The University of Colorado Law School touts the success of many of its graduates finding law work after leaving campus. But school officials say a big part of that success actually begins early in their time in Boulder.

JD Pathways is an annual career conference held by the law school's career development office that helps first-year law students begin looking for work experience that will help them once they graduate.

The program is in its eighth year after being started under then-Dean Phil Weiser, now Colorado's Attorney General.

"The idea was to expose first-year law students to a wide variety of different careers," said Todd Rogers, assistant dean for career development. "The first semester we wanted to ease them into law school and let them find their footing and focus mainly on classes. We wanted to kick off the second semester with this focus on careers and all the different things you can do with a law degree."

And so JD Pathways is held every January the week before classes resume. This year's conference was held on Friday.

"We always tell the students to plan to come back a few days early so they can attend," Rogers said.

The all-day event at the law school's Wolf Law building on campus features panels on specific law topics and a luncheon where students can chat with law professionals.


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"That's not something you can get by opening a book," said first-year law student Neil Sandhu. "We get to interact with lawyers and ask the questions that have been burning in the back of our minds."

The school brings in CU alumni and other local people in various branches of law to speak and interact with the students.

"A heavy dose of alumni will participate, but we also have some friends of the law school and other supporters," Rogers said. "We really do try to put together a good mix of lawyers, and try not to be too heavy on one practice area."

In addition to having people talk to students about various jobs, the conference helps students with the practical aspects of getting a job with mock interviews and resume building panels.

Sandhu got to interview with a Boulder County attorney who then gave him tips and feedback.

"Being able to refine those skills only comes with practice," Sandhu said. "You can practice in the mirror or at the table with family, but you don't get the full weight of the experience until you are sitting at that table. That's what I hope to take out of this, being able to walk in to an interview with confidence, regardless of what the job is."

Rogers said getting a job or internship in law while in school is crucial to graduates getting careers out of law school, and he thinks JD Pathways helps give CU law students an edge in that department.

According to the American Bar Association, 76 percent of 2017 law graduates reported a full-time, long-term non-school funded job that required bar passage 10 months after graduation. That figure is 40th nationally, and well above the average of 66.2 percent nationally.

"Our message is we want them to have three to four jobs while they are law students," Rogers said. "Internships, externships, paid or unpaid, it will set them up for a good postgrad job search.

"We try not to put too much pressure on that first job. If they get a legal job with good writing experience and mentorship, they are on the right path. It really is the first building block in that series of three to four jobs."

Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, byarsm@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/mitchellbyars