Denver Bar Association
January 2013
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From the President: New Projects Kick off 2013

by Jim Benjamin

Jim Benjamin
I


t’s just midway through my term as Denver Bar Association president and it’s been a busy ride. The new year marks a time for reflection and new beginnings, so I’ve put together this month’s column to cover some of the happenings of the last part of 2012 you may have missed and to talk about some exciting new projects percolating this year, provided those predictions about the Mayan calendar turn out to be false.

Seniors Roast of Chuck Brega


Attorney Chuck Brega was in the hot seat as the DBA Seniors Committee honoree for its 2012 Roast.

For those of you who may be suffering from burnout, 2012 Seniors Committee roastee Chuck Brega should provide an energy boost.

Brega has been practicing in Colorado for 52 years and will be 80 years old on Feb. 5.

Before Brega was put on the hot seat at the Seniors Roast as its distinguished honoree, I sat down with him at the dinner table, starting off the conversation with, "Chuck, I heard that a couple of weeks ago you tried a weeklong jury trial in Breckenridge, with the jury coming back on Friday evening with a $3 million verdict in your favor. And, you were back in the office on Saturday morning preparing for the next trial."

After a pregnant pause, he responded, "No, Jim. That’s not true; it was $12.45 million."

You all should mark Feb. 5 on your calendars so as not to forget to pass on 80th birthday congratulations to a true icon of the Denver Bar Association.

Consult-a-Colleague

Arising from a joint project of Colorado Bar Association and DBA committee members, keep a lookout for the soon to be inaugurated "Consult-a-Colleague."

This program will connect experienced lawyers with bar members who need advice in a particular area of the law. The aim of Consult-a-Colleague is to bridge the gaps that resources such as listservs cannot close because of the limitations inherent in posting inquiries involving confidential information on a public site or the lack of personal acquaintance with a person who specializes in the area of law in question.

This concept is, in theory, nothing new. For the more than three decades during which I have been engaged in practice in Denver, never once has a colleague of the bar said "no" when I have called to bounce around an idea because of his or her expertise in a given area.

However, it was suggested that there could be a benefit to providing a formalized structure to this custom. Lawyers, particularly those newly admitted to practice who have hung their own shingles, may not know who to call about a particular topic. Even if they do know, they may feel that a cold call to an established lawyer would be an unwelcome intrusion.

With Consult-a-Colleague, experienced lawyers, who by their own assessment believe they possess particular expertise in an area of law, will list themselves as willing to provide a free telephone consultation to inquiring members of the bar association.

The system will require the experienced lawyer (the "Consulted Colleague") to log in to the CBA website and enter the areas in which he or she is willing to consult. This is very similar to the Ethics Hotline, where members call in with an ethical conundrum and can speak with an experienced member of the bar. So too with Consult-a-Colleague: a lawyer will have the opportunity to discuss the particular legal matter and obtain on-the-spot, off-the-cuff advice.

Of course, this will not be a substitute for the legal research that the lawyer seeking the advice (the Inquiring Lawyer) may need to perform.

The Consulted Colleague will have the option, whenever desired, to easily remove his or her name from the website as available to take questions and can readily sign up again, allowing flexibility for vacation or a heavy workload.

The Inquiring Lawyer will log in to the website and will have search tools available to narrow down which colleague possesses the most knowledge in the particular substantive law area of the intended inquiry.

For a program like this to work, both the Consulted Colleague and the Inquiring Lawyer will need to be sure to adhere to the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Consult-a-Colleague Committee observed that this has not been an issue during the decades that lawyers have called their colleagues informally to bounce off ideas. The committee felt that both lawyers will be aware of the need to ask about any potential conflicts and may need to end the conversation at that. Likewise, should the Consulted Colleague determine he or she is not the person most knowledgeable on the subject of the inquiry, the advice may likely be limited to a suggestion to contact a different colleague.

Although the service is not to be used as a means to solicit or generate business, if the Inquiring Lawyer determines from the consultation that the matter is simply too complex to handle on his or her own, there will be no prohibition either of a formal association between Inquiring Lawyer and Consulted Colleague arising (on a fee basis) or of referring the matter to the Consulted Colleague.

The service is not yet operational, so do "stay tuned."

Assembly of Lawyers and Swearing In


Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Bender spoke at the admissions ceremony for newly admitted attorneys on Oct. 26

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Joining in on the call from Chief Justice Michael L. Bender and immediate past CBA President David L. Masters to encourage "Practicing with Professionalism and Civility," the DBA handed out coffee mugs to newly sworn-in lawyers at their admissions ceremony on Oct. 29.

The mugs were designed so that with a morning’s jolt of coffee, these new admittees will be reminded of three of the core principles of practicing with professionalism: Integrity, Honesty, and Civility. On the opposite side of the mug is the DBA logo. There are a number of the mugs still available, if you would like one. Next time you are at the bar association offices, please inquire at the front desk to obtain one.

Native American Project Needs Volunteers

The Mandan Nation, which is made up of three affiliated Native American tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota (the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation) are in need of legal representation to create marketable title to individually held lands within their reservation. Volunteers are solicited for this pro bono project, which could be long-term.

The project likely will be undertaken in concert with members of the North Dakota Bar Association. The Fort Berthold Reservation consists of 900,000 acres. Pursuant to the Dawes Act of 1887, also known as the Indian Allotment Act, portions of the Fort Berthold Reservation were allotted to individual members of the Mandan Nation. Local counties, which felt they had no jurisdiction over the reservation territory, took no part in the registration or recording of title to the allotted parcels.

In the ordinary course, the allotted parcels were passed from one generation of the Mandan to the next without any formal records. Today, an "owner" of the allotted parcel may, for instance, seek to build a gas station on it, but due to lack of verifiable marketable title, is unable to secure traditional institutional financing. The project is envisioned to involve setting up a recording system and the prosecution of quiet title proceedings.

Please contact me at jgbenjamin@bbhlegal.com if you are interested in assisting with this pro bono project.

Bar Office Space

A joint committee of the DBA, CBA, and CLE In Colorado, Inc. is in the process of determining the long-term home of these groups. The committee solicited bids pursuant to a request for proposal of several consulting companies and has recently engaged one of these companies to locate available office opportunities to lease or buy, to prepare economic comparisons, and then to provide recommendations.

The process by no means eliminates the potential of a recommendation or determination to extend the lease at the current location. The duties of the consultant are expected to be completed by the end of February, and an update from the "Building Committee" should be expected in the April Docket. D


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