When Ari Stiller graduated from law school, he moved to Los Angeles, where he had few connections. Although he struggled at first to find a job, he used what network he had and a little perseverance to make contacts and ultimately secure a great job at an employment litigation firm, Kingsley & Kingsley.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I am an associate at a Los Angeles employment litigation firm called Kingsley & Kingsley. We specialize in representing employees in wage and hour class action suits, as well as wrongful termination, harassment, and discrimination claims. On a day-to-day basis, I do a lot of writing. This consists mostly of motions and mediation briefs, but also some appeals (which are not uncommon in California employment law because of how regularly the laws change).
How did you find your job?
I started volunteering at a local legal services nonprofit called Bet Tzedek. Pretty soon, I joined the New Leadership Council there, which helps raise money for the organization. A friend of mine from that group told me about an opening at his wife's firm. I applied, and within a few weeks I had an offer.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
Despite working extremely hard, I had a difficult time finding a job right out of law school. This was in part because my wife and I decided to move to LA (where she grew up), and I did not have a strong network out here.
Colorado Law was instrumental in helping me make the transition. Dean Weiser introduced me to a lawyer friend of his in the area, who was a great resource. I stayed in close contact with him and, as luck would have it, he was appointed as a Ninth Circuit judge. Gathering all of my chutzpah, I asked if I could work in his chambers after the bar exam. He agreed, and that made a big difference in establishing myself as a new lawyer in LA.
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, writing, writing. Both jobs that I've had since law school have consisted of about 90 percent writing. While my first-year appellate advocacy course at Colorado Law provided the foundation for legal writing, other writing experiences at Colorado Law helped me refine those skills, especially my Judicial Opinion Writing course with Professor Kiernan-Johnson and courses with Professor Desautels-Stein, my externship at Petros & White, and my experience as an intern at the Colorado Supreme Court.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
I had to work especially hard at networking because I moved from Colorado, where I had a strong social network, to LA, where I hardly knew anybody. Once my wife and I decided to move out here, I treated networking like a full-time job. The most important part for me was following up after the initial contact. I "nerded out" about it and made a spreadsheet of all of my contacts and put reminders in my calendar to bug certain contacts every couple weeks. While it got stressful to keep up with that and law school studies, the networking paid off in the end—I found both of my post-law-school jobs through personal connections.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
First, get real-world lawyer experience while in law school. Employers want someone who can walk in the door and start practicing. While you will inevitably have a lot to learn as a new lawyer (I still feel like I have a lot to learn two years out), an employer will see more value in a candidate who has some real-world experience and will not need as much training.
Also, do not get discouraged if it takes a long time to find something. A relatively small percentage of students have jobs lined up a year before graduation, and those are mostly clerkships or big-firm associate positions. Those are great, but not the most common jobs to come by. Most students find their jobs much later, even after graduation and the bar. It can be scary to hear about your friends' job successes while you are still looking, but rest assured that you are not alone if you are still in the job hunt after graduation.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
Colorado Law attracts brilliant students with interesting backgrounds, who are also very collaborative and friendly. Having a supportive and cohesive student body not only makes law school more fun, but also helps to facilitate learning. The faculty and staff are also fantastic. Many are renowned experts in their legal specialties and truly care about their students' success.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
I chose Colorado Law because of meeting alumni of the law school, as well as professors there, whom I respected and looked up to. This included attorney Ray Petros, former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Alex Martinez, and then-professor, now dean, Phil Weiser. I also appreciated Colorado Law's reputation as the best law school in the region, and the view of the Flatirons did not hurt!