Lisa Rorden engaged with as many people as she could while at Colorado Law. As a result, she now enjoys many professional connections and a job as an assistant city attorney in airport legal services for the Denver City Attorney’s Office. In her work, Rorden utilizes her relationship-building skills among other useful proficiencies she mastered at Colorado Law.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I am an assistant city attorney for the Denver City Attorney's Office—Airport Legal Services Section (referred to as DEN Legal). Our section directly supports the Department of Aviation. DEN Legal is unique in that it’s a government practice, but our client agency is running a major business: Denver International Airport.
My practice is transactional in nature with a heavy regulatory component. In a typical day, I'm often in and out of meetings with different parts of the agency. My role is to advise and ask questions, which often requires following up with legal research and a written recommendation for the client. I also spend a large amount of time drafting and negotiating contracts, ranging from professional services contracts for consultants to design and construction contracts. One of the best parts of my practice is the variety. There are always new issues popping up that even the most seasoned attorneys in our office haven't dealt with before.
How did you find your job?
I started in DEN Legal as an attorney fellow, a yearlong City Attorney's Office program that still exists. I first learned about the opportunity on CD Online. Once I had applied, I reached out to local attorneys who I knew had relationships with the Denver City Attorney's Office and the airport in particular, with the hope that their recommendations would help get my application to the "top of the pile." It must have worked, because after a series of interviews I was offered the position. At the end of my fellowship year a permanent position opened up in DEN Legal, and I was lucky enough to land the job.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
The Career Development Office (CDO) staff were great about contacting me when opportunities arose that aligned with my interests. For that reason, I would highly recommend developing a relationship with at least one of the staff members there. Now that I'm on the hiring side, I still communicate regularly with the Colorado Law CDO to ask whether they know students whose interests align with our office. It’s always great to get a personal recommendation from such a trusted source!
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis, and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
I rely heavily on the writing skills that I developed at Colorado Law. Whether it’s writing a recommendation for an elected official or simply drafting an email to a client, writing is a reflection of your professionalism and competence as a lawyer. Many of the core law school classes aren't writing-heavy until the final exam, so I sought out courses that gave me additional opportunities to hone my writing skills (Federal Litigation: Everything but the Trial and Transactional Drafting come to mind).
Also, I know most people despise the Socratic method (myself included), but there is immense value in learning to think on your feet and respond to questions clearly and succinctly. It's something that I'm required to do every day, often in high-stakes situations, and I'm grateful for the practice I gained in the academic setting.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and relationship-building. How have your professional acquaintances (and friends) made a difference in your career?
I can't overemphasize the importance of a professional network. Everyone says it because it’s true—Denver has a close-knit legal community. As a student I remember feeling like my networking efforts were endless, and while educational, not particularly fruitful. In hindsight, I am so glad that I met with as many people as I did. There are often times that I need to consult with someone who has expertise in a certain area of the law, and the community of professionals I've met through networking always proves to be a great place to start.
I also think networking helps foster a supportive legal community. It's fun to watch people succeed that I've met along the way and to feel like we've all contributed to one another's success, no matter how large or small the contribution.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Talk to as many people as you can (even non-lawyers), and don't be afraid to ask for an introduction. The professionals that you are interning/clerking with absolutely want to help you, but connecting you with someone isn't always top of mind for them.
When you are presented with the opportunity to apply or interview for a position, make sure to explain what value you'll bring to that position. I know that as a recent grad it’s hard to feel like you can add value, but adding value doesn't necessarily mean knowing everything (or anything!). Think about your personal characteristics and draw on the internship experiences you've had to identify what you can uniquely contribute.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
Colorado Law is a friendly and supportive learning environment with an excellent regional reputation.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
I chose Colorado Law because of its strength in the region. I was choosing between a number of large universities, but it was clear to me that Colorado Law had a special relationship with the local legal community. The Colorado legal community puts a lot of stock in CU's reputation and the great lawyers that it has produced.
To see more Promising Starts: www.colorado.edu/law/careers/career-paths/promising-starts