August 24, 2019

Pro Bono Services at the Core of Professionalism

This article appeared in the October issue of The Docket, the Denver Bar Association’s official publication.

Several months ago, the Denver and Colorado Bar Associations’ Professionalism Coordinating Council created, and the DBA and CBA adopted, the Principles of Professionalism. The principles include such characteristics of professionalism as mentoring, civility, integrity, honesty, candor, and the provision of pro bono services.

Practicing with professionalism brings its own rewards. The greatest reward is the self-satisfaction of having acted in a manner where a lawyer’s dignity has been maintained—and it actually generates monetary rewards. In most law practices, client generation is still a function of referrals. Practicing with professionalism carries its monetary reward also, being a prime underpinning of rainmaking. It is rare that I have heard a former client or another lawyer suggest a referral based on how nasty, discourteous, or unprofessional a lawyer is known to act.

Volunteering to provide pro bono services epitomizes professionalism and provides a positive, concrete display of the generosity of this honorable profession. For me, the most memorable representation of my own career was a pro bono matter.

It was Christmas Eve. I had opened my own office not long before.

In walked Jesus Morales (whose last name I have changed to protect confidentiality). How it was that Jesus found my office is still a mystery. My office was located in a rather ivory tower location in the Denver Tech Center in the penthouse of the building, with only a private elevator to access my space. As those of you who have wandered, lost in the Tech Center, know, it is hard to end up at a location accidently. Fate was at work.

Jesus was a Mexican-American in his mid-40s. After the introduction, we all too often hear—”I don’t know if you can help me, but …”—he proceeded to tell me that his mother was living in the same house in which he was born 47 years ago.

His father was the bread winner of the family but he had passed away about four years earlier and his mother, who spent her life at home raising her family, had encountered financial difficulties. Prior to Jesus’ father’s death, his mother and father had refinanced the loan on their house. When his now-widowed mother was unable to make the payments, the mortgage loan went into default and foreclosure proceedings had commenced. Desperate, his mother found a company that advertised on TV it could provide assistance to stop a foreclosure. She took out (or so she thought) a new loan from the company to pay off the defaulted loan. His mother was to make monthly payments for five months and then pay the balance at the end of the sixth month. Now, Jesus said, his mother was just served with a notice of eviction from the company. When he called, Jesus was told the company “owned” the property and his mother needed to be out—immediately.

What else could I do? The mother of Jesus was being dispossessed of her home on Christmas Eve! I responded that not only would I attempt to help, but I also would do so pro bono. I scheduled for Jesus to return after Christmas and to bring what documents he had relating to the loan.

The documents revealed, despite her emphatic insistence that the company had “loaned” her the money to cure her previous mortgage default, that she had sold her home for $40,000 (the home was valued at $200,000); she had “leased” it back from the company for five months; and the company granted her an option to buy the home back for $100,000 at the end of the six months. Upon further checking with the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, indeed she had executed a deed at the time of being provided the $40,000. She was insistent that she never sold them the house; she believed what she was signing were loan papers to borrow the money she needed and she would have six months to pay them back.

It all ends well. I filed a suit for declaratory judgment and reformation of the deed asking the court to re-characterize the transaction as a disguised mortgage loan. A transaction, which truly is a disguised mortgage device, is to be treated as a mortgage and requires foreclosure affording the “borrower” rights to cure and (when this matter arose) rights of redemption. Further, as a loan, the consideration of $100,000 to pay off a $40,000 loan six months later constituted usury. The company, represented by other brethren of the DBA and exemplars of professionalism themselves, assisted in formulating a new transaction that allowed Jesus’ mother to continue to enjoy her family homestead.

Over the years, I have provided legal assistance on some of the largest, most complicated and sophisticated real estate transactions this state has produced. None provided the warmth, the welling in my eyes, and the pride as providing this pro bono representation. Occasionally, in the morning while standing in front of my bathroom sink when I happen to recall the representation, the guy in the mirror looks a whole lot better to me.

The DBA may be the greatest resource for filling your own need to find a suitable pro bono matter. Metro Volunteer Lawyers, the DBA’s premier program, coordinates the provision of free and low-cost civil legal services to people in the Denver metro area. MVL serves people who are living at or below federal poverty guidelines. The majority of cases are domestic relations matters. For more information, visit

The DBA sponsors clinics on bankruptcy and family law for the public, for which volunteers are needed to assist with presentations. For more information, contact Meghan Bush at The Colorado Bar Association has recently established a very successful program to assist veterans, including a clinic in Denver. For more information, contact Carolyn Gravit at In May, the DBA launched the Pro Bono Initiative. This initiative is designed to pair lawyers with one of the many pro bono service projects, based on the interests of the lawyer. To take advantage of the Pro Bono Initiative, please fill out the form available at and return it to Carolyn Gravit at

Jim Benjamin is the manager of the real estate and business transactional department of Benjamin, Bain, Howard & Cohen, LLC. A past President of the Real Estate Section of the Colorado Bar Association, Jim has served on the Executive Council of the Real Estate Section for more than two decades. Currently, he is a member of the Colorado Bar Association’s Board of Governors and the Legislative Policy Committee. He is a former member of the Ethics Committee. He also is the President of the Denver Bar Association for the 2012-2013 term. He has been on the Denver Bar Association’s Board of Trustees and one of three members of the DBA Executive Council since 2010. Jim has been named as a Colorado Super Lawyer® in real estate law every year since the inception of the list in 2006.
Jim is a frequent lecturer for continuing legal education programs on substantive areas of real estate law and ethics for transactional lawyers. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Bradford Publishing’s book on Colorado real estate forms. The book covers purchase and sale agreements, listing agreements, 1031 tax deferred exchanges, deeds of trust, promissory notes, leases, easements, closing documents, forcible entry and detainer and mechanics’ liens. Jim is frequently retained as an expert witness to provide opinions and advice on complex real estate law matters pending in Court proceedings and also on the standards of care required by lawyers in representation on real estate transactional matters. In 1991, he founded the law firm of Benjamin & Associates, PC, which is now Benjamin, Bain, Howard & Cohen, LLC. Jim is currently a manager of the firm.

Tap Your Creative Side: Participate in the Denver Lawyers’ Art and Literature Contest

The Docket and Colorado Lawyers for the Arts are launching an arts contest for members of the Denver Bar Association. Categories include Writing—Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Humor, and Visual Arts—Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, and Photography.

The submission period will run Monday, May 7, through Monday, July 23. Winners will be featured in the September issue of The Docket. All Denver Bar Association members are eligible, except staff of the DBA, members of The Docket Committee, members of Colorado Lawyers for the Arts who assist with judging (the judges), and any of these groups’ immediate family.

Artists may enter more than one work in each category, and may enter in multiple categories. The same work cannot be entered in multiple categories. The subject matter for the work is open and does not need to be legal-themed.

Download this entry form for further rules and guidelines. Entries must be received by 5:00 pm on Monday, July 23. Contact Kate Schuster for more information.

Report from the ABA House of Delegates Meetings at the 2012 Midyear Meeting in New Orleans

I have the privilege of serving the Denver Bar Association as a delegate to the American Bar Association (“ABA”) House of Delegates.  The ABA House of Delegates met at the ABA’s midyear meeting held in New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 6, 2012.  This Article summarizes the House of Delegates events at the midyear meeting and the action taken by the House.

The Midyear Meeting was very well-attended.  It had the best reported attendance on record.  The ABA sponsored numerous programs on issues such as the Ethics 20/20 commission, the state court funding crisis, and efforts to improve access to justice.  There were many important issues addressed by the House of Delegates at the midyear meeting.  This Article summarizes a few of them.

Ethics 20/20 Commission’s White Papers and Proposals Relating to the Ethics of Litigation Financing, Non-Lawyer Ownership of Law Firms, Outsourcing, and the Use of Technology of Mobile Devices

Before the House of Delegates convened, the Ethics 20/20 Commission sent information around to the delegates regarding the work of the Commission and its proposals.  Specifically, the Commission informed the delegates of its plan to bifurcate its presentation of proposals to help facilitate the House of Delegates’ consideration of the Commission’s recommendations.  The decision to bifurcate the presentation of proposals foretells a concern that some of the Commission’s proposals will be controversial and will generate much discussion and debate.

Indeed, from the preview that the Commission has provided, some of the issues that the Commission will put before the House will generate much discussion.  The Commission has produced white papers that discuss many of the complex ethical issues that cannot effectively be addressed through changes to Model Rules.  Specifically, one of the Commission’s white papers discusses ethical issues involved with litigation financing, including issues regarding conflicts of interest, a lawyer’s duty of confidentiality, the attorney-client privilege, and rules regulating the exercise of the lawyer’s independent judgment.  The Commission’ white paper can be found by clicking here.

The Commission also is working on proposals relating to alternative business structures for law firms, outsourcing of legal services and confidentiality-related ethics issues arising from lawyers’ use of technology. Additionally, the Commission also is working on a model rule relating to lawyers’ obligations to retain client files.  An issues paper regarding alternative business structures for law firms – including non-lawyer ownership of law firms – has been distributed by the Commission.  It can be found by clicking here.

During the House of Delegates meeting, Former ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm addressed the House about the Commission’s progress.  President Lamm explained that numerous various roundtable sessions and meetings have been held around the country.  She explained that formal recommendations will be presented at the annual meeting in 2012 and at the midyear meeting in 2013.  President Lamm explained that one of the Commission’s more controversial issues is whether non-lawyers should be allowed under legal ethics rules to have a limited ownership interest in law firms in the United States.  This issue has been discussed extensively in Colorado previously.

President Lamm explained that the Commission is considering other issues relating to the need to balance the convenience and efficiencies inherent in a lawyer’s use of new technologies, while also preserving the lawyer-client relationship, confidentiality, competence and the values of the profession.  President Lamm explained that the Commission plans in presenting proposals on each of these issues for consideration by the House of Delegates.  All interested members of the Bar should get in touch with me or other Colorado delegates to discuss any concerns about any of the issues that are being considered by the Ethics 20/20 Commission, or the proposals that are likely coming from the Commission.

Summary of the House of Delegates

After the House of Delegates convened on February 6, 2012, the Delegates were greeted by Mitchell Landrieu, the Mayor of New Orleans, who also is a lawyer.  Mayor Landrieu talked about the challenges that the city has been through in recent years, with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the BP oil spill.  Mayor Landrieu quipped that the city is “waiting for locusts now.”  Mayor Landrieu’s speech was interesting and insightful, explaining that New Orleans is truly resilient and has become the “a laboratory for innovation and change,” because of the disasters it has suffered.  Mayor Landrieu’s speech was an excellent way to kick-off the work of the House.

After the Mayor’s speech and some other introductory actions, the House got to work debating and voting on resolutions before the House.  The House adopted a number of important resolutions, including:

  • Resolution 101A, which adopted the black letter ABA Criminal Justice Standards on Law Enforcement Access to Third Party which provide a framework through which legislatures, courts acting in their supervisory capacity and administrative agencies can balance the needs of law enforcement and the interests of privacy, freedom of expression and social participation.
  • Resolution 101B, which urged governments at various levels to require laboratories producing reports for use in criminal trials to adopt pretrial discovery procedures requiring comprehensive and comprehensible laboratory and forensic science reports, and listed relevant factors to be included in such reports.
  • Resolution 101C, which urged trial judges who have decided to admit expert testimony to consider a number of factors in determining the manner in which that evidence should be presented to the jury, and also provided guidance about how to instruct the jury in its evaluation of expert scientific testimony in criminal and delinquency proceedings.
  • Resolution 101F, which supported legislation, policies and practices that allow equal and uniform access to therapeutic courts and problem-solving sentencing alternatives, such as drug treatment and anger management counseling, regardless of the custody or detention status of the individual.
  • Resolution 113, which called for adoption as ABA policy uniform standards for language access in courts.  The policy provides clear guidance to courts in designing, implementing, and enforcing a comprehensive system of language access services that is suited to the need in the communities they serve.
  • Resolution 102B, which approved the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 2011, as an appropriate Act for those states desiring to adopt the specific substantive law suggested therein.  The Uniform Act provides rules for the authentication and preservation of electronic legal material.
  • Resolution 108, which urged state and territorial bar admission authorities to adopt rules and procedures to accommodate the unique needs of military spouse attorneys who move frequently in support of the nation’s defenses.
  • Resolution 111, which urged entities that administer a law school admission test to provide appropriate accommodations for a test taker with a disability to best ensure the exam reflects what the test is designed to measure and not the test taker’s disability.
  • Resolution 302, which supported the principle that “private” lawyers representing governmental entities are entitled to claim the same qualified immunity provided “government” lawyers when they are acting “under color of state law.”  This issue is particularly important given that there is a pending case before the United States Supreme Court considering this question.  See Filarsky v. Delia, U.S. No. 10-1018, argued 1/17/2012.

A summary of the resolutions adopted by the House can be found by clicking here.  Additionally, I can provide a copy of the resolutions to any interested reader. Contact me if interested.

Statement from President Robinson

In addition to this important work, the House of Delegates heard from Bill Robinson, President of the ABA.  President Robinson explained that the most pressing issue facing the legal system today is under-funding of the courts, which is at a crisis level.  President Robinson urged all ABA members to consider the under-funding crisis to be a threat to our liberty and rule of law.  President Robinson explained the ABA’s efforts to combat this crisis, including its extensive education efforts and its efforts to increase public awareness about the crisis.  Additionally, the ABA has made the crisis the core of the law day events, which will focus on the theme: “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”

Nomination of James Silkenat as President-Elect

Additionally, the nominating committee announced that James Silkenat of New York was nominated to be President-Elect Designee of the ABA.  The House of Delegates will vote on his nomination at the Annual Meeting in Chicago this August.  If elected, Mr. Silkenat will serve a one-year term as President beginning in August, 2013.  All members of the Bar are urged to give any input on Mr. Silkenat to me or any of the other Colorado delegates.

Other Matters

Finally, the House of Delegates also considered other matters.  Those other matters included a report from the ABA’s Executive Director, Jack Rives, and a report from the ABA’s treasurer.  The House also heard from Chief Judge Washington, who is the President of the Conference of Chief Justices.  Chief Judge Washington spoke about language access to the courts.  He also discussed the core focuses of the Conference, which are judicial independence and civics education.


I hope this Article sufficiently highlighted many of the more interesting or important the agenda items considered by the House of Delegates at the midyear meeting in New Orleans.  I appreciate all input that any members of the Denver Bar Association have regarding any of the issues that have been considered, or will be considered, by the ABA House of Delegates.

The American Bar Association is offering a free trial membership in the ABA and in a section of the ABA. Sign up here.

The Docket eFile brings features from your favorite Denver Bar Association publication to you digitally. When you see the logo, you’re reading an article from The Docket. You’ll also still be able to read the full issue online at

Top 10 Reasons Your Firm Should Play Lawyers’ League Softball

10. Have fun. Let’s face it: slow-pitch, co-ed softball in a relaxed league (there are no umpires, and balls and strikes are not called) is simply fun. It’s way less frustrating than golf and there are more cardio benefits. And you might get a cool trophy at season’s end.

9. Have fun with others at your office. You don’t have to be a lawyer to play in the Lawyers’ League, so it is a great way to bond with the rest of your office.

8. Get out of the office on the weekend. Not that you should need an excuse to get out of the office on the weekend, but it is nice to have a built-in one if you do. Games are finished on Saturday by about lunch time, so you have the rest of the weekend to work if you really have to.

7. Be a part of history. I’ve been league commissioner for nearly 20 years, and I have contacted the last two commissioners before me. Nobody can even remember when the league began, thus if you join you can be part of something where “the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.”

Join Lawyers League Softball
DBA Lawyers’ League Coed Softball starts June 9 and runs through Aug. 11. Games are played Saturdays at Cranmer Park (at 1st Avenue and Bellaire Street). This is a relaxed league more concerned with having fun than, well, pretty much anything else. Cost varies depending on the number of teams in the league. For more information or to sign up, contact Jack Tanner at

6. Have fun with clients. Did you know being up with two on and two out is a marketing moment? Well, it can be (especially if you come through with a hit). I guarantee you that if your client spends 90 minutes playing softball, drinking adult beverages, and generally having a good time on Saturday, that client will call you first when a legal need arises on Tuesday.

5. Save a life. I grew up on the Gulf Coast and was a lifeguard from seventh grade through law school, but never once actually saved anybody. Playing softball in the Lawyers’ League, however, I once used CPR to help revive a guy who had been struck by lightning.

4. Have fun with your family. Bring your kids (or grandkids, or parents, or distant relatives, or dog) and have a good time as a family. One of my favorite things about this league is that it is one of the few things my teenage son and I do together.

3. Bond with other members of the Bar. Even if you don’t like how a fellow litigator acts during discovery, that same litigator can be a peach on the softball field. If not, it’s always more incentive to play hard for a win.

2. It’s cheap! Because we play days (and therefore on an unlighted field) and have no umpires, the field fees are nominal. The cost is only a few hundred bucks per team for the entire summer.

1. You’ll be doing a service to the Bar. If I get enough teams to play this year, I won’t have to try to drum up more next year, and no one will have to read another article from me next year.

The Docket eFile brings features from your favorite Denver Bar Association publication to you digitally. When you see the logo, you’re reading an article from The Docket. You’ll also still be able to read the full issue online at

Denver Students Prepare for Mock Trial Tournament

The students from the Denver Center for International Studies have had a bit of a reality check while they’ve been preparing for their first appearance in a mock trial tournament.

“I learned a lot more terms, like prosecution and defense, and how serious court really is,” said DCIS student Olivia Sanders, 14, while their team practiced in a courtroom at the Denver City and County Building. “It’s really not like the movies, because that courtroom is really small and I was like, is it going to stretch out some more?”

Though the courtrooms may be smaller than those in the movies, they have learned a lot about what happens in those courtrooms in a matter of weeks. Led by their teacher, Rachael Streitman, and attorney coach Joe Peters, they will argue a criminal case at the Denver Regional High School Mock Trial Tournament on Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11.

“It’s a ton of fun,” said Peters, an attorney with the Internal Revenue Service. “The kids are all very bright and motivated.”

The team came together after Streitman, who is a civics and world history teacher, found she had a number of students who expressed interest in becoming attorneys. After doing some research, she thought mock trial would be a great way to give those students an experience that would offer insight into what being an attorney is like.

Sanders said she has enjoyed being a part of the team.

“If I do decide to pursue law when I get older, it’s just cool to say, I did this when I was younger,” she said. “I have background knowledge of what [being a lawyer is] going to be like.”

It’s also been an outlet for those who don’t necessarily want to be lawyers. For Demetrius Parker, who is serving as a witness, it allowed him to work on his acting skills – something he wasn’t doing before because DCIS largely puts on musicals, he said, adding that he can’t sing.

Denver Center for International Studies student Demetrius Parker testifies while attorney coach Joe Peters presides over their mock trial practice in advance of the Denver mock trial tournament.

Though Streitman said there has been a bit of a learning curve with skills such as entering evidence and making objections, she added that “it’s exciting once [the students] get those things and they realize it.”

Most of their team is composed of ninth grade civics students. The team includes students Ethan Elliot, Vincent Gallegos, Elsa Lantz, Jade Mather, Parker, Andre Polar, Breanna Quintana, Sanders, Haley Schwenger, Liliana Weimer, and Leila Ziane.

Denver Center for International Studies student Vincent Gallegos serves as a defense attorney, questioning a witness while practicing for the Denver mock trial tournament on Monday.

In addition to the team from DCIS, students from CEC Middle College of Denver, Colorado Academy, Denver School of Science & Technology, Fleming High School, George Washington High School, and La Academia will compete.

Whether they will advance to the state tournament depends on how they argue the case in front of a panel of Denver-area lawyers and judges. Two Denver teams will go on to compete in the state tournament in Boulder County on March 9 and 10. Denver is one of eight regional tournaments taking place in the next two weeks.

Peters, who participated in mock trial in law school, said he thinks the team will learn a lot at the tournament, and that it will be personally and academically rewarding.

Sanders said she is still very interested in pursuing a career in the law.

“I like it because you get to fight for people’s rights and are serving them justice,” she said.

The mock trial tournament, sponsored by the Denver Bar Association, will take place at the Denver City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St. The first round begins Friday, February 10, at noon, and the second round starts at 2:30 p.m. Rounds will continue on Saturday, February 11, starting at 8 a.m., and the final round will start at 12:15 p.m.

Sanders is optimistic about how they’ll do in the tournament.

“I know we’ll do well because we’re trying really hard,” she said.

Sara Crocker is a communications specialist with the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations. She is also the editor of the Denver Bar Association’s member publication, The Docket.

The Docket eFile brings features from your favorite Denver Bar Association publication to you digitally. When you see the logo, you’re reading an article from The Docket. You’ll also still be able to read the full issue online at

Understanding Your Avvo Rating: How It’s Calculated and Why You Should Care

Avvo is a free online directory of lawyers that the public can use to search by state and practice area. You may be asking yourself, isn’t that basically the business White Pages, or the bar association’s Find-A-Lawyer directory, or Martindale-Hubbell revisited? Pretty much. A lawyer’s Avvo profile is essentially an online résumé or portfolio that lists achievements, publications, biographical information, and, if the lawyer is so inclined, photographs and videos of his or her choosing.

Unlike those more, ahem, venerable (or stodgy, depending on your perspective), ways to find a lawyer, lawyers seem to absolutely hate Avvo. It raises the ire of lawyers, in part, because Avvo represents a visible credibility check. A lawyer’s Avvo profile frequently will show up in the top 10 Google results, and Avvo crawls state ethical records and posts any run-ins with the Office of Attorney Regulation. This has resulted in several lawsuits from lawyers with a rap sheet.

That’s not the greatest criticism though—most of our fellow professionals keep their noses clean. The greater complaint is that, along with your fluffy profile, Avvo posts a rating out of 10.

According to the site: The rating is calculated using a mathematical model that considers the information shown in a lawyer’s profile, including a lawyer’s years in practice, disciplinary history, professional achievements, and industry recognition.

The term “mathematical model” is something I tend to associate with being what I would be unable to calculate. Avvo also claims their model is proprietary, which leads me to believe that it is a formula for some amazingly strong, light, and beautiful polymer—or something. With those considerations in mind, I set about cracking their formula by adding and subtracting credentials from my profile.

Essentially, every lawyer starts at 5.6. The “formula” is this: for every credential added in a different category, an attorney gets three tenths of a point. Peer reviews are worth the same. Publications in the same periodical are discounted a bit. That’s basically it. Add three publications and a presentation, and, by their formula, you are now a 6.9-rated lawyer.

There is a caveat to the site: The Avvo rating is not intended to be the only thing you use in choosing a lawyer.

Yeah. Right. Just like how Ebert’s thumb or Pitchfork’s numerical rating is only a small consideration in figuring out what movies to watch or music to buy. It’s absurd to think that legal services can and should be rated this way, but the Avvo profile is there, whether or not you claim it.

The best solution is just to spend a few minutes filling out the profile. We already have LinkedIn, Facebook, Justia—what’s one more? It really is nothing more than a summary résumé. In the event that a lawyer doesn’t choose to claim and fill out the profile, his or her information still appears on the website, along with any ethical concerns. However, an ethically clean but otherwise unknown (at least, to Avvo) attorney is not assigned a rating and is tagged as “no concern.”

Although building your Avvo profile is the practical solution—and it is a bit silly to get worked up about some website—something still rankles about the idea that the quality of a lawyer’s services can be determined by adding and subtracting résumé lines. To the extent that consumers are buying what Avvo is selling, complaining about it isn’t going to help. It’s up to us to manage the public perception of our profession relationships and public service.

Chris Mommsen is a criminal defense attorney in Denver.

The Docket eFile brings features from your favorite Denver Bar Association publication to you digitally. When you see the logo, you’re reading an article from The Docket. You’ll also still be able to read the full issue online at

Dance Off Among Past Presidents Planned for 2012 Barristers Benefit Ball

The dance competition at this year’s “Dancing with the Bar Stars for MVL” Barristers Benefit Ball will feature three past presidents, but this year there’s a twist—in addition to those that you’ll see on the dance floor—the dancers will team up with their spouses for the competition.

So, which past presidents will be busting a move for your enjoyment (and to benefit Metro Volunteer Lawyers)? Former Denver Bar President and Colorado Bar President-elect Mark Fogg and Pat Fogg, former Colorado and Denver Bar President Bill Walters and Christy Cutler, and former Denver Bar President Elsa Martinez Tenreiro and Steve Theis will compete.

In case you missed last year’s inaugural dance off, Cyndy Ciancio took the People’s Choice Award and the top fundraising award for her performance with professional dancer Tim Edgar to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.” She, Hubert Farbes, Vicki Johnson, and John Moye were paired with professional dancers and showed off their routines in a “Dancing with the Stars”-like competition. Click here to see their practice videos and video of the performances at the ball. Cyndy will also perform before the competition at this year’s ball.

There will be more on the dancers in the coming months in our Docket eFile, but to know who will wow the legal community with their moves, you’ll have to get a ticket to the ball. Tickets for the May 5 event at the Grand Hyatt in Denver are on sale now here.

For the Holiday Season, Share the Gift of Giving

For attorneys and legal professionals who reach out to some of the most disadvantaged in Colorado, the holidays are a time to give—and to get back even more. Those who give to others are happier than those who buy something for themselves, according to several studies cited in a 2010 article in Psychology Today. The amount of the gift didn’t seem to matter; it was the merely the act of giving that promoted happiness in people.

There are hundreds of attorneys, firms, and organizations that contribute and donate time throughout the year. Here are just some of their stories.

Mary Waters, an office administrator with Hogan Lovells in Denver says, “We adopt at least two families through the organization, Family Tree, and we collect contributions from the staff and attorneys. Many attorneys and staff choose to shop with their families and purchase some of the gifts. They always spend time with the families and they probably get as much joy doing this as the receiving families.”

The Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center puts on a Holiday Gift Drive and knows that the holidays can be especially hard for children in the child protection system. “They are separated from family and living in group homes or with foster families,” said Executive Director Stephanie Villafuerte. “They don’t write letters to Santa or dream of piles of gifts. They just hope someone will remember them. These children are just trying to survive and deal with very adult decisions; our gift drive is just one thing we do to help provide them a sense of childhood.”

Joni Edwards, office administrator with Husch Blackwell, helps organize the firm’s Adopt-A-Family project with Family HomeStead through Florence Crittenton Services, an organization that empowers struggling teen families to be productive members of the community. Liz Martinez, of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell, recently was sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and is leading a holiday gift drive through the Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell Foundation for abused and neglected children served by CASA. “Sadly, when you look at the lists the kids put together, there are many items that we take for granted, like socks and other basics,” Martinez said. The WTO Foundation contributes funds to buy gifts and invites current employees, family members, and friends of the firm to participate, widening the giving circle.

Holland and Hart works on many community projects during the year. During the holiday season, they put together a few projects for the Lennox Guest Home, including a “Pie Party” and a craft fair, with staff manning tables. Funds are raised for a dinner and gift baskets for residents of the Lennox Guest Home. Staff also can pick names from a giving tree and buy clothes or toys for those served by the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center and Jewish Family Service.

Jodi Kopke, director of marketing with Kutak Rock, says, “Our firm participates in the Adopt-A-Family program during the holiday season. What started out as helping one family in 2000 has grown to helping four families in 2011. Some of the families we’ve been asked to help over the years include parents with a preemie 3-month-old boy and a 17-year-old helping her grandmother raise her siblings.” At the firm, not only can you donate items, but you also can be a “Shopping Elf” and buy presents, you can help assemble and wrap presents, and you can help Santa deliver presents to a family or individual.

If you’re interested in donating:
If you’d like to donate to the Rocket Mountain Children’s Law Center Holiday Gift Drive, but can’t make it to the center, Law Week Colorado staff will pick up donations at firms through the first week of December. Call (303) 292-1212 for more information.

The Colorado Bar Association adopts a family each year for the holiday season. For more information, please contact Heather Clark at

“In addition to participating in the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center Holiday Gift Drive, our firm started a campaign this year to buy 1,000 meals at the Denver Rescue Mission, and is also giving a large holiday donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” says Heather Baker, of Otten Johnson Robinson Neff + Ragonetti.

For 2011, the Harris Law Firm is taking part in the Adoption Exchange’s Holiday Hope Project, a stocking-stuffer program for teens in foster care. The firm has donated to the Denver Rescue Mission every Thanksgiving for the past seven years. This year, the firm collected enough donations from attorneys and staff to feed more than 300 homeless men, women, and children on Thanksgiving Day.

The act of giving doesn’t have to be monetary; it can simply be donating your time, helping out a friend or family member, or simply thanking those in your life who help you throughout the year. The legal world can be stressful and make incredible demands, but the generosity of the people in the Colorado legal community demonstrates that we believe in the philosophy of giving and service. By helping others, you will probably get something in return. It was expressed succinctly by Mahatma Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Mary Dilworth is the Marketing Manager for CBA-CLE.

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Mentoring Program to Kick Off 2012 With Revamped Curriculum

The Denver Bar Association is now accepting applications for both mentors and mentees for the 2012 Mentoring Program. This year the program will be part of a pilot project that is a cooperative effort by the Colorado Bar Association and the Chief Justice Commission on the Legal Profession. For the DBA’s mentoring program to qualify as a pilot program, we have altered it to mirror the proposed program.

We encourage all DBA members who are interested to consider becoming a mentor or participating in the program as a mentee. Our goal for the upcoming year is to have 100 pairs for the program. The following is a brief description of the program.

Click here for additional information or to apply. Applications are being accepted through November 30, 2011.

Objectives: To promote pride in the profession; excellence in service; and strong relationships with the bar, courts, clients, and the public, through teaching the core values and ideals of the legal profession and the best practices for meeting those ideals.

Qualifications:  To qualify as a mentee in the program, you are not required to be a member of the DBA, but you must be in your first three years of practice following admission to practice law in Colorado, or within your first year of practice in Colorado if you have been in practice three or more years in another jurisdiction. Mentees can petition for inclusion in the program if they do not fit into either of these two categories.

Curricula: The 12-month Mentoring Plan curricula is developed by the mentee and mentor, but must cover certain subject areas, and include an initial planning meeting between the mentee and mentor;  personal and professional development; the Colorado bar and legal community; history and importance of the legal profession; and professionalism and civility. A typical Mentoring Plan involves monthly in-person meetings between the mentee and mentor, which last one to two hours.  The Mentoring Plan can be developed by the mentee and mentor to best suit their schedules and needs.

Benefits: Each mentee and mentor will receive 15 free CLE credits, including two ethics credits, on successful completion of the program (application for CLE credit is pending). The program has components that include group activities, but an emphasis is placed on the one-on-one professional relationship between the experienced lawyer and the new lawyer, because this is one of the best ways to pass on the values, ideals, and best practices of the profession.

Mentors Have Much to Gain from this Role. They have the chance to assist younger attorneys in developing important skills. Lawyers who have been mentored are more likely to stay in the practice than those who are not. The development of these close bonds also helps further the practice of law.

Mentees Can Take Control of Their Career Development. Sometimes new hires may expect the firm to be responsible for their professional development, because many firms today offer resources such as orientation, in-house CLEs, trial colleges, marketing development, retreats, and mentoring programs. However, your future success will in part be dependent on your ability to make connections with those around you and gain their trust and respect. It simply makes good sense to use these offerings to your advantage. Twenty years down the road you may be able to attribute your success, in part, to assistance you received early on from another professional.

The 2012–13 chairs of the DBA Mentoring Program are Melissa Ogburn and Craig Joyce. We will have a kick-off reception for the 2012 mentoring program on January 5, 2012. We look forward to DBA members’ participation in this very important program.

Melissa Nicoletti is the Director of Sections and Committees for the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations.

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[UPDATED] Piloting Change: A Brief Overview of the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project Rules

Editor’s Note: CBA-CLE will be holding a program next month highlighting the Civil Access Pilot Project, which will help practitioners understand the practical information they need to know once the rules go into effect. The rules have been changed significantly, and failing to navigate them correctly can be detrimental to clients and cases. Registration information is provided below.

By Jessica L. Fuller and Tamara F. Goodlette

In Chief Justice Directive 11-02, the Colorado Supreme Court approved a new set of civil procedure rules known as the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project. The goals of the Pilot Project are to increase access to the courts and reduce the expense of civil litigation by identifying and narrowing disputed issues at the earliest stage of litigation; requiring ongoing active case management by a single judge; and keeping litigation costs proportionate to the issues being litigated through controlled discovery and other means.

The Pilot Project makes significant changes to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure for certain types of business cases in specified judicial districts, which will dramatically affect the way civil cases are litigated. Below is a brief overview of the highlights of the Pilot Project Rules (PPRs).

Not all of the PPRs are addressed below and they may continue to be amended through 2011. To review the full set of the most recent version of the PPRs, visit and click on Chief Justice Directive 11-02, “Civil Litigation in Business Actions.”[1]

Introduction to the Pilot Project

When do the PPRs take effect?

  • The PPRs are effective Jan. 1 for certain types of cases filed on or after that date, and will be in effect for applicable cases filed in the next two years.

What happens at the conclusion of the two years?

  • During the two-year period when the PPRs are in effect, IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, will collect data to measure the effects of the procedural changes. The study results will be used to determine whether to make future amendments to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure.

Where do the Pilot Project Rules apply?

  • For designated cases in the First Judicial District (Jefferson and Gilpin counties), Second Judicial District (Denver County), Seventeenth Judicial District (Adams County), and the Eighteenth Judicial District (Arapahoe County).

What kinds of cases are governed by the PPRs?

  • “Inclusion in the pilot project will be determined based on the contents of the complaint at the commencement of the action,” according to PPR 1.1.
  • The PPRs will apply to cases that are predominately “business actions” as defined in Amended Appendix A of CJD 11-02. Amended Appendix A lists various types of “included actions” and “excluded actions.” Litigators in the specified judicial districts should refer to Amended Appendix A to determine whether a case is subject to the PPRs.

Do the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure still apply?

  • Yes. The PPRs are not a complete set of rules and the C.R.C.P. will continue to govern, except where there is an inconsistency, in which case the PPRs will control. (See PPR 1.2.)

Are the PPRs optional?

  • No. In fact, the court may impose sanctions for any failure to timely or completely comply with the PPRs. (See PPR 11.1.)
Overview of Central Provisions of the Pilot Project Rules

Proportionality is the Buzz Word

  • All aspects of the case shall be addressed by the court and the parties to assure the process and costs are proportionate to the needs of the case. The proportionality factors include the “amount in controversy, and complexity and importance of the issues at stake in the litigation. …This proportionality rule shall shape the process of the case in order to achieve a just, timely, efficient, and cost effective determination of all actions.” (See PPR 1.3.)

Notice Pleading Plus

  • “The party that bears the burden of proof with respect to any claim or affirmative defense should plead all material facts that are known to that party,” including “any known monetary damages.” (See PPR 2.2.)
  • General denials of any statement of fact are not permitted. (See PPR 2.3.)

Defendants Must Answer, and Motions to Dismiss Do Not Stay the Case

  • Even if you elect to file a motion to dismiss, you also must file an answer. (See PPR 4.1.)
  • Unless otherwise prohibited by statute, the filing of a motion to dismiss will not delay any pleading, disclosure, or case management deadlines. (Id.)

After You Plead, Get Ready to Disclose

  • No later than 21 days after service of a pleading making a claim for relief or defending against a claim for relief, the pleading party must file its initial disclosures with the court. (See PPR 3.1, 3.3.)

Meet, Confer, and Preserve

  • Within 14 days after the filing of an answer, the parties must meet and confer regarding the “reasonable preservation of all relevant documents and things, including any electronically stored information.” (See PPR 6.1.)

Do Not Expect Extensions or Continuances

  • Motions for extensions of time or continuances (including motions to change the trial date) are strongly disfavored and will be denied on receipt, absent extraordinary circumstances. (See PPR 1.4, 8.5.)
  • Stipulated motions to continue or extend deadlines are not binding on the court and parties should assume the court will deny such motions. (See PPR 1.4.)

Do Expect Active Case Management

  • One judge will be assigned to the case for all purposes, and “absent unavoidable or extraordinary circumstances,” that judge will remain assigned to the case through its final resolution. (See PPR 5.1.)
  • No later than 49 days after the responsive pleadings are filed, the judge shall hold an initial case management conference, which each party’s lead trial counsel is required to attend. (See PPR 7.1.)
  • The court will provide ongoing, active case management, and the parties may contact the court for prompt conferences to clarify or modify any court order or resolve any disputed pretrial matter. (See PPR 8.1, 8.2.)

Factual and Expert Discovery Will Be Limited

  • Discovery will be limited, based on the proportionality factors and “matters that would enable a party to prove or disprove a claim or defense or to impeach a witness.” (See PPR 9.1.)
  • Absent extraordinary circumstances, only one expert witness per side may submit a report and testify in any given specialty or with respect to any given issue. (See PPR 10.2.)
  • An expert’s testimony will be limited to matters disclosed in reasonable detail in the report. (See PPR 10.1(b).)
  • Along with the expert’s report, a party also must produce its expert’s files at the time the witness is disclosed. (See PPR 10.1(a), (c), App. C (defining scope of production and noting parties do not have to produce their expert’s draft reports).)
  • There will be no depositions or other discovery of experts. (See PPR 10.1(d).)

Key Deadlines

  • Twenty-one days after service of the complaint, plaintiff files initial disclosures. (See PPR 3.1.)
  • Twenty-one days after plaintiff’s initial disclosures are filed, defendant files a responsive pleading, which must include an answer. (See PPR 3.2, 4.1.)
  • Fourteen days after defendant’s responsive pleading is filed, the parties meet and confer regarding preservation of documents and electronically stored information. (See PPR 6.1.)
  • Twenty-one days after service of defendant’s responsive pleading, defendant files initial disclosures. (See PPR 3.3.)
  • Seven days before the case management conference, parties file a joint case management report in the form set forth in Appendix B of CJD 11.2. (See PPR 7.1, App. B.)
  • No later than 49 days after defendant’s responsive pleading is filed, the case management conference is held, and lead counsel must attend. (See PPR 7.1.)

Generally, within 91 days of service of the complaint, the answer, any motions to dismiss, all disclosures, and the joint case management report will be filed and the case management conference will have occurred.

The PPRs are an attempt to improve the management of the civil litigation process and increase access to our judicial system by controlling the discovery process and lessening the expense of litigation. We urge litigators in the Denver area to support the Pilot Project and share their feedback during the two-year pilot period with IAALS.


[1] The PPRs are not to be confused with the amendments to the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure for calculating trial and appellate deadlines that will apply in all cases in all judicial districts in the state. Most of these deadline amendments become effective Jan. 1, and others become effective July 1. Go to for a copy of the amended rules.

Jessica Fuller and Tamara Goodlette are litigation associates at Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP and can be reached at (303) 623-9000 or and

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CLE Program: The Civil Access Pilot Project – New Rules of Civil Procedure for Cases in 5 Districts

This CLE presentation will take place on Friday, December 2. Participants may attend live in our classroom or watch the live webcast.

If you can’t make the live programs or webcasts, the programs will also be available as a homestudy in three formats: video on-demand, mp3 download, and audio CD recordings.

Colorado Lawyers Step Up for Colorado Veterans

 By Benjamin Currier & John Vaught

Access to justice for all Americans is an issue that is constantly evolving in an effort to meet the needs of those who cannot afford traditional legal services. With governmental budgets and outreach programs being pared, the communities that most rely on pro bono legal services are compelled to turn to individuals and to private initiatives to meet their ever-expanding need. Some groups have enjoyed success and are gaining access to justice through innovative means, but many have not. Among this latter group are our military veterans, active duty military personnel, and their families.

In an attempt to meet the needs of Colorado veterans and service members, the Colorado Bar Association is developing a statewide pro bono legal services initiative to provide legal service to Colorado veterans, some active duty service members, and their families— Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans. This program is structured to provide free legal advice through clinics held around the state and also provide pro bono and low fee legal services to individuals who require further help.

Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans will begin the first of many free clinics on Nov. 11 in Denver and Colorado Springs, and on Nov. 10 in Fort Collins.

It is estimated that one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans, and a vast number of other veterans also are in need of legal help but unable to afford and receive the assistance they desperately require. Many national reserve, retired, or otherwise discharged veterans do not have access to legal services. Active duty service members receive some assistance from the Judge Advocate General’s Corps; however, many still have legal issues and problems that are not met by the current active duty legal services and do not have the resources to afford legal services to solve their problems. Because of this, Colorado attorneys and the CBA are reaching out to help veterans with their legal needs and problems.

This program is consistent with the recommendations made by the Chief Justice Michael Bender, as part of the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession. Modeled after a similar program in Texas, it is being led by a joint collaboration between the Commission, CBA President-elect Mark Fogg, John Vaught, CBA Young Lawyers Division Chair Benjamin Currier, CBA Executive Director Chuck Turner, and staff members of the DBA and CBA, including Carolyn Gravit, Heather Clark, and Denise Lynch.

The Denver event is scheduled to be held at the Bo Matthews Center, at 3030 Downing St., from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This initial Denver event will be staffed by law students, young lawyers, and other Colorado attorneys. In addition to these volunteers, a Colorado-based service organization called Challenge America will be present to help guide veterans through the maze of other benefits available to them. This highly anticipated event is the first of many steps to try to serve the needs of Colorado veterans, one veteran at a time.

We are currently searching for volunteers to assist for future clinics across the state. We also are looking for individuals who are willing to take on pro bono and low fee cases to help veterans in need. If you are interested in helping, please contact Carolyn Gravit at We look forward to seeing you and helping with this new and exciting effort to provide pro bono legal services to Colorado veterans and service members.

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Post-Decree Clinics Continue to Serve Families

Editor’s Note: Pro Bono Week is this week, October 24-28, 2011. The Denver Bar Association has put together several days of events and parties for Pro Bono week, to recognize and celebrate the commitment to pro bono client services. Click here for more information.

More than 10 years after launching its first post-decree clinic with Faegre & Benson, Metro Volunteer Lawyers continues to serve clients whose legal problems arise after permanent orders have been entered in divorce and custody cases.

The first post-decree clinic began in 2000 as a collaborative effort between MVL and Faegre & Benson. It was the first post-decree family law clinic of its kind offered anywhere. Not only did Faegre & Benson make available its staff and attorneys to provide legal services to these clients, they also created and implemented a program to train and supervise attorneys participating in the post-decree clinic.

Over time, the post-decree clinic program has expanded. In an effort to address growing community needs, Faegre & Benson reached out to recruit and collaborate with other well-respected firms, starting with  Holland & Hart for additional clinics in Denver. Later, they worked with The Harris Law Firm to conduct clinics in Adams and Arapahoe counties for a year in order to expand, at least temporarily, the reach of those  who could be served by MVL.

Today, MVL and our partner firms—Faegre & Benson, Holland & Hart, and Johnson Sauer Legal Group—conduct post-decree clinics each month at the Denver and Jefferson County District Courts. Volunteers prepare relevant motions, pleadings, and proposed orders for people who are representing themselves in ongoing litigation. The attorneys simply advise the clients regarding the limited scope of representation and indicate on each document they produce for the clients, per Rule 11, that they have assisted with the preparation of those documents.

To keep volunteers active and interested, Faegre & Benson also hosts and coordinates an annual post-decree training CLE for all post-decree clinic volunteers to better educate the attorneys who provide the post-decree legal services. They also host a volunteer appreciation holiday party each year and feature MVL. The continued success and growth of the post-decree clinics is a true testament to the continued leadership and commitment that the firms that sponsor the post-decree clinics make to MVL to support and provide pro bono legal services.

We at MVL cannot thank our partners and supporters enough for their continued support of MVL, and look forward to our continued partnership and success in the future.

Dianne Van Voorhees is the executive director of Metro Volunteer Lawyers.

The Docket eFile brings features from your favorite Denver Bar Association publication to you digitally. When you see the logo, you’re reading an article from The Docket. You’ll also still be able to read the full issue online at