Tom Codevilla believes that networking is not simply the art of asking for a job or finding an open position; rather, it is presenting yourself honestly and pleasantly so that when an opportunity arises, people think of you. He credits relationships built through networking as the key to landing his current position as associate at Holland & Hart.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I’m a junior associate in the corporate group at Holland & Hart. Most of what I do at this level involves keeping track of the innumerable details involved in a typical M&A transaction and drafting the ancillary documents for that transaction—think board consents, assignments of material contracts, disclosure schedules, and the occasional purchase agreement. A typical day usually starts around 8 a.m. with an all-hands call or catching up on the email traffic related to the deal. Topics include any new issues that have arisen, documents that need to be changed as a result, and how can you make the senior associate or partner’s life easier by dealing with the little details that they don’t have time to track. That phase lasts until early afternoon, at which point I revise the relevant transaction documents, reach out to specialists in the firm, or follow up with the client regarding the morning’s events. With two deals going on most of the time, this sort of work can consume a day, with only a few hours remaining for miscellaneous projects. The day can end anywhere from 5 p.m. to midnight, depending on the proximity to deal close or the urgency of the issue.
How did you find your job?
After two years of networking, I eventually met with a senior associate in H&H’s Boulder office. He looked at my resume (chock-full of activities and externships to compensate for a few first-year blunders), and we found common ground as former rugby players. He told me that H&H would likely have an opening, but not necessarily in Colorado. The night after the first day of the bar, I had a phone interview, and two months later I moved to Boise.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
As a 1L, professors and staff constantly encouraged me to utilize the Career Development Office. Several professors instilled in me the mindset of approaching career services with the mentality that nobody is going to hand you a job, but if you’re lucky, you might get the opportunity to prove yourself. The constant flow of networking events at the school served as a soft introduction to the real world of practicing attorneys. Almost all Colorado Law alumni were happy to talk about their firms, realistically appraise your chances of being hired, and provide other contacts.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
The most important daily skill is attention to detail—one of the most important skills for a young lawyer and, admittedly, one of my weaknesses entering law school. Not all law students notice that while they read case after case, write brief after brief, agonize over italicized commas in citations, or try to remember what happened in Palsgraf, they are being trained to pay attention to the details. With patience, that skill can translate into picking relevant details out of long calls with clients, giant documents, or a cluttered inbox.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
Without people skills, I wouldn’t have a career. It took four coffee meetings to secure my appointment with the H&H associate that ultimately led to my being hired. In my experience, networking is not the art of asking for a job, or finding the open position, but presenting yourself honestly and pleasantly so that when an opportunity arises, people think of you. It is hard to network with an attorney knowing that their firm isn’t hiring, but this is how most networking is done. Such interactions are not wastes of time, but rather a chance to gather information and show you’re a human being. That being said, people skills are not a substitute for meticulous work.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Aside from your GPA (this is law school, after all), demonstrate that you are serious about whatever path you have chosen by following the news in that area, participating in extracurricular activities, and writing about that topic in any forum you can. With that base, networking will be easy because you can skip small talk. Treat each opportunity as your only one, learn from rejection while staying positive, and keep in touch with your network.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
Colorado Law has the best alumni network in a growing legal market. The average law student here is friendlier than you would find at other schools, and the default mentality is not a zero-sum game. Quality of life matters to the professors and potential employers here, which is rare in this profession. Outside of the Bay Area, Colorado Law provides the best access to a thriving entrepreneurial community with the curriculum to back it up.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
I lived in Colorado for two years before law school and couldn’t bring myself to go back east. Everyone had great things to say about Colorado Law, and I thought both the real estate and tech industries would provide a sustainable base for legal work. Also, I had recently picked up a serious climbing habit.