Javed Abbas was sure he wanted to be a public defender going into law school. After his first summer interning with the Harris Law Firm through the Pledge to Diversity, Abbas discovered his passion for serving families in need of legal assistance. Abbas worked at the Harris Law Firm throughout the rest of his time in law school and upon graduating the firm offered him a job that he accepted on the spot.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I like to think that I help people be reasonable. I’m a family law attorney with The Harris Law Firm. We are one of Colorado’s top family law firms, and we have offices in Denver, Fort Collins, Evergreen, and Englewood. We have many highly skilled attorneys in the firm, and I am happy to be a part of this group. I spend most of my time in Fort Collins working on Larimer County cases, but I have cases all over the state.
My typical work day involves preparing for big events such as trials or mediation. My preparation usually involves discussing issues with clients and other attorneys, I draft and respond to motions, I analyze and prepare financial disclosures, and I spend a lot of time helping people work through co-parenting issues. I have also learned to expect the unexpected. In many family cases, people tend to embrace the most unreasonable aspects of their personality, and that usually adds a little spice to my day.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
I came to law school convinced that I wanted to be a public defender for the next 50 years. I thought trial lawyers had the coolest job imaginable, I wanted to be the next Atticus Finch, and I’m not the biggest fan of the proverbial “man.” The Career Development Office helped me with the public defender internship application process.
While they were helping me with my public defender applications, they also encouraged me to think about participating in the Pledge to Diversity program. They explained the benefits of getting experience in private practice while I was in school, and then they prepared me for success in the application process. They were very involved and willing to help in any way that I asked, and I could not have been happier with their support.
How did you find your job?
I interviewed with Rich Harris, the namesake and head honcho at The Harris Law Firm, as part of the Pledge to Diversity program. We hit it off immediately, and I knew that he would be a great role model whether I wanted to be a family law attorney or not. I began working at The Harris Law Firm during my 1L summer, I stayed on board throughout law school, and I was fortunate to have a very clear idea of what I wanted to do when I graduated.
I did not walk through the doors of the Wolf Law Building with a lot of experience or knowledge about lawyers or the law so my real life law clerk experience was very important for me. I loved the attorneys I worked with, I thought they were doing important work, and I accepted the job as soon as Rich offered it to me.
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 read, write, and attempt to persuade all day long. Natalie Mack was my legal writing professor, and I thought she was amazing at explaining how to write persuasively and professionally. Amy Schmitz was my contracts professor, and she taught me how important the word “because” is to a persuasive argument. I had Professor Ahmed White for three different classes, and I think he really helped me develop my critical thinking skills. Violeta Chapin was my clinic professor, and she showed me how a persuasive trial lawyer acts in a court room. I have a very high opinion of almost every professor I interacted with, but those are the courses and professors that stand out in my mind.
Please talk a little about “people skills” and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
I think networking is critical for those attorneys interested in making partner and building a successful private practice. I think networking is helpful and important for attorneys interested in other things. I am not a firm wide decision maker yet, but from what I can gather, every attorney needs to reach a baseline of competency or that attorney will not be able to meet his/ her professional goals. After an attorney reaches that threshold, the key to success is the professional network because that will generate business, and business generation is a very important factor to law firm decision makers.
Personally, I assume that everyone I meet already likes me, and that tends to inform the way I interact with people. As a result, I really enjoy meeting new people and building relationships, and I think that helps land clients and resolve cases.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
Connect with the Career Development Office as soon as you are comfortable with the pace of law school. They are an outstanding resource, and they want to help you. Look for opportunities to interact with practicing attorneys. I have still not met an attorney who is unwilling to help a law school student or a new attorney. Keep an open mind regarding the areas of law you are interested in. There are many interesting opportunities out there, and I think it makes sense to be mentally prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that you can find.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
You will have an amazing life experience at Colorado Law. The students and faculty are friendly, the environment is beautiful, and the quality of life in the area is as good as it gets.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
This is the list of things I wanted in a law school:
- Strong employment opportunities
- Respected school in a great location
- High bar passage rate
- Opportunities for practical experience
- Small class sizes
- Top notch facilities
Out of all of the excellent schools that I considered, Colorado Law scored the highest on my list of priorities. I could not be happier with my decision.