and I had 15 family members and friends
sitting there supporting my client, which is
really amazing. But it just struck me: When
you’re a public defender, a lot of them don’t
have anyone come to court. Nobody. It’s you
and the client.”
But Nielsen made the leap, too, joining
Reilly Pozner in 2007. Then in 2015, as the
firm downsized, they saw an opportunity.
Their former boss, Larry Pozner, says they
were a natural pair to create a firm. “People
who do criminal defense well look at it as more
of a statement of values than as a job,” he says,
“and they both care deeply about justice.”
David Kaplan of Haddon Morgan and
Foreman, who oversaw Eytan and Nielsen in
the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office,
says not every public defender succeeds
in private practice; but Eytan and Nielsen
knocked it out of the park. “These are two
hard-ass criminal defense lawyers who have
the reputation of being really capable and
competent in a tough business,” he says.
Sean Connelly of Zonies Law, a former
partner at Reilly Pozner, says the pair
would often pop into his office wanting to
brainstorm. “They just had an excitement
about their work and belief in each individual
client. They would often say, ‘I’ve got this
client and he’s wrongfully accused,’” he says.
“There’s no cynicism with them. They really
believe in what they’re doing.”
“I think we’re a great team,” Nielsen says.
“We talk about cases all the time. It’s not just
here in the office. Every night I’m talking to Iris
about cases and I’m getting her perspective
CURRENTLY, EYTAN AND NIELSEN have
carved out a niche representing college men
accused of sexual assault. “I think everyone
agrees rape is terrible and it happens, but
not every time a woman alleges some type of
sexual abuse is it true,” Nielsen says.
As explained in Eytan’s “Sex, Booze, and
the Law” lecture, the lawyers take issue
with how Title IX has been applied to sexual
assault allegations. Colleges, she contends,
are afraid of losing federal funding, so they’re
stripping away due process by not allowing
the accused to have lawyers and by basing
expulsion decisions on a preponderance of
the evidence. “That means: ‘Do we believe her
a smidge more?’” Nielsen says.
“Let me tell you about that smidge,”
Eytan adds. “If the girl was drunk, she can’t
consent. Game over. You’re expelled. You’re
done. That’s the law these boys now have to
As Nielsen and Eytan try to do their jobs in
the wake of an accusation—digging into text
messages, social media, and interviewing
students in the dorms—the investigation
itself has been labeled retaliation and can
also lead to expulsion. “I have no doubt that
many good boys’ lives have been ruined by
the accusation,” Nielsen says.
That’s why it’s the cases the public never
hears about—for whom she secured a
dismissal or no-file up front—that Nielsen
measures her success by. “I’ve represented
lawyers, doctors, students, all people with
bright futures that do well in life,” she says.
“When I think about those cases that are not
in the news, and [the accused] have gotten
to go on with their lives and marriages and
One of Eytan’s most memorable moments
as a lawyer was at a sentencing hearing for
a mentally ill client who had committed, she
says, a “pretty heinous” crime. Eytan used
psychiatrist testimony to try to get him a
more lenient sentence but he still got the
maximum. She was visibly upset. Then her
client reached over to grab her hand. “It’s
OK, Iris,” Eytan remembers him saying. “It’s
going to be OK. I’m going to be all right.”
“That’s the moment,” she says, looking
over at Nielsen, who, like her, has started to
tear up. “That’s why we do it.”
QUESTION IRIS DRU
When I was a newbie lawyer, I ... … thought I knew everything. … couldn’t talk in court without urning beet red.
If I weren’t a lawyer, I’d be ... … a talk show host—a mix of Donahue and Oprah. … a bartender.
My courtroom walkup music would be ... … MLK’s “We Shall Overcome” speech. … “American Girl” by Tom Petty.
I get angry when ... … my computer freezes or when I am censored. … people tell me what to do.
On weekends, I ... … sleep in late. … ski.
My guilty pleasure is ... … fresh baked, real French quality croissants. ... tequila.
If I had a morning show, my co-host would be ... ... John Oliver. ... Iris.
Discovery w/ Iris and Dru