Since Tonya Luna began law school, she knew she wanted to help people and find a job with a high level of client interaction. She encourages students to find an area of law or practice they are passionate about and to pursue it through clinics and internships. She also began a family tradition, as her younger brother Josh has now joined Colorado Law.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I work at the Colorado Springs office of Colorado Legal Services, a statewide organization that provides representation in civil cases to low-income Coloradans. While CLS represents clients in the areas of housing, elder law, social security disability proceedings, and other areas, I primarily practice family law. Because of constant funding struggles and large demand, almost all family law clients have children and are usually victims of domestic violence.
A typical day for me begins with my commute. I am lucky to live again in my hometown of Pueblo, so unless I am on my monthly outreach assignment in Cañon City, I start my day with a 40-minute drive to my office in the southern part of Colorado Springs. After getting to work, I usually prepare for client meetings and review my calendar. Around nine or so, I might meet with a client to discuss an upcoming hearing. Many of my clients bring their children with them, so I have set up a play corner in my office. At eleven, I might return a call from a prospective client to determine whether CLS should take her case. After a quick lunch, I might prepare for a protection order hearing and go into court that afternoon. Toward the end of the day, I might staff cases with the other attorneys and paralegals in my office before preparing for the rest of the week. Around five thirty or six, I think over the day on my way home.
How did you find your job?
Since I began law school, I knew I wanted to help people and find a job with a high level of client interaction. During law school I pursued my interest in family by working in the juvenile law clinic and interning in the Denver and Pueblo offices of CLS. After finishing law school, I applied to a yearlong fellowship to work at the Denver office of CLS. I learned a lot and at the end of the year, I was offered a staff attorney job in the Colorado Springs office.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
The career services office was extremely helpful in helping me with my job search. They would email me postings of jobs they thought might fit my interests, and they told me about the fellowship that ended up funding my first job out of law school. My clinic professor also always kept an eye on job openings for me. I found that taking advantage of the resources at the law school was instrumental in helping me find a 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?
The two biggest skills I use are the research skills I developed in my first-year legal writing class and the courtroom, client-interaction, and time-management skills the juvenile law clinic taught me. I would advise any law student interested in a similar career path to take a clinic.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
I have always tried to take the time to get to know my law professors and the staff at my internships. I credit the relationships I built at the law school, as well as at the Denver and Pueblo offices of CLS, with getting the job I have today.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
If you can, try to identify a practice area you are passionate about and take an active role in the networking activities offered by the law school. If you are focused and have an interest in your future practice area, you will get much more out of meeting with practicing attorneys, and they will take a stronger interest in you. By emphasizing your interest, you will also be able to distinguish your resume.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
Being from Colorado, I thought Colorado Law was a natural choice. I found the students, professors, and staff at Colorado Law to be incredibly supportive. They took an interest in my career goals and were genuinely interested in getting to know me as a person. They also taught me a lot. While I felt stressed and challenged plenty of times during law school, I always came out okay in large part because of the wonderful community I became a part of.