CU Law Profiles
Faculty Profile

H. Patrick Furman

Criminal Clinics

You may also visit my faculty home page.



I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and lived there until I was thirteen. We moved to Colorado, and then to Indiana, where I finished High School. I returned to Colorado for college and never left.

Hobbies, Sports, or Extracurricular Passions

I like to ski; I have boarded a few times, but I'm afraid I'm getting too old to learn that particular new trick. I enjoy scuba diving and try to do a dive trip a couple of times a year. (Surprisingly, Colorado has one the highest per capita scuba diving rates of any state.) I love the mountains, in all seasons, and try to spend as much time in them -- camping, hiking, rafting, climbing (although I do easier and easier routes each year!), skiing, snowshoeing, just enjoying them -- as I can.

Favorite Book

Catch-22, although To Kill A Mockingbird is a close second and is my favorite law-related book.

Favorite Movie

That's too hard to answer, so I'll say that my favorite comedies are Dr. Strangelove and Young Frankenstein, my favorite romance movies are Casablanca and When Harry Met Sally, my favorite law movies are And Justice For All and To Kill A Mockingbird, and my favorite animated movies are Monsters, Inc. and Antz.

What were you doing before you came to the University of Colorado Law School?

I was in private practice in Denver for about a year and a half. Before that, I was a Colorado Public Defender for nearly seven years.

What is one interesting, fun, or offbeat thing you have done in your lifetime?

That question assumes that I have done something interesting, fun or offbeat, and I'm not sure that's true. I'm a pretty dull guy. However, I have snorkeled in Jellyfish Lake in the Rock Islands of the Republic of Palau with tens of thousands of stingless jellyfish. I like unplanned road trips, and my 2002 unplanned road trip ended up with me in the middle of the Harley-Davidson Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, and that resulted in certain other adventures that cannot be placed on a public web site. I spent six weeks on the road with one of my sisters and two of my nieces in the Mother Of All Road Trips.

What do you consider to be one of your biggest accomplishments?

I'll give you two. Handling capital litigation is one of the most important things a criminal defense lawyer can do. I am proud to have participated in a number of death penalty cases, at all levels from the trial court to the United States Supreme Court. My job now is teaching, and I was deeply honored to receive the teaching Excellence Award from the student body.

About Boulder

What do you like most about Boulder?

As they say in real estate, Location, Location and Location. Every time I come over Davidson Mesa on my way back to Boulder from Denver, the view of the city and the mountain backdrop -- Longs Peak and Rocky Mountain National Park to the North, the Indian Peaks Wilderness to the West, the Flatirons rising out of the plains at the edge of the city -- reminds me why I love this part of the world. Boulder has done as good a job as any town in the nation in trying to manage growth, and the greenbelt surrounding town allows Boulder to retain some degree of isolation even if the "big city" is just over the hill. And, of course, the other great thing about Boulder is that it is a college town, which means that there is a constant inflow of talented, smart, vibrant, searching, partying young people that keeps the town alive. The University attracts a large number of talented faculty as well, and the result is an extraordinary group of intelligent and interesting people in a relatively small community.

What do you like least about Boulder?

Boulder remains a pretty liberal and pretty rich university town, and the result is that it deserves at least some of its reputation as being "The People's Republic of Boulder" and being an "ivory tower" town. We need more economic, racial, intellectual and cultural diversity. We need more people protecting kids and fewer people protecting prairie dogs. We need a little bit more of a raw edge. But, hey, who's perfect.

Favorite Place To Eat Out in Boulder

The Cork. It has the best combination of food, atmosphere, service and price around. There are fancier places, there may even be a couple of places with better food or better service, but when you put it all together, you can't beat The Cork. The New York Strip Pepper Steak is fabulous if you are a meat eater, and there are good fish selections as well. The wine list is long and if, like me, you don't know much about wine, the servers are very knowledgeable. The servers are a great combination of professional and friendly. There are good deals if you eat early. If you want to impress a date, or if you are spending someone else's money, The Flagstaff house is fabulous.

About CU Law School

Why did you decide to become a professor?

I was not a particularly good student in law school and I did not particularly like law school. The one aspect of law school that I really enjoyed was the Legal Aid & Defender Program here at C.U. When I saw a job opening to teaching the Legal Aid & Defender Program, I jumped at it because it would allow me to remain a criminal defense lawyer, get me into court on a regular basis and teach law students in a clinical environment, an environment that I believe is a great environment for teaching students both the law and how to be a lawyer.

What do you like most about teaching at CU?

The students. We have, year after year, one of the best student bodies in the nation. The student body measures up extremely well by all the official numbers (LSAT and GPA) and, more importantly is a diverse and talented group that is as dedicated to public service and helping people in need as is any student body in the nation.

What area of law are you most interested in and why?

I am really a criminal defense lawyer masquerading as a law professor. Criminal law, trial advocacy, and evidence are the three areas of law that are my main interests. I always wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer, for a wide variety of reasons. Among the reasons are helping people in trouble, helping people less fortunate than myself, fighting for the underdog, arguing with people, upholding the constitution, and making sure that the government is not allowed to take property, liberty or even lives, unless and until it has followed all of the proper procedures and achieved a just resolution of the case. Others may find the work interesting for any or all of these reasons, and they may also find it interesting because, as criminal defense lawyers, we are privy to some of the goofiest and craziest behavior around. The sad side, of course, is that we are also privy to some of the most destructive behavior around. You've got to be a bit of a cynic and have a fairly thick skin not to cringe at some of the cases we handle, but if that description fits you, you'll find the cases fascinating.

Are you involved with any student organizations?

I am involved with student groups only on an informal basis. I consult with and help coach students who get involved in the various inter-school advocacy competitions. I consult with students involved with the Student Trial Lawyers Association and the Lend-A-Law Student Association. Every now and then students from other groups will ask for my advice. Students benefit from these groups because we always benefit from working with like-minded individuals to achieve shared goals. We can achieve more, in school and in practice, when we work with others than when we work alone. On the less serious side, it also another way to meet people who share some of your beliefs and socialize.

What piece of advice would you give a student about surviving being a 1L?

Keep it all in perspective. After being in the top 10% of the class for most of their scholastic careers, many 1Ls are stunned to find themselves in the bottom half of their law school class. Obviously, being in the bottom half is not a good thing, but it is not the end of the world, either.

What piece of advice would you give a student about getting the most out of law school?

Apply your classroom knowledge to the real world as much as possible while you are in law school. Being a clinician, I have a huge bias in favor of experiential education, but I truly believe that people learn best (and do the most good as a student) by applying their classroom knowledge and their enthusiasm to ongoing legal issues. Despite the best of intentions, many people, after graduation, find themselves too busy to work at the causes that brought them to law school in the first place

What piece of advice would you give a 1L or 2L as they choose their 2L and 3L courses?

Take the courses that interest you. Do not worry about taking courses that are on the bar exam, because you will take a bar refresher course to cover that material. Take as wide a range of courses that interest you as possible, because you never know what might tickle your fancy, and you will likely never have another chance to study some of these issues, at least not in the depth that they are studied in law school.

About Choosing A Law School

What are the top three reasons that you think a prospective student should choose CU Law?

1. The student body. As I have already mentioned, they are as good a group of students as you'll find anywhere, in their academics, in their commitment to justice and public service, and in their ability to have fun and keep law school in proper perspective.
2. Boulder, Colorado is a great place to be. The geography, the weather, the access to incredible backcountry, the undergraduate University and the proximity to a vibrant big city, combine to make Boulder a fabulous place to live and work.
3. Our size. We have a relatively small student body and a great faculty-student ratio. These two facts combine to make this school a humane place, where most everyone knows most everyone and there is a shared commitment to the school and each other. This commitment most recently has manifested itself in votes by the law students, and then the entire undergraduate student body on the Bolder campus, to tax themselves to help pay for new buildings across campus, including the new law school building now under construction.

What piece of advice would you give a prospective student about choosing a law school?

Choose a school in the state where you think you'd like to practice law. You'll learn more about that state's law and procedure and you can work during the school year with prospective employers.

About the Law School Curriculum

Could you describe each of the main classes that you teach, and give your explanation of what those classes are about?

Legal Aid & Defender Program: Criminal This clinical course is designed to teach students about criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, ethics and advocacy by having them represent clients in court. The students, pursuant to the student practice rule of the Colorado Supreme Court, represent people charged with misdemeanor and traffic offenses in Boulder County Court and in the various municipal courts in Boulder County. The students handle the cases from first appearance, through filing of charges, motions practice, plea negotiation and, if necessary, trial.

Wrongful Convictions Clinic Students in this clinical course work with me and other lawyers from the Colorado Innocence Project examining the claims of Colorado inmates that they are innocent, notwithstanding the fact that their convictions have been affirmed through all of the usual appellate court processes. We examine the files and transcripts of these clients to determine whether there are avenues of investigation that were not pursued, whether there were errors made by previous counsel, and whether there are new forensic technologies, such as the use of DNA evidence, that can be brought to bear on the case to establish a cognizable claim of innocence.

Evidence This class teaches the law of evidence, that is, what evidence is admissible in a trial and how that evidence may be presented. I try to teach the course not just as a theoretical discussion of the law evidence, but as a combination of theory and practice.


Is there anything else you would like to add?

I continue to believe that law is an honorable and important profession. We lawyers take a lot of shots from the general public, and we certainly have our share of problems, both as a profession and as individuals. But the law remains a noble profession and the best among us continue to uphold the tradition of not just the fictional Atticus Finch, but real lawyers like Thurgood Marshall, who risked his life many times in an effort to bring a legal end to segregation and racial discrimination; like Archibald Cox, who refused to follow the illegal orders of the President of the United States, demonstrating the professional independence and integrity that should be part of all of us; like Morris Dees, founder and lead attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center who uses existing civil laws in innovative ways to attack neo-Nazis and Klansmen; like thousands of ordinary lawyers who labor every day to help their clients, improve the justice system, and make our society a little better each day. I hope that talented and dedicated people continue to join our ranks.