Serving the DBA and the Community: The 2011 DBA Awards Winners
by Margaret Haywood
Award of Merit
David C. Little got his start as a Denver deputy district attorney before becoming a founding partner of Montgomery Little and Soran, P.C. Since then, he has handled hundreds of cases involving complex commercial and professional litigation. Throughout his career, Little has stood out as a prominent advocate, mentor, and educator on all areas concerning professional liability, responsibility, and ethics. His expansive résumé includes service on the Colorado Supreme Court’s Civil Rules Committee and its Board of Continuing Legal and Judicial Education, as well as the Colorado Bar Association’s Lawyers Professional Liability and Ethics Committees.
For new attorneys, Little suggests setting up a network. “You are going to have questions, you are going to have difficulties, and you must have some means by which you can discuss those,” he said. “I don’t think the practice of law in isolation is possible anymore.”
As for himself, Little believes communication is a critical component in the field, and he strives “to practice with empathy and tolerance. It is important to recognize that none of us is perfect, and we all have to be more respectful of one another.”
Volunteer of the Year
Beyond her position as Senior Vice President and Corporate Counsel at ET Investments, Mary Jo Gross is deeply involved in giving her time back to the legal profession and the Denver community. At the DBA, Gross served as chairperson for several committees, was on the Board of Trustees, and was the association’s president from 2004 to 2005. Gross was instrumental in connecting the DBA Community Action Network (CAN) with the Children’s Outreach Project, with which she also is closely associated. Just as with the DBA, Gross remains very active at the CBA. Additionally, Gross mentors law students and volunteers with Lawline 9 and the mock trial competitions. Her greatest joy is helping honor senior members of the legal profession through the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the DBA.
Gross gives so much of her time for somewhat selfish reasons—it makes her feel good. “If you want to feel better about yourself, and your circumstances, and your situation, whatever it is, go do something for somebody else,” she said. “It makes you feel good—just get out there and try it!”
Young Lawyer of the Year
As a young attorney, Lucia Padilla brings an impressive level of dedication, both to her work as a senior attorney at Qwest Communications and to her community involvement and pro bono service. Before joining Qwest, she was an associate attorney at Isaacson Rosenbaum P.C. Padilla serves on the board of the DBA Young Lawyers Division and played a large role in developing Legal Film Night, a popular free CLE program that brings together law students and practicing attorneys.
Padilla’s participation with the Bar goes beyond the necessary networking as a young attorney; it is an “opportunity to do things in the community, to learn about what is going on, not only to further your career but to get grounded in the legal community and the larger Denver community.”
Her extensive community involvement includes serving as board chair of the nonprofit Bayaud Enterprise, Inc. and providing pro bono services for Metro Volunteer Lawyers. “Volunteering is what makes a community a community,” Padilla said. “Lawyers have a unique ability to really help and influence our communities and help less fortunate individuals.”
Since his appointment in 2007 to the Denver District Court, Hon. William W. Hood III strives to bring humility and respect to the bench. Initially assigned to the domestic relations and criminal dockets, Hood is now a jurist in civil litigation. Prior to his appointment, Hood was a partner at Isaacson Rosenbaum P.C., where his practice included civil and criminal trial work. Before that, he spent 10 years as a prosecutor in Arapahoe County.
Hood remains very active with the CBA and DBA, enjoying the interaction that comes from community involvement. “Being a judge can be somewhat isolating at times and it is nice to lock arms with other lawyers and go do good things,” he said. This shines through in his community involvement, especially in the DBA’s school-related programs.
“I’ve always found [volunteering] to be very refreshing. I think it helps to put wind back in your sails,” Hood said. “The activities the Bar gets involved in enables us to help improve the quality of the judicial system and to help the community around us.”
Teacher of the Year
Over the years, the academic community has repeatedly recognized Molly Lepore for her dedication to and enthusiasm for teaching. Since 2005, Lepore has taught senior English at the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST). Before that, she taught at Denver Academy. Lepore earned Teacher of the Year in 2003, Outstanding Experiential Educator in 2005, and in 2009, the Anna and John J. Sie Faculty Excellence Award for her ability to “positively impact student achievement and consistently demonstrate professional excellence.” After volunteering for two years for a mock trial team, she started a mock trial program at DSST. For the last six years, Lepore has been its teacher–coach. On two occasions, the team took home the Denver Regional Tournament’s “Professionalism Award.”
Lepore believes in civics education because it “falls into the category of having the tools to be agents of change. That is a big part of what I advocate for the kids—you have to be able to read well, you have to write well to communicate, and you need to understand our system in order to make the changes that you want.” D