Professional Development

Civics Education for Educators

For three days in June, I had the pleasure of teaching in Western State Colorado University's Summer Teacher Institute.  I taught American Government and Effective Advocacy for 2 graduate credits.  The course participants were educators in a variety of settings--two elementary school teachers, two high school civics teachers, and one environmental studies college professor.  The participants came in with a pretty wide range of knowledge about civics and government, but all agreed that we need to prioritize civics in schools and society. 

We focused on three concepts: civic knowledge, civic values, and civic skills.  We agreed that schools primarily focus on civic knowledge (the structure and function of the government), but that the general public demonstrates a low level of understanding. 

In the course, we examined federalism (enumerated powers v. police powers; the 10th Amendment; the supremacy clause and preemption), Congress (structure and organization; the legislative path; enumerated powers, specifically the necessary and proper clause, tax and spend clause, and the commerce clause; post-Civil War Amendments), the judicial branch (structure and organization; federal jurisdiction; judicial review; limitations such as standing, ripeness, and mootness), the President (the Electoral College; inherent and Congressionally-granted powers; foreign policy; impeachment and civil suits), administrative agencies (structure and organization; creation; rulemaking and adjudications; limitations on agency action; judicial review), procedural due process (sources; meaning; personal jurisdiction; notice and opportunity; important components of a civil lawsuit), fundamental rights (Bill of Rights; incorporation; state actor requirement; recognition of new rights), and equal protection (levels of scrutiny).   We also discussed strategies for legal reading and analysis and briefed a case as a class exercise. 

We also discussed the principles of effective advocacy and ran through a hypothetical involving potential legislation and regulations around public lands.  

The course participants brainstormed with each other and generated several ideas for lesson plans, class exercises, or school-wide clubs, activities, or policies to promote civic knowledge, values, and skills. 

I strongly believe that lawyers have an important role to play in educating the public about civics and good government.  I left the course more energized and committed to promoting civics education as a core value of the legal profession.  The Summer Institute is a fabulous program that gives educators the opportunity to earn professional credit through a really wide variety of course offerings.  I look forward to working with Western State and the Summer Teacher Institute to expand future course offerings in civics, government, law, and advocacy. 

Balancing Life and Law on a Part-Time or Flexible Schedule

Here is an article I wrote about the challenges of and strategies for dealing with balancing parenting and lawyering when you work on a part-time schedule.  

Thanks to Jeeno Cho for being a strong voice for lawyer wellbeing!

Colorado Lawyer--Ethical Considerations When Using Freelance Legal Services

I am so pleased to have the opportunity to spread the word about freelance legal services through Colorado Lawyer, the monthly publication of the Colorado Bar Association. 

This article discusses the basics of freelance legal services, compares freelance legal services to unbundled legal services, the hiring lawyer's duties with respect to disclosure to the client, confidentiality issues, conflict of interest issues, compensation arrangements, supervision, and fee agreements. 

Here is the article:

Serving on the Professionalism Committee

I have been asked to serve on the Karl Ranous Professionalism Committee.  Each year, the Committee recognizes and honors a lawyer in Gunnison County, Colorado who exemplifies the values and practices of professionalism in the legal field.  I am happy to serve on the Committee and help promote professionalism in our community!

Pro Bono Recognition

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The Colorado Attorney Oath of Admission states "I do solemnly swear....I will use my knowledge of the law for the better of society and the improvement of the legal system."  I love that the legal profession cares about pro bono work and access to justice issues.  I am proud to do my small part!

Karl Ranous Professionalism Award


On April 10, lawyers in Gunnison County met for the annual Karl Ranous Professionalism Award dinner.  Every year, the bar association gathers to honor a local lawyer who exemplifies the values and practices of professionalism.  This year, the Gunnison County Bar Association honored Hon. J. Steven Patrick, the Chief Judge of Colorado’s 7th Judicial District.  Judge Patrick sets the tone and a high standard for lawyers practicing in the 7th Judicial District.  This is a well-deserved recognition of the professionalism displayed in Colorado courts.

We also heard a presentation from Jim Coyle, head of Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel and Barbara Eyzk , Executive Director of the Colorado Lawyer's Assistance Program. 

Bob O’Hayre presented Judge Patrick with this year’s award.  

Bob O’Hayre presented Judge Patrick with this year’s award.  

Networking Tips for Young Professionals

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with undergraduate honors students for a networking dinner.  The purpose of the dinner was to let students mingle with professors and local professionals to practice networking skills in a formal setting.  It was a delight to meet with a diverse group of students with a wide range of interests—some were heading to graduate schools immediately, one hoped to enter the Peace Corps then go to law school, one was applying for jobs in healthcare before going to medical school, and several were undecided.

I’ve come to enjoy networking, but that wasn’t always the case.  For a long time, and all during law school, I often felt a little awkward or out of place at networking events.  I felt like I didn't know what to say, how to approach people, or how to get anything useful out of the event.  Although these students seemed much more at ease than I remember being as a graduating senior, their questions about the basics of networking reminded me that networking is actually a skill—one that you need to learn, practice, and use to your advantage.

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Here are my top tips for law students and young professionals in networking:


·       If you have business cards, bring them to your next networking event!  If you don’t have any, ask your Career Services if they have temp cards you can use.  Also, many online printers offer business cards for very cheap.  It is worth investing a few dollars to have a simple card with your basic contact information.

·       If you’re like I used to be, the prospect of going to a networking event isn’t exactly fun.  Maybe that’s not the case for you and you feel at ease at these events—if so, that is great!  If you need a confidence boost, however, keep in mind that others are either secretly feeling as awkward as you are or they’re chatty kathys ready to mingle with you.

·       Remember that the purpose of networking is to build a network!  You aren’t going to walk out of the room with a job offer, but you might meet someone who knows someone who can help you with professional development.  Law is incredibly people-driven and building and sustaining relationships will always serve you well.  So many opportunities will come to you if you can develop that mindset now.  Your best asset is human capital.  Make connections!

·       If you need to build your network but aren’t attending a formal networking event, you might need to take initiative and contact people directly.  Call or email lawyers and offer to take them out for a cup of coffee or an after-work drink.  This is especially helpful if you’re new to the area or breaking into a specific practice area.  I have never heard of a lawyer declining to meet with someone for a friendly outing like this.  Bar associations might have informal networking resources, so look into those.

At the Event

·       Networking doesn’t have to be stuffy or overly formal, but it is usually a professional event.  It should go without saying, but behave in a way that reflects well on you, your school, or your employer. 

·       Work the room: Networking events are usually about mingling, not having an hour-long conversation with one person.  If you’re feeling stuck, you can use getting more food or drink as a tactful excuse to move around the room.  You can also be direct: “It has been great meeting you.  I am going to walk around a meet a few more people before this event wraps up.”

·       If you’re going to the networking event with a group of people—fellow students or employees—try to resist the urge to stick with the people you know.  You’ll get more out of the event if you make the effort to branch out.  If you’re very uncomfortable or really need extra support, you can have a wingman.  Hopefully, in time you’ll feel more comfortable networking solo, but having a friend with you can be a bridge to that point.

·       At networking events, it is perfectly fine to go up to someone or a group of people and just say “hello.”  You don’t need an invitation!  If you see someone standing by themselves, take initiative and approach them.  They’ll appreciate the effort.

·        If you are nervous about what to talk about, remember that people, especially lawyers, love talking about themselves and their work.  You don’t have to be the Riddler and pepper people with rapid-fire questions, but showing genuine interest in people is a great way to get a conversation started.  It might feel a little unnatural at first, but people expect that at networking events, and they’ll appreciate your interest.

·       Be genuine and authentic.

·       Be honest about yourself and what you want.  If you know what you want, say so.  I've said "I am working on developing a practice in XYZ."  Tell people what you do and where you do it.  So much of professional development is letting people know what services you offer.  I am not suggesting that you brag or focus your conversation on this.  But,  you’ll make more lasting connections if you let someone know what you do.  As an example, I was at a networking event and spoke with a lawyer in Boulder who does family law.  I shared that I lived in Gunnison County.   A few weeks later, he called me up to ask for a referral to a residential real estate appraiser in my area.  I was happy to pass along the names of a few people I had worked with.  The lawyer clearly remembered me from the networking event and reached out for a favor.  Now, I have a connection in Boulder that I can draw on if I ever need to.

·       If you have a business card, hand them out.  I wouldn’t hand out your resume unless you really think it is appropriate for the event, but I would have one prepared and polished so that you can follow up with someone later. 


·       Get business cards from everyone you speak with and after the event, write down the date and place where you met that person and one or two details of your conversation.  This will help you put a name with a face and jog your memory about what you talked about.  Getting business cards is pretty worthless if you’re just left with a stack of names with no context.

·       If you had an interesting conversation or felt a great connection with someone you met at a networking event, follow up.  You can write a short email to the effect of “I enjoyed meeting you last night at the networking event.  Thanks for taking the time to explain XYZ.  I appreciated hearing your perspective on XYZ.  I hope we can connect again sometime.”  Boom.  Short, easy, appropriate.

·       Networking isn’t about asking for a job.  But, if you think it is appropriate, you can send your resume to someone after you’ve met them.  I like to say something like “I’ve attached my resume to give you a better idea of my background and skill set.”  If you specifically referenced a job search in your conversation, you could say something like, “if you ever hear of a job opening in (Tulsa) or (natural resources litigation), I would definitely appreciate if you’d keep me in mind.”  I’ve had people make that request of me, and I have always been happy to pass along opportunities.

·       Most professionals are on LinkedIn and a growing number are on Twitter.  You can make an online connection by inviting them to your network on LinkedIn or following them on Twitter (with the caveat that I recommend this only if you have a semi-professional presence on social media).  I don’t actually think LinkedIn is all that helpful (or maybe I am just not using it effectively), but it sort of functions as an online business card holder….all your professional connections are in one place with their resumes displayed.  

·       The legal community is filled with incredibly generous people who are happy to share their expertise with you.  The longer I practice, the more I am impressed with this feature of our profession.  Use it to your advantage.  If you ask for help in an appropriate and respectful way, chances are you’ll get it!

I hope this is helpful.  Networking is a vital part of building a law practice and can be an enjoyable way to grow relationships.


Gunnison County Inns of Court Spring/Summer 2018 Schedule


Here are some upcoming events through the Gunnison County Inns of Court and the 7th Judicial District:

May 9, 2018, 5:30, Garlic Mike's in Gunnison: Colorado Supreme Court Welcome Reception with 7th Judicial District Bar Association

May 10, 2018, Gunnison High School, Gunnison: Colorado Supreme Court Oral Arguments

June 15, 2018, Montrose: All-day CLE symposium presented by 7th Judicial District Bar Association

June 28, 2018, Gunnison: CLE presentation on data privacy and cybersecurity with Phi-Hang Tran