As an incoming law student, Martina Hinojosa was sure that she wanted to be a litigator, but later found that her passions were doing research and working collaboratively to make deals. Through Colorado Law’s Denver City Attorney Fellowship Program, she was able to pursue her preferred style of law practice, learn about public finance practice, and work with dedicated mentors. She is now a public finance attorney with Butler Snow LLP.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I am a public finance attorney with Butler Snow LLP. I help local governments finance their major projects like roads, schools, water and sewer systems, and public buildings.
For example, I just finished working on a bond issue for the City and County of Denver that raised $397 million to help pay for the upcoming renovations to the National Western Center. As bond counsel, we advised the city in complying with state and federal law relating to municipal bonds, and as disclosure counsel we assisted the city in preparing information for potential investors to review regarding the city and the National Western project.
How did you find your job?
In my first year of law practice, I worked as an attorney-fellow in the municipal operations section of the Denver City Attorney’s Office. My supervisors made sure that I was exposed to several areas of transactional law, including public finance. By working directly with seasoned public finance attorneys, I gained firsthand experience and an understanding of attorneys’ roles and responsibilities in public finance deals. Once I communicated my interest in public finance to my supervisors and mentors in the City Attorney’s Office, they connected me with attorneys in the private sector. Several coffee meetings later, I met with Dee Wisor and Matt Gray of Butler Snow. The firm extended me an offer about two months later.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
The Denver City Attorney Fellowship Program is a partnership project with Colorado Law. Had I not participated in the program, I am not sure that I would have ever had the opportunity to learn about public finance practice. The program also gave me the opportunity to connect with incredible mentors who were committed to my development as a new attorney.
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 is the most critical part of my job. My 1L legal writing professor, Al Canner, encouraged us to prioritize the development of strong legal writing skills. I heeded his advice by taking several seminars, publishing a student note, and participating on the National Moot Court team. The opportunity to receive feedback on my writing through those experiences was often humbling, but invaluable.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
While networking can eventually lead to a job offer, it should be treated solely as a tool for information gathering. By listening and learning from other people, you can learn about professional resources, opportunities, and unknown practice areas (as I did with public finance).
That said, I absolutely credit my professional network with helping me to get my foot in the door at Butler Snow. Knowing that my mentors had positive relationships with the attorneys at Butler Snow reassured me that the firm would be a great fit for me from a professional perspective and in terms of personality fit.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
First, be open-minded and honest with yourself about who you are and what you want. When I was in law school, I was sure that I wanted to be a litigator. However, once I was exposed to public finance practice, I realized that I truly enjoy digging into research, drafting documents, and working with a team to get a deal done. It is critical to do what is right for you—not what sounds good on paper—in order to be happy in your career.
Second, do internships or clerkships while in law school. Some of my most meaningful professional relationships and learning experiences came about from working in the “real world.”
Finally, be cognizant of your reputation at all times. Part of networking involves showing people that you are a worthwhile investment, and reassuring them that any endorsement of you will not harm their own reputation in any way. That said, work hard and maintain a positive attitude in law school, at your summer job, and beyond.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
I cannot imagine a more idyllic place to attend law school, not just in terms of scenery and access to outdoor activities, but also with respect to the type of people that choose to attend Colorado Law. My classmates were helpful and supportive of one another. In a highly competitive environment, being surrounded by genuinely good people helps to keep the whole sanity thing in check.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
By the time I took the LSAT, I had lived in Boston for about four years. While Boston is an incredible city for its history and culture, it is also crowded and expensive. I was ready to move to a place with a high quality of life where I could settle down for the long term. I also wanted to attend a highly-ranked law school with incredible professors and a strong emphasis on experiential learning. Colorado and Colorado Law met all of those criteria.