PROFILES IN SUCCESS
One Lawyer's Approach to Taking Professionalism from the Courtroom to the Community
BY DOUG MCQUISTON
We all remember as if it were yesterday the joy and pride we felt when, after the rigors of law school and the anxiety of the bar exam, we were finally able to raise our right hands and take our oath as lawyers. In fact, the Colorado Attorney Oath of Admission has had a place on my office wall since the day almost four decades ago when I first took it. Through this oath, we promised:
■ to support the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions;
■ to maintain the respect due to courts and judicial officers;
■ to employ only such means as are consistent with truth and honor;
■ to treat all people we encounter through the practice of law with fairness, courtesy, respect, and honesty;
■ to use our legal knowledge for the betterment of society and the improvement of the legal system;
■ to never reject, from any consideration personal to ourselves, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed; and
■ to faithfully and diligently adhere to the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct.1
Read carefully, these duties clearly extend beyond how we conduct ourselves during our "working hours." Treating people with courtesy and respect, acting with truth and honor, and using our knowledge to improve society and the legal system are actions that don't lose their power when we leave the courtroom or conference room. Of course, our duties as lawyers apply most clearly to what we do in courtrooms and boardrooms. But these duties carry far beyond these rooms, and into the world at large. Simply put, when we see a problem, our oath calls on us to find ways to solve it.
Meet Beth Klein-"Part of the Solution"
With that in mind, allow me to introduce someone whose work in the community at large has, for three decades, shown us how we can powerfully use our legal knowledge "for the betterment of society." Boulder lawyer Beth Klein has taken to heart the notion that our oath has no "off" switch, and that as lawyers, we have tremendous power to effect change. In fact, our skill and knowledge as lawyers uniquely positions us to do so.
Beth has taken her commitment to true legal professionalism from the courtroom to the community, even the world. I sat down with her recently to discuss her work philosophy. She expressed it simply: "When I see a problem, I want to work to be part of the solution." This has been her approach to the practice of law, surely. But she has taken that same pragmatic approach well beyond her office and the courtroom.
Beth began her career as a civil trial lawyer in 1988, representing professionals and others in defense of legal actions against them. She defended product liability, personal injury, legal malpractice, and premises litigation matters throughout Colorado. After a few years with the Denver firm Long and Jaudon, she opened her own practice in Boulder and continued mostly on the defense side of the courtroom. Subsequently, she and fellow shareholder Carrie Frank began a plaintiff's personal injury practice, handling all types of personal injury, product, class action, and other claims for clients throughout the state.
I've known Beth for many years, having represented clients in cases both on the same "side" (as co-defendants) and on opposite "sides" (defending clients against whom she had brought claims). Her litigation approach in all of those cases exemplified what I have always thought of as true professionalism—tenacity, shrewdness, skill, persistence, honesty, candor, fairness, and respect. While Beth, Carrie, and their firm have attracted their well-deserved share of professional recognition, this article discusses what Beth has done outside the courtroom and how her actions serve as a model of professionalism for our own roles and involvement with our communities and the world at large.
Beth's problem-solving nature led her to a decades-long effort to fight the war against human trafficking, a problem she confronted early on in her life. Her efforts have prompted groundbreaking progress in that war, in all of its perfidious forms. If anyone reading this doubts the impact we can have in our communities to tackle huge problems, Beth's work against human trafficking should dispel such doubts. In fact, as she told me, our skills and talents as lawyers uniquely qualify us to see problems, identify how to attack...