Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

Student practice rule helps non-profits
A rule change five years ago has increased the availability of lawyers able to practice in court on behalf of non-profit groups.

Spring 2016

When Abby Boyd stepped into court in the summer of 2014, she hadn’t yet taken the oath of admission. She was awaiting her bar results that would tell her whether she could be sworn in as a Colorado attorney.

Still, she wasn’t in court that day merely to observe. She was acting as guardian ad litem for a child involved in a protective order case. She had interviewed the parties, helped devise the child custody plan and was there to present it to the court.

“It was my first time in court,” Boyd said. “And it was a great experience to get my feet under me and build confidence.”

Boyd was practicing under Rule 205.7. That rule was expanded in 2011 to allow students and those who haven’t been sworn in to represent a non-profit organization in court proceedings. Since the change, 71 people have registered under the rule to practice for groups such as Colorado Legal Services, Metro Volunteer Lawyers, Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center and others.

The change is one part of an effort to increase access to justice, in this case by allowing student practitioners to take on cases of the underserved.

The Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center utilizes seven or eight practitioners under the rule every year, said Jennifer Eyl, Director of Family Stability Programs. Many of those, like Boyd, work as guardians ad litem in domestic violence cases. Eyl said the rule has decreased staff training time.

“The students can take on far more cases than our volunteer lawyers,” she said. “Otherwise, we’d have to recruit and train more volunteers.”

Colorado Legal Services also takes on those registered under the student practice rule, said Executive Director Jon Asher. He said prior to the rule change, those who had graduated from law school but were not yet sworn in were stuck in a kind of limbo period where “you couldn’t do much except legal research” for non-profits.

“Now you can go to court and be of significant help to places like Legal Aid,” he said.

James Carlson is the Information Resources Coordinator at the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.