How I Got My Job-Practicing in a Smaller City: Robert Oliver (SJQ 2010)


1.    What did you do before law school and why did you decide to go to law school?

Before law school, I worked as a manager for a telemarketing company while going to school full-time. I decided to go to law school because of an experience I had during my undergrad years. My family was involved in a legal dispute with another family member. Because my family’s attorney was one of my teachers in undergrad I was able to talk to the attorney and learn about the case and the legal process. From this experience I decided I wanted to go to law school to be an attorney.

2.    What kinds of things did you do during law school?  (Clubs, journal, work, clinics?)

During my second and third year of law school I participated in the Innocence Clinic working with Jensie Anderson and Katie Monroe at the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center.  During my second year, my partner and I won the Traynor Moot Court competition and we went on to compete in the National Moot Court Competition. During my third year, I participated in the criminal clinic and worked with Salt Lake Legal Defender Association.

Throughout law school I worked with various firms and solo practitioners. I clerked for Heugly & Olsen in Price, Utah; Heidemen, McKay, Heugly & Olsen in Provo, Utah; Clayton Simms in Salt Lake City, Utah; Salt Lake Legal Defender Association Appeals division in Salt Lake City, Utah; and Bill Bradford in Salt Lake City, Utah.

3.    Where are you working and what are you doing?

Currently, I am working for my self in Price Utah. I started a firm with another attorney I met while studying for the bar. The firm name is Oliver & Sitterud and our office is in Price, Utah but we take cases statewide. We’ve had cases from as far south as Moab and as far north as Salt Lake City and Vernal.

4.    When and how did you first decide to start your own firm?

My end game was to always start my own firm and work for myself. During law school I attended a lunch presentation and one of the speakers was an attorney who started a firm right out of law school.  His main point was that all attorneys have the same degree, it just takes ambition to start your own firm. After listening to him and reading several books on starting a law firm, I decided to take the plunge.

5.    What do you like about practicing in Price?

I like the small city environment and being close to old friends and family.  The one thing I missed (without realizing it until now) was being able to see the stars at night.

6.    What kinds of things do you think helped you build your practice outside of Salt Lake?  

Participating in the criminal clinic was the best thing I did in law school. Being able to do jury trials and prepare for court in the criminal clinic helped immensely.  For example, I opened my office the day after I was sworn into the bar and had a criminal client who needed an attorney to appear in a hearing the next day on a first degree felony. Without the criminal clinic experience I would have been petrified.

Another thing that helped build my practice was the time I spent clerking.  I made good connections and have received a lot of referrals from the attorneys I worked for during law school. In addition, the research and drafting I completed for these attorneys helped prepare me for the legal issues I now face with my own clients.

7.    What tips do you have for students who are job seeking?

Don’t despair if you don’t get an interview or a job with a big firm. Who cares? I never got bogged down in the top 10% mentality. I always thought, worst-case scenario: I start my own firm. I have a J.D. just like everyone else. If they can do it, so can I.

Another tip, use your connections and build a network. I only got one clerking job by submitting a resume, the others I got through random connections in my network of friends, family members, and faculty.  Even now, I find myself getting new clients just by making small talk with random strangers. You never know when that random conversation will turn into a new job or a new client.