Starting a new business venture from the ground up can be scary; you may not know exactly where to go or have the financial backing you need, subsequently you take many risks. In the case of JLongtin Law, risk-taking was a critical characteristic towards the success of the firm. JLongtin Law is a small, private, criminal defense firm based out of Denver, Colorado. Jennifer Longtin and her wonderful team of attorneys practice client-driven, mental health centered, criminal defense. The firm represents four distinct values that make their firm unique in practice: compassion, health, strength of character, and respect for all. These four values are important in practice and allow people to exercise their constitutional rights to the fullest. The law states that a person must have the mental capacity to be responsible for their actions and the ability to stand trial. Those lacking the mental capacity should not stand trial or endure criminal proceedings they cannot comprehend, instead receive treatment and support for their mental health.
Jennifer Longtin started JLongtin Law in May 2014, and is dedicated to serving those who are mentally ill and involved in the criminal justice system. Her team of attorneys litigates issues of competency, sanity, and advocates the use of the client’s history and unique life experiences to find treatment alternatives to incarceration. The unique benefit of JLongtin Law ultimately comes down to the way they run business. They are a tech-forward, client-driven firm upholding the firm’s values of compassion and understanding. Alongside, Jennifer provides legal coaching to community members and attorneys, in Colorado and across the nation, in mental health specific representation. JLongtin Law strongly advocates for those who seek treatment and provides compassionate support for individuals and their families in representing their needs.
Another unique feature of JLongtin Law is the CARe program they offer. CARe stands for Compassionate, Affordable Representation, and is a program designed and created in response to the lack of affordable representation in the community and the narrow restrictions on obtaining a public defender. JLongtin Law understands the rising cost of living in the Denver Metro Area, and, due to being a small-private firm, can consider extra criteria that the public defenders cannot. This allows for more members of our community to obtain the representation they need in order for them to get the support they require.
Jennifer Longtin was born in Chicago and then moved to Colorado in the sixth grade. She grew up with two entrepreneurial parents who ran, and recently sold, their company after over 20 years. Jen also comes from a family of lawyers, thus influencing the idea of practicing of law. However, Jen wanted to be different than her family members and not pursue law school; therefore, she graduated from Ithaca College in New York with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama. She was involved in theatre and was a theatre director at a playwright at Ithaca. During undergrad she held a profound interest in social justice and realized live theater was not the medium for social change that she wanted. Soon thereafter, she moved back to Chicago and attended Loyola to achieve her Master’s degree in International Politics, with an emphasis on genocide studies and international Conflict. While working towards her masters, she worked as a conflict data analyst for DLA Piper, one of the largest law firms in the world. After fighting her family history for a while, she realized the law sparked her interest and could provide the social change she desired. She moved back to Denver to attend DU Law school. She initially planned to study international criminal defense, but then changed her mind after she got pregnant with her now 11-year-old daughter, and decided to pursue criminal defense locally.
After achieving her JD degree, Jennifer worked as a Colorado State Public Defender for just under three years. Later, friends at the Colorado Office of Alternate Defense Counsel, the conflict counsel for the Public Defenders, needed someone to work on mental health issues and asked Jen if she would be willing to take it on. Since then, her firm has continued to specialize in mental health related criminal defense, representing the individual along with their families. Jen has practiced law working for a big machine: run by the state, has its own way of doing and enforcing things, she felt restrained and wanted to run cases the way she wanted to run cases. Originally, she did not have entrepreneurial goals when starting her own firm, but she knew she was burnt out after working for the PD and simply wanted to practice law at her kitchen table for a year. Networking and making connections was huge to getting the firm up and started. Her first clients were her law school professor’s friend and her manicurist. She started hiring other people at the start of the second year of the venture, mainly through connections, and then partnered with DU to undergo a hiring process at the law school. Jen mentioned there is a lot of value to not always knowing what’s next because entrepreneurs always feel like they need to push forward, but years where you don’t grow help you figure out where to fine tune your business operations. She made mistakes, but kept going because everyone at the office wanted to work towards the same mission: to serve people. If she could do it differently, she mentioned starting with much more sound financial management than she did, possibly building up a little slower; for example, not taking on as many cases, not hiring another attorney so quickly. She realized she jumped and made financial decisions without knowing all the ramifications; however, she kept her head up and constantly checked and looked at her KPI numbers and evolved business plans. This made revolutionary changes in the firm toward a more business oriented approach, moving Jen’s position to not so much the actual practice of law, but the management of the business. Jen also partnered with Lawyerist.com through their Lab program, a community of small and solo firm owners that grow their businesses together.
Although not ready to exit, Jen has thought about her end goal for JLongtin Law. Her plan would be to franchise her business model, a new concept in the legal field; not necessarily an exit, but a shift in what she’s currently doing and in order to cast a wider net to the greater society.
In conclusion, I plan to pursue a similar career path as Jennifer, thus I am thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to pick her brain for forty-five minutes, but also the chance to work for her this last summer. I have learned aspects of the legal practice from both business and societal standpoints, and learned what it will take to get to where Jen is today. You must take risks, you must be organized, and you must always be scheming. Don’t give up, don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it, and ultimately find what you love and pursue it to its maximum capacity. As a future entrepreneur, I plan to create a similar business venture to Jen Longtin in order to serve our communities and help those in greater need.
- Alyssa Stevenson