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Out of the Fire Into the Law
by Karen Bries
Todd Bower has spent years working toward his law degree, going to school at night and raising his children—not to mention fighting fires.
Bower, 28, has been a firefighter with the Denver Fire Department for seven years. Last November, he was promoted to lieutenant.
In addition to fighting fires, Bower has worked as an associate in the law firm of Mark Bryant since May. There, he works on criminal defense, sports and personal injury.
How does this whirlwind fight fires, practice law, sleep, and make time for his wife Toni and children Brian, 5, and Brooke, 4?
"My favorite quote is from the movie ‘Roadhouse’: ‘I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead,’" he says.
His serious answer is that he’s not sure how the balancing act works.
"Right now, my family is my first priority," he says. "When I was in law school and working in the fire department, I didn’t have a lot of extra time. Right now, I’m trying to find the balance between all three."
Bower was born in Denver and went to Ranum High School. He went to the University of Northern Colorado, where he played football and then transferred to the University of Colorado at Denver.
During his college years, he earned three undergraduate degrees in business: management, finance and information systems management.
While in school, he applied to the fire department. His father-in-law, also a firefighter, told him firefighting was a good job to have while he was going to the University of Denver College of Law at night.
Now as lieutenant, his "good job" has bloomed into a career. Bower roves between five Denver fire stations, filling in for those who have days off.
He works 24 hours straight and then has 48 hours off.
So when does the law come in?
"Between a Monday and Friday I can usually work between three and four days," he says. "My boss is very understanding, so we work it out."
Right now, Bower is trying to decide which area of law he likes best. He’s getting a real estate license so he can practice in that area.
"I envy people who came out of law school and knew exactly what kind of law they wanted to practice."
Still learning, he says firefighting and practicing law cross some of the same boundaries.
"It’s just cool to help people," he says.
For instance, the Denver Fire Department helps people who have been in a fire, with insurance information and finding shelter, which is not so different from helping a client with a legal problem. These people feel as if their world was destroyed.
Whether helping people with their physical traumas or their legal rights, Bower says, "the two are perfect for me and keep me humble."
"Because I am a firefighter, I think I can sometimes establish a better rapport with my legal clients," he says. "I see them emotionally suffering from their legal problems, just as victims do from fires or violence."
He says one big difference between being a lawyer and firefighter is the gratification factor. As a firefighter the problems must be solved that hour or minute. As a lawyer, it sometimes can take days and months to solve a problem in the law.
While Bower ethically cannot cross the lines between his two careers, he is asked to sit on the fire department’s collective bargaining team. "I hope my legal experience helps union members," he says.
And when driving from the fire department to the law office, he says he has to switch not only his hat but his mental state.
"I tell myself ‘Today, I am not a firefighter, I am a lawyer.’" When he goes home, he switches again and leaves his career personality at work.
He envisions his future as encompassing the law, the fire department and, most important, he says, his family.
"I’m lucky because I work with great people on all sides. All are very understanding. I credit my wife, Toni, most, because she is the key for me to hold it all together."