John Nicholls: Representing the Unrepresented, 1218 COBJ, Vol. 47, No. 11 Pg. 70

Position::Vol. 47, 11 [Page 70]

47 Colo.Law. 70

John Nicholls: Representing the Unrepresented

Vol. 47, No. 11 [Page 70]

The Colorado Lawyer

December, 2018



Metro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL) has been in existence for more than 50 years, thanks to several selfless and dedicated young lawyers who, in the 1960s, saw a need and decided to do something about it. One of those lawyers, Jon Nicholls, is retiring from the MVL Board of Directors after countless hours of dedicated service to that organization since its inception. Jon was one of the founding lawyers, beginning his work for MVL when he was a young Denver lawyer in the 1960s. The Legal Aid Society (now Colorado Legal Services) had just been established. Under its mandate, however, it could not serve every poor person that needed a lawyer, so a small group of concerned lawyers set out to remedy that problem.

In some ways, Jon is an unlikely hero of the poor. Jon's commitment to serving the underserved was not a mission born out of growing up in or around poverty. The son of an electrician and a homemaker, his upbringing in a post-war suburban Denver neighborhood was free from poverty. Jon got a taste of social justice as he admired a South High School classmate who went to the South as a civil rights activist, but his passion for poverty law blossomed in law school under the guidance of his mentor Howard Rosenberg. It was an exciting time, and Jon found himself in a community of like-minded young lawyers. They had earned their law degrees, and with it some swagger. When they saw treatment of vulnerable populations—for example, the poor, the elderly, minorities, the frail—they used their law degrees, creativity, and drive to make a change in the world. It was a "magic time for legal services for the poor," Jon recalls.

As Jon tells it, when Howard and the other lawyers committed to this cause discussed how to represent the unrepresented, they all realized it would "never succeed without the support and involvement of the private bar." That sentiment was as true in the 1960s as it is today. The Thursday Night Bar, as MVL was then called, was born out of these discussions and vision. It...

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