Denver Bar Association
September 2013
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Who’s Who, Representing You? Meet the New Members of Your Board of Trustees


Erich L. Bethke
Board of Trustee Member

Erich BethkePlease tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.

My wife and I have called Denver our home for many years and our son and daughter are wonderful teenagers in Denver Public Schools (they give us new gray hairs only once in a while). Our family loves the Colorado mountains and we are always doing something outdoors. I am a graduate of Colorado College and the University of Colorado Law School. For more than 20 years, I have had a diverse and challenging legal career in areas of business litigation and transactional work and also matters that impact individual clients in areas such as family and personal injury law. My career has run the gamut from in-house counsel to international law firms and smaller, local law firms. I am currently a director with Senn Visciano Canges P.C.

What’s your most memorable legal moment to date?

My most memorable legal moments have come from those cases in which I have helped a seriously hurt client obtain a legal result that really helps them recover and go on with a productive life.

If you weren’t practicing law, what career would you have chosen?

If I were not practicing law, I would be doing something in our public schools and education system.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best and sobering advice I have received is that most of life’s significant achievements come 90% from perspiration/hard work and only 10% from inspiration.

Tell us the one thing you need to get through a rough day at the office and why it helps.

On those rough days at the office, the things that help me the most are interacting with my family and reaching out for some brainstorming and support from my law partners.

What's your favorite part about practicing in Denver?

My favorite things about practicing law in Denver are the opportunities for me to be a creative problem solver and living in a community where people are always using creative solutions to make Denver a vibrant city.

 

Jaclyn K. Casey
Board of Trustee Member

Jaclyn CaseyPlease tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.

Originally from Southern California, I cannot imagine living in a more beautiful and enviable place. I have a J.D. from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. I am grateful to have spent my entire legal career at Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP in Denver where I began as a summer associate in 2004 and was later named partner. I am recently engaged to a wonderful man (and great lawyer) and love spending time with him and his rambunctious twin boys.

What’s your most memorable legal moment to date?

Arguing before the Colorado Court of Appeals. I have had the opportunity to brief appeals at all levels of the appellate process. However, I have had only one opportunity thus far to argue before our appellate court. I was in awe of my surroundings and nervous to the core, but it was a terrific experience that challenged and inspired me—that I hope to repeat.

If you weren’t practicing law, what career would you have chosen?

Acting. I actually pursued a theatre major for a spell in college before deciding to go to law school. I have always had a love of theatre and a passion for the arts. A good performance can be magical, provocative, and very real all at the same time.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

It is a toss-up between "a closed mouth gathers no feet" and "work hard, play hard." I have not always been able (or willing) to follow the first piece of advice, but learning when to talk and when to shut up is an invaluable skill I hope to continue to cultivate.

Tell us the one thing you need to get through a rough day at the office and why it helps.

My view (preferably taken in with a cup of coffee in hand). I am fortunate to have an office on the 30th floor of the Tabor Center with a window that faces west. The Colorado mountains are breathtaking and serene, and taking a few minutes to gaze out the window allows me to catch my breath and refocus. The caffeine helps too.

What’s your favorite part about practicing in Denver?

I love that Denver is a big city with a small town vibe. I appreciate that I am able to handle complex cases for sophisticated clients and that every day I am faced with new and exciting challenges at work. But I also appreciate that the legal community in Denver is small, which allows me to get to know lawyers across the bar and generally fosters collegiality and professionalism. Your adversary today may be your co-counsel tomorrow or your judge a year from now, and each deserves the same level of respect and courtesy.

 

Nancy L. Cohen
1st Vice President

Nancy CohenPlease tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.

I have been a trial lawyer my entire professional life. I cannot imagine a more exciting career because I thrive on problem solving, strategy, and helping people with disputes.

My husband Jim and I enjoy spending time with our children, who often come with us skiing, biking, and traveling. I enjoy most outdoor sports, and have climbed all of the 14ers in Colorado and rafted many of the rivers in the Southwest. My goal is to climb Mt. Rainer and hike Kilimanjaro.

What’s your most memorable legal moment to date?

I have two memorable moments in my legal career. One was when the Colorado Supreme Court accepted our Rule 21 writ in POME v. Gayno, a case that involved the right to petition the government. The second involved extensive media coverage of a disciplinary case against a prosecutor that involved a number of interesting legal issues.

If you weren’t practicing law, what career would you have chosen?

If I were not a lawyer, I probably would teach at the collegiate or law school level, because I enjoy teaching at NITA so much.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I received is to always be professional even if the other person is not, and to just take a deep breath in those tense situations. This advice has served me well in a variety of circumstances.

Tell us the one thing you need to get through a rough day at the office and why it helps.

Humor is what gets me through the day. If I can laugh about a situation, I look at the problem in a whole new light. I find working out helps relieve the daily stress of practicing law. I love to participate in some exercise where my only focus is on getting enough oxygen and I can’t think about anything. There is nothing better to clear my mind.

What’s your favorite part about practicing in Denver?

The best things about practicing law in Denver are the lawyers and the bench. Even in my past job of prosecuting lawyers, I found and find most Colorado lawyers are professional, courteous and great to practice with or against. I am on an ABA committee that addresses national professional issues for lawyers and judges. Seeing some of the issues lawyers face in other states makes me realize we are fortunate to have a great bench.

 

Hon. Richard L. Gabriel
Board of Trustee Member

Judge Richard GabrielPlease tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised on Long Island, but I have now been in Denver for almost half of my life. I am married to Jill Wichlens, the chief of the appellate section of the Federal Public Defender's Office, and we have two daughters, Laura (a junior neuroscience major at Pitzer College) and Kathleen (a senior theater major at the Denver School of the Arts). After clerking for a federal district judge in Baltimore, I joined Shea & Gould in New York, where I worked on business litigation matters. In 1990, I moved to Denver and joined Holme Roberts & Owen, where I became a partner in 1994. At HRO, I handled mainly business, commercial, and intellectual property litigation (I chaired the firm's intellectual property practice group), and I was one of the firm's de facto pro bono coordinators. I was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2008. In my free time, I play the trumpet professionally (I have been playing for 42 years and play both classical and jazz), and I am actively involved in various CBA and DBA committees, as well as the Chief Justice's Commission on  the Legal Profession, the Colorado Judicial Institute, Our Courts, and the Minoru Yasui Inn of Court.

What’s your most memorable legal moment to date?

The one moment that stands out is the day that two neglected boys whom I had represented pro bono for over four years were finally adopted by the foster family that loved and wanted them. When I got the case, the boys were about eighteen months and six months old, and they were living in a crack house, where their safety was threatened on a daily basis. Today, about fifteen years later, the boys are well and thriving. That case, more than any other, reminded me why I became a lawyer, and I keep a photo of the boys and me on adoption day in my office, where the boys (now young men) continue to inspire me.

If you weren’t practicing law, what career would you have chosen?

In my free time, I play the trumpet professionally. I have been playing for 42 years and play both classical and jazz. If I wasn’t practicing law, I probably would be playing and teaching the trumpet.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I find it difficult to identify one piece of "best advice," and some of the best "advice" that I have received actually came from watching the way my mentors have acted in certain situations.  I grew up in a blue collar family, and mine was the first generation to go to college. Somewhere along the way, someone told me to "aim high and don't take no for an answer." I have always found that to be sound advice. I was also told (or shown) early in my career that it is always best to take the high road, regardless of what anyone else may choose to do, and that advice has served me well. Finally, I have never forgotten the advice that Dan Hoffman gave this then-new Denver lawyer who had just come from the world of big-firm New York practice: "Take out the adjectives and adverbs!" (The corollary of that rule is, "If you have to pound the table, you are probably losing.")

Tell us the one thing you need to get through a rough day at the office and why it helps.

The one thing that I need to get through a rough day at the office is the knowledge that I have my family, colleagues, and friends to provide support and encouragement if needed. It is always helpful to know that when a real crisis hits, I do not have to face it alone. Moreover, the people around me help me keep things in perspective because in the grand scheme of things, most issues that make a particular day feel difficult are really not all that important.

What's your favorite part about practicing in Denver?

Denver has seemed to find the right balance between the sophistication and culture of a big city and the feel of a smaller community. As a result, it has been a wonderful place to live, work, and raise children. In addition, although the bar has grown and the legal world has become more complex and competitive, lawyers here still seem to know one another, they generally act civilly and with the highest levels of integrity and professionalism toward one another, and there still is a sense here of being colleagues in an honorable profession.

Matthew S. Larson
Young Lawyers Division Chair

Matthew LarsonPlease tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.

I am a regulatory attorney at Wilkinson Barker Knauer focusing on energy and environmental law. Generally, I counsel utilities, energy suppliers and other entities on state and federal aspects of regulation and administrative law. Outside the office, I am married and my wife is an accountant for a telecommunications company. We enjoy heavily regulated industries. We are also the proud parents of a one-year-old girl.

What’s your most memorable legal moment to date?

Working to negotiate a settlement in a pro bono case where all parties involved were deaf. Court proceedings were conducted in sign language, and the entire process was a tremendous learning experience for me and exposed me to hearing impaired culture.

If you weren’t practicing law, what career would you have chosen?

I would be writing in some form or another. My undergraduate degree is in journalism, and I still have a passion for it.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

When I was a summer associate, a senior partner told me that his career success was attributable to being nice to people. While it seems simplistic, I think this is a great piece of advice. Being pleasant goes a long way. I hope my mother reads this.

Tell us the one thing you need to get through a rough day at the office and why it helps.

Is this question a set up? I will take the conservative approach—walking and fresh air are key in stressful times. I will often take a walk around LoDo to decompress during a rough day.

What’s your favorite part about practicing in Denver?

The close knit nature of the bar—I like being able to participate and have leadership roles in the bar as a young attorney. In other cities I know this is not the case, so I am appreciative of it.

 

Richard M. Murray
2nd Vice President

Richard MurrayPlease tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.

I made my way to Colorado to attend the University of Colorado and, like many other people from out of state, fell in love with Colorado and have never left. Upon graduating, I had the pleasure of serving as a judicial law clerk to the Hon. Nathan B. Coats on the Colorado Supreme Court. Last year, I joined Polsinelli PC. And, most important, in December 2012, my beautiful wife and I welcomed a beautiful baby boy into our lives.

What’s your most memorable legal moment to date?

I would characterize my most memorable legal moment to date to be my experience clerking for Justice Coats. The entire clerkship year was an experience that I will always cherish. The ability to be behind the scenes on some of the major issues affecting Colorado and being able to build on my legal skill set with such brilliant legal minds was invaluable.

If you weren’t practicing law, what career would you have chosen?

If I had not entered the legal profession, I would have been drawn to the arena of public policy and public service. The common nexus being a dedication to helping others, solving problems, and trying to make society a little bit better than you found it.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

My mentor Mark Fogg taught me that the legal profession is one of the few ways to spend your life where you put the needs and interests of another human being before your own. Fogg taught me that responsiveness, in addition to high-quality work, is one of the most important qualities that a client deserves.

Tell us the one thing you need to get through a rough day at the office and why it helps.

The one thing that I need to get through a rough day is knowing that after only a short drive from downtown to Lowry I will get to see my wife and our seven-month-old baby boy and catch up on everything he did that day (he amazes us with something new every day).

What’s your favorite part about practicing in Denver?

Denver is one of those unique places that is large enough to be a city and have all of the attractions, amenities, and services that go along with a metropolitan area; while still being small enough to feel like a town that is easy to get around, where you run into familiar faces, and live without all of the stressors that come along with a large city.

John M. Vaught
President-elect

John VaughtPlease tell us a little about yourself, personally and professionally.

I have more interests than time. I love the practice of law, and particularly oral advocacy, but I am also a pilot, cook, angler, bird hunter, traveler, skier, reader, teacher, lover of the mountains and of Grand Lake in particular, and a dad to three grown children. As a lawyer, I am doing exactly what I was meant to do in life. Standing up in a courtroom to deliver a closing argument is about as exciting as it gets. But having balance in my life has always been important to me.

What’s your most memorable legal moment to date?

Becoming a law clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Judge Robert H. McWilliams has had a huge influence on my life, personally and professionally. His death in April was a huge loss for me and all who knew him.

If you weren’t practicing law, what career would you have chosen?

I would be a history teacher. It is my view that you can’t be a good trial lawyer unless you can teach. The two professions go hand-in-hand. Failing that, I might consider being a restaurant owner.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“That even if you don’t practice law, a law school education will be an invaluable education.” That advice convinced me to go to law school.

Tell us the one thing you need to get through a rough day at the office and why it helps.

I am driven to be the best lawyer I can be. I love my job. The desire to continue to be the best—to stay at the top of a demanding profession--continues to motivate me each and every day.

What’s your favorite part about practicing in Denver?

This is a respected profession that I love. Living up to that expectation is the legacy of that profession. I am proud to be a part of that legacy. In addition, oral advocacy is my favorite part of the job. I was meant to be a trial lawyer. I doubt any profession could be more fulfilling to me. D


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