While some dip a toe in a range of projects or professional pursuits, 58-year-old Cole Finegan immerses himself in law, business, politics, finance and development. He is entrenched in Denver. Recognized in 2013 as "Lawyer of the Decade" by Law Week Colorado, Finegan presently serves as regional managing partner of the Americas and managing partner of Hogan Lovells' Denver office.
Where does the oh-so-slight Southern drawl come from?
I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And then I returned to Oklahoma after I graduated [from the University of Notre Dame] in 1978 and I worked for a local congressman, a guy by the name of James Jones, who later became the chairman of the House Budgeting Committee. And in the course of working for him, I moved up from an intern and went to Washington, worked in that office and worked my way up to becoming the chief of staff.
Were you inspired during that time to pursue law?
I attended law school at night at Georgetown. I was not necessarily picturing myself as a lawyer all along. I went to law school because I thought I needed to have another career as well as being in government.
Why is that?
Working in Washington, where you see people come and go and elections change people's lives, I wanted to have some security.
But there's more to your career than law.
You know, my wife's joke is I just can't say no.
I left Brownstein [Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Madden at the time] in 1991. I was Gov. Roy Romer's lawyer and chief policy director. I was with him for two years. Then I came back to Brownstein from 1993 to 2003, as a partner and was very involved in the land use and government relations practice. I was involved in starting their Washington office and starting their office in New Mexico.
Then in 2003, I became enamored with John Hickenlooper's campaign. I just thought he was a great candidate and was really a breath of fresh air. He teases me--we met for lunch in 2002 and he was telling me he was going to run for mayor and I told him I didn't really think that was a great idea.
So I joined him--I became the city attorney in 2003. We had a number of great projects. We got the Justice Center built. We got the budget brought in line ... we reorganized the city attorney's office for the first time in 20 years and saved about $1 million off the budget. We were involved with the redevelopment of Stapleton--we worked with financing mechanisms, with the entitlements, the permits, the zoning, how it was all built out.