DU/CU Legal Residency Program

Law graduates, law firms, and legal departments all face a Catch 22: Everyone wants trained, experienced lawyers. Yet few employers —and even fewer clients—are willing to pay to train new lawyers and provide them with the experience they need in order to excel in their legal careers.

The University of Denver Sturm College of Law has partnered with The University of Colorado Law School to pilot an innovative program to the Colorado legal market: the DU/CU Legal Residency Program. The Legal Residency Program centers on a post-graduate experience that provides new graduates with 12-18 months of valuable legal training and experience, and assists employers with legal staffing at reasonable cost while helping to train the next generation of lawyers.

How does the Legal Residency Program work? Participating organizations hire one or more residents from a pool of new JD graduates provided exclusively by the two Colorado law schools. Residents work for a 12 to 18 month term depending on the employer’s needs. Employers are not expected to make permanent offers at the end of a residency, though they may do so at their discretion. The Legal Residency is not envisioned as a substitute for first year attorney positions. Instead, it is a unique program designed to provide new lawyers with employment and training opportunities that do not currently exist in the marketplace.

Why should my organization consider the Legal Residency Program? Employers have the benefit of cost effective assistance from residents coupled with the knowledge that they are contributing to the future of the legal profession. They may also end up discovering high quality legal talent, and can make hiring decisions after seeing their legal resident “in action,” or base hiring decisions on references from others who have worked extensively with a resident. The Legal Residency Program, the first of its kind in the nation, is a testament to the collective efforts of the two law schools and the Colorado legal community to launch the careers of the next generation of lawyers.

How are Legal Residents paid? Participating employers determine pay rates for residents. The expectation is that participating employers will pay a reasonable wage, understanding that it will be adjusted downward from traditional entry level salaries to reflect the different nature of the position (essentially an apprenticeship). For more information regarding how an employer may best determine appropriate salary levels for legal residents, please contact Assistant Dean of Career Development and Opportunities Eric Bono.

How are residents supervised, mentored and trained? We ask that employers provide substantive legal or policy work, appropriate supervision and meaningful feedback. We also suggest employers create learning plans and consider entering into agreements with residents that are modeled on the requirements of the Denver Law Legal Externship Program. Under that model, employers and residents establish a Learning Agenda which outlines the type of work the resident performs, the types of skills the resident builds and work-related experiences that strengthen the resident’s professional identity. Of course, the Learning Agenda also establishes the employer’s expectations and sets up a mechanism for regular, meaningful feedback. We are happy to assist employers with this piece of the program upon request. Denver Law will stay in touch with its legal residents, hosting regular meetings/seminars and providing them an opportunity for reflection on their apprenticeship efforts.

How do I hire a Legal Resident?
Employers interested in hiring a legal resident are encouraged to contact Eric Bono, Assistant Dean for Career Opportunities at 303-871-6478 or ebono@law.du.edu.