From the Classroom to Career
Sturm College of Law Alumni Succeed in their Legal Journeys
The University of Denver Sturm College of Law is proud to showcase
the impressive talents of our alumni. Janelle Miller, JD‘20 and Aaron Jacks, JD‘14, are exceptional examples of the results gained through the practical training opportunities offered at Denver Law, as well as value of making connections in the Denver legal community.
After serving as an intern for two years, Janelle joined the Arvada City Attorney's Office full-time in the fall of 2020. She is now the city's primary prosecutor, handling criminal, traffic, code enforcement and sales tax cases.
Janelle graduated from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 2020. Prior to law school, she attended the University of Northern Colorado, double majoring in Psychology and Criminal Justice with a minor in Legal Studies and interned in the Colorado Public Defender's Office in the 19th Judicial District.
Aaron joined the Arvada City Attorney’s Office in 2017. He is the legal advisor to the Arvada Police Department. He also prosecutes code enforcement cases and handles various matters supporting the police department, municipal court, and the Ralston House Child Advocacy Center.
Aaron retired from the Arvada Police Department in 2011 after a 22 year law enforcement career with Arvada and the Colorado State Patrol. He earned his JD from Denver Law in 2014 and returned to public service with Arvada after working as an in-house counsel with Zayo Group, a fiber optic telecom company headquartered in Boulder.
We interviewed Janelle and Aaron, to highlight their accomplishments and to illustrate ways to take advantage of Denver Law’s resources for transitioning from student to professional. Aaron and Nora Steenson, Deputy City Attorney for Arvada City Attorney’s Office, highlighted how Janelle stood out as an extern, which she secured through the help of the Sturm College of Law’s Legal Externship Program, and then as a candidate.
Sturm College of Law: You have a terrific job as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Arvada. How did you get the job?
Janelle Miller: I started with the City of Arvada as an extern. In finding the externship, I used the Externship Office's database of employers. I noticed the City of Arvada on the list; the listing caught my attention because of the variety of projects I could work on given the work handled by the City Attorney's Office, along with the fact that the office was close to home. I emailed the City Attorney's Office, asking whether the office was accepting externs, and specifically whether they would take on 1Ls (technically an incoming 2L). I was brought in for an interview with the City Attorney and Law Office Administrator and offered a summer externship. I worked through the summer of 2018 and fell in love with the office - so much so that I asked my supervising attorney about the possibility of externing again the following summer. Luckily, I was invited back to spend a second summer with the office in 2019, and just never left. I worked through the summer and through my 3L year. I stayed on in an intern capacity after graduating while I studied for the bar exam, and while awaiting results. Once I received my license, I was promoted to an Assistant City Attorney position and have been working in that capacity for a few months now.
Sturm College of Law: It can be hard to land a job in a City Attorney’s Office right out of law school. How did Janelle stand out in the hiring process and how is she doing on the job?
Aaron Jacks: The City Attorney and our office administrator who interviewed Janelle for her externship have since moved on from the City. I can say, however, that I worked with Janelle soon after she began her externship with our office. She stood out immediately as an exceptionally bright extern who could research an issue through to a conclusion very quickly, and her writing style was clear, concise, and appropriately cited as needed. It was clear she was very skilled, but she was also practical in her approach to legal issues. I think that reflects DU's emphasis on practical legal education.
Nora Steenson (Deputy City Attorney): Janelle Miller started as an intern at the Arvada city attorney's office in 2018, but was later hired as a paid law clerk. Janelle has primarily been involved in our office's criminal prosecution activities since that time, although she has performed work for the civil side, as well. I became acquainted with her work beginning in 2019. Janelle was hired as an Assistant City Attorney in December of 2020. She now works full-time as Arvada's city prosecutor. Several aspects of Janelle's "work personality" stand out. She is a quick learner. Janelle has an extraordinarily strong work ethic: she arrives at work early and works until the job is finished. Janelle is skilled at assessing a great deal of information and making decisions that keep prosecution processes moving forward in a productive way. She is adept at identifying legal issues, and has highly developed legal research skills. She has an engaging personality and can interact positively with a wide range of people: defendants who appear before the Municipal Court, Court team members, and other co-workers. Janelle is prepared for Court appearances. She is eager to learn and seeks out feedback in order to improve. Janelle is an excellent example of a student who, through her own initiative and hard work, was able to leverage the education and training she received at DU into a career in the public sector. Although Janelle is still a new lawyer, she has all the makings of an excellent attorney -- we are pleased she has joined our office!
Sturm College of Law: How did DU prepare you to land your job and add value from day one?
Miller: I actually found the courses offered at DU to be the most beneficial. For example, having two semesters of Lawyering Process under my belt prior to starting my summer externship in 2018 enabled me to jump right in drafting research memos, motions, etc. The Legal Research Certification course was also beneficial in teaching me how to navigate Westlaw, Lexis, etc. I felt more than prepared to tackle any research project that was thrown at me, even if I was unfamiliar with the area of law.
Jacks: I think DU's emphasis on experiential learning is a big advantage for recent graduates. I participated in the Community Economic Development Clinic my 2L year, and an externship with the firm of Shuchat, Herzog, and Brenmann during 3L. Both experiences provided real world experience working with actual clients and peers in a legal setting. This experience allows a DU grad to look beyond "textbook" legal education. Experiential learning gives you a broader perspective and requires that the student consider what is important to an actual client, even if it is not a purely legal question. The client really isn't that concerned if you prepare the perfect IRAC memo with exacting analysis. They want a concise answer to their legal question or problem that they can apply to their situation. DU prepares you to take on that advisory role from the outset, rather than learning how to advise a client in incremental steps learned from a senior attorney once out in practice.