The “Side Gig” series features DBA members who engage in extraordinary ventures when they are not practicing law. These lawyers are certain to inspire others to nurture their own passions and hobbies, even if they only have nights and weekends to devote to them.
While attorneys often talk about “putting out fires,” they don’t usually mean it literally. However, that is not the case for Cyrus Rajabi, a shareholder at Jones & Keller, who is also a reserve firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT) for the Arvada Fire Protection District. He began working on his medical and fire certifications in 2008, and, after making partner, began serving with Arvada Fire in 2011. Despite the title “firefighter,” roughly 80% of the work is emergency medicine related. In this role, Rajabi stands at the ready to render aid in response to 911 calls. The unit receives a wide variety of calls, including minor incidents, like patients having trouble with mobility who need assistance, life-threatening medical emergencies, like cardiac arrest or stroke, car accidents, HAZMAT calls and the occasional fire.
Rajabi has experienced firsthand how firefighters can help save a life. When he was a teenager, he watched while his mother had a severe allergic reaction to a medication. “As she struggled to breathe and turned blue, I was horrified. I felt powerless. All I could do was run for help.” That call for help was answered by firefighters from the South Metro Fire Department who were able to save her. “I am eternally grateful for the life they saved that day — both my mom’s and my own.” The experience taught Rajabi that the gift of his mother’s life did not come for free but from the sacrifice, hard work and dedication of those firefighters. “I seek to pay forward that gift every day.”
Rajabi dedicates approximately 60 hours a month to taking on shifts and participating in trainings to maintain his firefighter, EMT and HAZMAT certifications. While the work is physically and mentally exhausting, he finds it tremendously rewarding. Knowing that he made someone’s very difficult day a bit better — or even helped save someone’s life — never fails to reinvigorate him. The experience with his mom left him with the fear of not being able to help those in need. He now channels that fear into a passion for helping others and a commitment to lifelong learning in all aspects of his life.
In Rajabi’s day job, he focuses his practice on securities, corporate finance, real estate, business and insurance law. He particularly enjoys representing entrepreneurs and helping them bring their ideas to life. Much like firefighters “they share a certain tenacity, spirit and dedication to achieving goals in spite of what many would characterize as insurmountable obstacles.”
While the stress of law practice is something he works hard to manage well, Rajabi does not feel stress when responding to an emergency. “Going into fires is one of the few times in my life where I’ve felt like all of life’s stresses have vanished and have been replaced by that singular intense focus.” The clear sense of purpose that exists during an emergency has helped Rajabi in his law practice to focus on what’s really important for his clients rather than allowing things to get lost in technical arguments and ego battles.
Rajabi also occasionally learns legal lessons from his experiences in the fire service. Once he witnessed a police officer standing outside the hospital room of a stab wound victim about to undergo surgery for the purpose of taking a dying declaration about his alleged attacker. “The dying declaration exception to the hearsay rule never stuck with me in law school as much as it did that day.”
Rajabi feels strongly that his work as a firefighter has made his world more beautiful and given him a more upbeat perspective in both his law practice and in his side gig. His story reminds us that giving back to the community is wonderful way to “light a fire” within ourselves and enrich our own lives. D
Emma Garrison is Staff Counsel at Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP. She also co-chairs the DBA 15×15 Task Force, which develops strategies for increasing young lawyer membership in the bar association. She can be reached at email@example.com.