DBA YLD Chair Implements Programs to Help New Lawyers Thrive
by Matt Masich
Matt Larson, who in July began his year-long term as YLD chair, graduated from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 2009. Like many law students across the country, he started his final year of law school confident he would have a job lined up once he got his law degree. And like many, he had to improvise another plan after the job prospects he’d lined up disappeared amid economic tumult.
Larson found that a "new normal" prevails in which young lawyers don’t have a clearly defined path from law student to summer associate to legal career. It takes a lot of networking and resourcefulness to succeed, he said. Larson, who practices regulatory law as an associate at Wilkinson Barker Knaeur LLP, says part of his role as YLD chair is to help others find those networking opportunities and give them the resources they need.
"YLD might not get you a job right away," Larson said. "But it is going to create the circumstances and relationships that will eventually get you a job."
Larson is originally from Reston, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C. He grew up reading The Washington Post, and he envisioned a career in political journalism when he came to Boulder to study journalism at the University of Colorado. A few years after receiving his undergraduate degree in 2003, his love of analyzing and writing about complex issues attracted him to a career in law.
Larson began law school at DU in 2006, interning at the Denver U.S. attorney’s office after his 1L year. During his second year, he had a clerkship with Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane. Larson worked in 2008 as a summer associate at former Denver firm Kamlet Shepherd & Reichert, and he accepted an offer to join as an associate the next year.
When that offer fell through, Larson was able to draw on the relationships he’d made as a summer associate to get contract work at Denver firm Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe. That soon turned into a full-time job. Earlier this year, Larson joined former Kamlet Shepherd attorneys Ray Gifford, Phil Roselli and Adam Peters at Wilkinson Barker Knauer.
Many of Larson’s friends and classmates had similar experiences in their first few years out of law school. "People had to go out and network and make it for themselves," he said. "It wasn’t going to be automatic—take the bar, vacation in Greece, start a job. That whole chain of events doesn’t exist anymore."
Larson became involved in the YLD within his first year as a practicing lawyer. He liked meeting his peers and learning about what they do, as well as getting involved in public service programs such as Legal Night at Mi Casa and El Centro San Juan Diego.
As YLD chair, Larson plans to expand on two programs that were priorities of past YLD chair Jake Eisenstein. The first is a revamped Court Orientation Program, in which the YLD partners with Denver Law to give lawyers the basics they’ll need to hit the ground running. Because a significant number of recent graduates enter solo practice, they might not have a mentor on hand to show them the ropes in court. The two-day orientation lets them show up on their first day in court knowing where to sit, where to meet clients and a host of details not necessarily covered in class.
Larson’s other big project is the Practice Area Previews, in which young attorneys give presentations to their peers about their practice area. The first preview, covering environmental law, was held this spring, and Larson is excited about a future preview about the unique challenge of representing entrepreneurs and start-up companies. The Practice Area Previews presentations are sandwiched by networking time, giving attendees the chance to follow up with the speaker about their practice.
YLD has several events every month, including monthly Barristers After Hours gatherings, which offer free drinks and a chance to mingle with other young attorneys every third Thursday. The inaugural Bike Social was a popular happening with YLD members this year, and Larson hopes for high participation among young lawyers next year. Bar members met at the B Cycle station at 16th and Platte streets and had an hour-long bike ride before reconvening at the Denver Beer Co. for a social hour.
A new YLD website, dbayounglawyers.org, was unveiled this year, and it includes a blog that allows young lawyers to share legal knowledge with a broader audience. "The blog can be a résumé builder," Larson said. "It gives folks an opportunity to write, to develop experience, and an excuse to do research."
When he’s not working or at a YLD event, Larson lives in Denver’s Hilltop neighborhood with his wife, Ilana, and 1-year-old daughter, Sophia. D
Matt Masich is a staff writer with Colorado Life Magazine. He previously was a reporter for Law Week Colorado, covering bar associations, the business of law, appellate courts, and the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.