The Top 50 Women Colorado Super Lawyers list features female attorneys from a smorgasbord of practice areas and settings. The same is true for the half dozen women who in 2019 have made the list for the first time — they are practitioners whose specialties range from medical malpractice defense to high-net-worth divorces.
But one thing they all have in common is that while they’re the Colorado Top 50 Women list’s newest faces, they’re no strangers in the state’s legal community.
One such new entry is Erin Webber, who has served as managing shareholder for the Denver and Kansas City offices of Littler Mendelson, the world’s largest firm that exclusively does labor and employment defense.
While she works on a variety of employment cases, Webber is especially versed in disability matters, like those involving the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Webber didn’t always practice employment law. She began her career at a smaller firm in Missouri doing family law, mostly to get courtroom experience. But she wasn’t enchanted by family law’s subject matter, and once she had the chance to help out with an ADA case the firm’s employment defense lawyer took to trial, Webber discovered where her career interest truly lay.
Besides FMLA and ADA matters, Webber is also busy working on employers’ questions involving arbitration agreements, class-action waivers and workplace harassment issues in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Most of her clients are based outside Colorado, and she regularly works with colleagues throughout Littler’s U.S. locations.
To Webber, the Top 50 Women designation is a group achievement. “This is not just my name on there. It’s the entire team I work with.”
Lisa Leasure, cofounder of professional liability boutique Faraci Leasure in Glendale, also made her first appearance on the Colorado Top 50 Women list for Super Lawyers this year. Her 20-year career has primarily focused on medical cases, which have been a natural fit for Leasure. She has physicians in her family and describes herself as “geekishly interested in all things medical related.”
“I love, love, love what I do because I think [physicians] are people that have very high standards for themselves and they want to do good in the world, so they’re easy clients for me [to get behind],” Leasure said.
Medical cases involve hard work, complex facts and long trials, Leasure said. She’s taken courses over the years through the University of Colorado School of Medicine to have a tighter grasp on various medical subjects.
Med mal defense is an area of law where larger firms can throw their weight around on cases. Leasure said that by contrast, her four-attorney firm prides itself on being efficient, not requiring vast resources or staff to try a case. “We like to call ourselves a lean mean fighting machine.”
Leasure enjoys mentoring younger women attorneys, particularly on how to maintain a healthy personal and family life while achieving success in a trial practice that requires travel and sometimes 80-hour workweeks.
Another first-timer on the list, family attorney Cyndi Brewster, has a practice that aims to keep clients out of the courtroom altogether
Brewster, a partner at Harrington Brewster Mahoney Smits, is a member of the Colorado Collaborative Law Professionals and chairs the group’s training committee. Collaborative law is a practice in which the opposing parties agree to work toward an out-of-court agreement and avoid litigation at all costs.
“I call myself a settlement expert,” said Brewster, who first trained in collaborative law back in 2001. The group of attorneys in Colorado with a collaborative practice, many of them in family law, has been steadily growing since then.
In collaborative law, Brewster said, divorcing clients often end up with similar outcomes in terms of assets and rights, yet the process to get there is completely different — it often leaves intact the mutual respect between the former spouses.
“It’s a focus from the beginning of saying, ‘I want to be problem-solving instead of going to war,’” she said. Even in cases that aren’t collaborative, Brewster said, attorneys who are trained in collaborative law can apply improved communication skills and techniques for keeping disagreements respectful.
Another new face on the Top 50 Women list, Rebecca Alexander, has a family law practice that’s notable for its setting.
In a legal area that’s overwhelmingly populated by sole practitioners and boutiques, Alexander has built her family law career in large “full-service” firms — first at national firm BakerHostetler and now in Sherman & Howard, which has a nearly 200-attorney head count. She joined Sherman & Howard’s growing family law group in 2017 and was this year elected to its executive committee.
Alexander’s work focuses on complex divorce matters involving estates in excess of $5 million, and she came by that specialty after having begun her career as a commercial litigator. Early on, she did “some soul searching” about the kind of law she genuinely enjoyed, and she realized she “enjoyed representing individuals much more than representing corporations.” To make a family practice viable in under a BigLaw roof, she would cater to BakerHostetler’s high-net-worth clientele. And she continues that practice style today at Sherman & Howard, collaborating with firm colleagues to handle divorces with complicated trust and estate issues and their own ecosystem of business entities and charitable foundations.
“I was and am well suited for that because I’ve always worked in places that had estate planners, tax attorneys and corporate lawyers,” she said.
Alexander was once told by a mentor that in order to be successful, she would need to become a “shortlist lawyer” — that when someone in the community who needs a lawyer in her practice area turns to anyone for recommendations, her name always comes up. Being named to a list like the Top 50 Women “tells me that I’ve achieved that,” Alexander said.
The list itself signifies something else to Alexander.
“This is a field that women drop out of far more frequently than men. … All of the women on this list have stuck it out and achieved longevity in their careers,” Alexander said. “It serves as a beacon for the women that are coming behind us.”
— Doug Chartier