By Ian Farmer
LAW WEEK COLORADO
Hailey Perkins, in her fifth year at Stinson LLP, is no stranger to adventure. Her lifelong love of learning has taken her to many different places and she applies this curiosity to her focus in employment litigation.
“Each case is like a new book you get to read,” Perkins said. And while employment may have been her first love in law, Perkins followed her sense of adventure to new cities that would allow her to learn and see the system work firsthand.
Her first three years at Stinson were more general, but she started her proactive work in employment litigation years earlier while getting her J.D. at the University of Oregon School of Law. “I’ve always taken the attitude of saying ‘yes’ to anything challenging,” Perkins said. “Know that you don’t know everything, and always be open when you need help.” She’s grateful for her mentors in law school for always being open to questions.
She went to the associate general counsel there and was honest: “I just feel lost.” But, with the help of her mentors, she came to understand the arduous processes of learning the law and fell in love with it.
After earning her law degree, Perkins and her husband decided they wanted to start a family. With her husband’s family residing in Wyoming, Denver was full of opportunities for both of them. They made the move to Colorado and Perkins found Stinson.
Perkins is full of praise for her colleagues at Stinson and knows that, even if she’s the only employment-focused associate out of the Denver office, someone is always willing to help and have her back. She describes the firm’s attitude as, “Let’s grow our younger associates into partners that we can champion moving forward.” And in Perkins’ case, that’s exactly what happened.
While managing employment cases for Stinson, Perkins also dedicates 15% of her hours to pro bono work. “I look at pro bono as a way to advance social causes” that might not be as available in employment litigation, she said.
The most challenging of which, and the case she’s most proud of, focused on excessive force and qualified immunity against a police department. Aside from the normal tribulations, she came into the case after the complaint had already been filed, discovery had started and her client was in and out of jail. “Through a lot of research and public debate at the time, we were able to draft our response, and we succeeded.” She defeated the motion made against her client and was able to get them a settlement.
While these cases can feel like number crunching after all the time spent on them, it’s important for Perkins not to lose the human factor at play. She detailed another pro bono case in which an artist’s work had been infringed upon by a large corporation. “That one was really cool because part of my job was looking at incredible art,” she said. The case also allowed her to represent someone “who didn’t have the means to fight this injustice but knew it was happening to him.” Currently, Perkins is working to get the Colorado Innocence Project involved with Stinson’s Denver office.
But this focus on the human side of the law doesn’t stop with her pro bono work. Perkins recognizes that a complaint made against a small business can “really rock your world,” and she hopes to mitigate that feeling for her clients. “The thing I work on most is teamwork and constant communication.” Litigation can take years, she said, and she wants to be proactive for her clients even if not much has happened since they last spoke. “It helps the client feel like I have their back at all times,” said Perkins. “On a personal level, I like to look at how the case is not just affecting the business, but my clients’ emotions as well.”
Throughout it all, Perkins tries to instill her core values of adventure, learning and humanity in her two children. Her oldest, who was a year old when the pandemic started, became a familiar face in Zoom meetings. “Keeping a one-year-old away from a screen is near impossible,” Perkins explained. When she sits down to work from home now, her kids pull out their play-computers and say, “it’s time to go to work!”
“Having kids and being a young lawyer is great,” she says, as she gets to share that element of her life with colleagues and clients. “I’m human, you’re human, and I don’t want that to be forgotten. Plus, nothing in the office is as stressful when you’re looking at a cute red-headed baby over Zoom.”