
To see more Promising Starts: www.colorado.edu/law/careers/career-paths/promising-starts