Lawyers as Leaders: Leading through Unusual Times, 0920 COBJ, Vol. 49, No. 8 Pg. 4

PositionVol. 49, 8 [Page 4]

49 Colo.Law. 4

Lawyers as Leaders: Leading through Unusual Times

Vol. 49, No. 8 [Page 4]

Colorado Lawyer

September, 2020

August, 2020



When I was appointed CBA president, I had never heard the term community spread. (If I had, I would have thought it sounded like a fun picnic and a good idea for a local bar visit!) I had never heard the terms N95 respirator, social distancing, or viral load, either. What different times we find ourselves in. The pandemic has created a host of complex challenges for our members, law students, small firms and businesses, and the legal community at large.

I also had never heard the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Their senseless deaths occurred even after I started writing this President’s Message. Sara Scott, CEO of the Center for Legal Inclusiveness (CLI), refers to the violence that has led to these and other atrocities against Black men and women as a “second pandemic,” explaining, “both are insidious, both are silent until deadly, both are unruly, both are unhinged, both are unapologetic, both are widespread, [and] both have affected a high percentage of the population.”.”1

Leadership Development: My Pre-Pandemic Focus

Before all of this, when I was (blissfully, naively) planning my year as CBA president, I talked with my friend and “leadership mentor” Attorney General Phil Weiser about possible themes. He suggested Lawyers as Leaders, and I immediately embraced it. Every lawyer can be a leader, and leadership development is something we cultivate at the bar. We have formal leadership training for a class of 20 rising stars every year, through the CBA’s leadership training program, COBALT. Also annually, the CBA president appoints a significant number of lawyers to lead by participating on committees, task forces, and commissions focused on making improvements in such areas as access to justice, legislative policy, continuing legal education, amicus participation, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In addition, as CBA Executive Director Amy Larson noted, “Our events are specifically geared toward the brightest legal minds from all fields of practice in Colorado, to provide engagement that is critical to leadership development.” Our vibrant Young Lawyers Division, for example, provides and promotes “career growth, peer networking, and dynamic programming with leadership throughout the legal community,” Amy explained. Moreover, there are 30 practice- oriented sections within the CBA that provide lawyers with opportunities to develop relationships, express ideas, study specific issues, and nurture leadership and talent. Each section is led by lawyers who receive tailored leadership support through the CBA’s Section Summit and Best Practices Playbook.

The CBA also recognizes leading lawyers annually with its prestigious Award of Merit and Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year Award. It provides lawyers opportunities to be heard and to promote their expertise by presenting CLEs and publishing articles in Colorado Lawyer. And the CBA gives lawyers opportunities to develop lawyering skills while simultaneously enhancing access to justice, such as through the Federal Pro Se Clinic, the CBA Appellate Pro Bono Program, and soon the Federal Limited Appearance Program (FLAP), which the YLD is developing in conjunction with Magistrate Judge Kato Crews.

Why I’m Staying the Course

Before the two pandemics, I relished the idea of promoting these opportunities and the notion that being a CBA member is an investment in leadership development. I also looked forward to exploring additional ways for the CBA to both help lawyers to develop their leadership potential and to cultivate the next generation of leaders. Some ideas included developing and promoting a series of leadership programs, to be held and broadcast throughout the state; publishing stories of lawyers serving as leaders and positive change agents in our various communities; and encouraging lawyers and law students to seek out-of-the-box employment opportunities, to better serve low- and middle-income clients, including in Greater Colorado.

When COVID-19 changed life as we know it, I had to consider whether the Lawyers as Leaders theme still made sense. I concluded that it now may be more relevant than ever. Our communities need lawyers to step up and serve as leaders in the wake of the two pandemics. Individuals and businesses are struggling to stay afloat, and lawyers can help. Law students need opportunities to develop personal relationships and their careers, and lawyers can mentor them. Black men and women, and thus all of us, need criminal and social justice reform, and lawyers can help effect these changes. The importance of good leadership has never been more apparent. So all of the great work the CBA is doing and can do to prepare lawyers to lead is essential, and the time is right for lawyers who can to avail themselves of these leadership development opportunities.

It’s also the right time for the CBA to take a leadership role by examining how these crises may impact the bar, its members, our legal community, and the profession longer term. As my other “leadership mentor,” CBA Past President Patricia Jarzobski, commented, “Our members and our profession deserve our best thinking right now. The disruption from the racial injustice pandemic and the global pandemic is the perfect time to rethink how we govern and lead our bar associations into the next generation of service, post-pandemic.” As a next step, Patricia urged, we should be “talking about taking strategic risks” rather than merely “fulfilling our fiduciary duties,” and reflecting on the possibilities presented by our “new normal.”

Envisioning a Brighter Future

CBA’s Modern Law Practice Initiative (MLPI) has been reflecting on those possibilities. In June, JP Box and Erika Holmes invited Supreme Court Justice Monica Márquez, University of Denver’s (DU) Assistant Dean for Career Development Eric Bono, CLI CEO Sara Scott, and me to participate in the MLPI’s new Modern Law Revolution Podcast, where we brainstormed our post-pandemic vision for the legal community.2 Of course, none of us has a crystal ball, but in talking with that group and other community leaders—including AG Phil Weiser, CAMP Director Ryann Peyton, DU law student activist Adriana Levandowski, law firm practice group leader Shannon Stevenson, and former DBA President and in-house counsel Maureen (Mo) Watson—several themes have emerged that the CBA must incorporate into its thinking and planning for the future.3

Social Responsibility

The first is social responsibility. As AG Weiser noted in response to COVID-19, “We’re reminded as a society of the importance of resilience”—but the most vulnerable segments of our population “lack that ability to be resilient . . . and we have a social responsibility to them.” This...

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