Denver Bar Association
July 2013
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Preview of a Future Practice: New Event Gives Young Lawyers Peek at Niche Practice Areas

by Jessica Black Livingston, Sarah Gibson, Meredith Van Horn


ractice Area Preview, a recently launched series, offers young lawyers and law students the opportunity to network and to learn about various practice areas from the perspective of young lawyers.

After recent focus-group discussions, the Denver Bar Association Young Lawyers Division found that its members want to learn from and interact with their peers at events that are less formal than typical continuing legal education programs. The Practice Area Preview program is an informal happy hour, providing a relaxed atmosphere for young lawyers and law students to chat with other young lawyers practicing or interested in a particular area of the law. The program gives young lawyers a chance to hear how other young lawyers came to practice in a particular area and what it is that young lawyers in that practice area do day to day. Each event features a panel of three to four speakers, all of whom are young lawyers.

The first event, held on April 16 at Katie Mullen’s, focused on environmental law. The program featured three dynamic speakers, each representing a different facet of environmental practice: Matt Sandler, a staff attorney at the nonprofit organization Rocky Mountain Wild; Matt Larson, an associate at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP; and Derek Turner, an assistant attorney general for the Natural Resources and Environment Section of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. After a half hour of general networking, each of the speakers briefly talked about what it is like to practice in the field of environmental law as a young lawyer and how he arrived at his current position.

Sandler described how he worked as a public defender for two years and also clerked for a judge prior to landing his dream job working for Rocky Mountain Wild. His story provided hope to the young attorneys in the crowd working in other areas of the law but seeking employment in the environmental field. Sandler practices largely in federal court to protect species throughout the intermountain west from the various environmental and habitat pressures they face.

Larson spoke about his experience working for medium- and large-sized law firms, practicing environmental and energy law. His career path started as a summer associate at a firm where he made the connections that enabled him to later get a job there. With a practice focused on state and federal environmental and energy regulatory issues, Larson counsels utilities on applicable regulations and works on matters before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Turner’s path to his current position began after law school as a law clerk for Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs. After his clerkship, he joined the Attorney General’s Office, where his practice focuses on water law. Turner remarked that water law is a unique and interesting practice area because of its separate court system and reliance on knowledge of science and engineering.

With networking as an important component of the event, each of our speakers mingled with young lawyers and law students following the introductions, providing participants with an opportunity for more individualized discussion.

Stay tuned for future Practice Area Preview events coming this fall. If you have an idea for an event topic or would like to suggest a young lawyer speaker, please email Jessica Black Livingston at D


Jessica Black Livingston is a law clerk for 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch. She is a member of the DBA YLD’s Executive Council and serves as its treasurer. She may be reached at

Sarah Gibson is a hearings officer with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. She has been a member of the DBA YLD’s Executive Council for two years, where she focuses on planning events for young lawyers. She may be reached at

Meredith Van Horn is an associate at Heil Law & Planning, LLC in Denver, where she practices land use and municipal law. She is a member of the DBA YLD’s Executive Council. She may be reached at

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