Spotlight on up-and-comers
Jason C. Astle
Jason C. Astle didn’t go to law school until he was 31.
He was too busy doing a few other things: helping run
a domestic-violence program in Durango; building an
elementary school in Cameroon; and keeping defendants out of jail in England. You know: the usual.
“I didn’t want to regret walking away from op-
portunities,” explains Astle, who had his heart set on
becoming a lawyer ever since he and his high school
team in Evergreen won the state mock trial champion-
ships. “The salaries that attorneys need to make to pay
off debt and support families … limits young attorneys’
[ability] to go out and have adventures.”
So right after graduating from Colorado College,
he accepted an offer to work as an apprentice at an
Oxford law firm where his dad’s cousin is a solicitor.
“If one of the firm’s clients got arrested, I would
go down to the police station, represent them while
they were being interrogated, and then I’d try to keep
them out of jail,” he says.
In the British justice system, solicitors appear only in
lower-level courts, before a panel of magistrates who
are described by Astle as “typically elderly people who
had time on their hands, but they were not trained at-
torneys. They were a little bit of a wild card at the time.
The solicitors I worked with found it frustrating.”
More serious criminal cases are sent along to the
Crown Court, where only barristers—who can be
hired by either prosecution or defense—are allowed
to appear. “That independence is meant to create a
sense of legitimacy in terms of the advocacy, a sense
of collegiality; they don’t have any personal stake one
way or the other,” Astle says.
At the same time, the British legal system was more
stratified by class, he recalls. “In order to become a
barrister, you have to go through a somewhat lengthy
apprenticeship period after you get your law degree,”
he says. Back then, barrister apprenticeships were,
he says, “basically unpaid, so you have to have a fair
amount of personal resources in order to become a
barrister to begin with. I think our system tends to
make it more open and available to people who might
qualify for scholarships,” although rising costs at U.S.
law schools may be changing that reality, he adds.
After his apprenticeship, Astle returned to Colorado and took a position at the district attorney’s office in Durango as an advocate for domestic-violence
victims. “It was myself and another district attorney
basically who operated this specialized unit,” he says.
The Long, Globetrotting
Apprenticeship of Jason C. Astle
What becomes a pre-law student most? BY BETH TAYLOR
The program, funded through a Violence Against
Women Act grant, pioneered ideas that are now com-
monly implemented: evaluating defendants on a fast
track to get them to plead guilty and begin counsel-
ing as soon as possible, while also getting the victim
immediately into counseling. A partially dedicated
magistrate judge helped expedite matters.
“There was pretty clear evidence that the longer
it took to resolve those cases, the more likely it was
that victims would become less and less cooperative,” Astle notes.
After two years there, he spent another two-and-a-half as a health care volunteer with the Peace Corps
in Cameroon, Africa, focusing on HIV/AIDS education
and building an elementary school to serve several
villages on the edge of the rainforest.
When it was time for law school, he says, “I focused
heavily on schools that had strong practical skills
programs: things that practicing lawyers needed to
know how to do out of the gate, because the apprenticeship system here is kind of broken down. Law firms
don’t typically invest in training associates in the ways
that they used to.” He found what he wanted at the
University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
Since 2013 he has practiced general litigation at
Springer & Steinberg. He also handles some appellate work and takes on pro bono cases when he can.
Time is hard to come by, which is why he’s happy for
his decade-long, globetrotting experience.
“I was single, I had no debt; it was a function of
generating enough income to live and work where I
wanted to,” he says. “I’m really glad that I was able
to do some of the things I did in my 20s when I had
“I’m really glad that I was able
to do some of the things I did
in my 20s when I had those
opportunities,” says Astle.