Since he began to practice law in 2018, Will Hauptman has been on the fast track to success.
Hauptman, an associate at Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell, said he became interested in the law when he was young. He credits his grandfather, who was a civil engineer, and one of his friends, a lawyer in Boulder.
“My grandfather was an expert witness on a number of his friend’s cases,” Hauptman said. “So when I was growing up, I heard a lot of stories about lawsuits, about legal issues and I was impressed with how many things it seemed you could do if you had a law degree.”
By 2017, Hauptman had his law degree from the University of Colorado Law School. Hauptman represents attorneys in legal malpractice cases and businesses in complex commercial litigation.
He said some of the first cases he worked on were legal malpractice defense cases and he developed a passion for them.
“It’s so cool to me that in each legal malpractice case I have to become an expert of sorts in whatever area of law my clients practice,” Hauptman said. “No two days are the same or even really similar for me.”
Hauptman noted he also finds complex commercial litigation intellectually stimulating because of the high-stakes cases.
One of the key points made in Hauptman’s nomination to Law Week Colorado was his ethics. Hauptman said that’s been ingrained with him for a long time as he was the chairperson for the University of Colorado Honors Council as an undergraduate which adjudicates cases of academic misconduct.
“I began thinking about ethics and integrity … well before I went to law school,” Hauptman said. He also was involved with the University of Colorado Law School Honors Council as a student.
Nominators mentioned an incident that showed his honesty during a case. Hauptman said the opposing counsel alerted the court to a specific date and Hauptman realized the opposite side made a mistake with the date.
“Had the court granted them whatever it was they were asking for, they would have been in a really bad position,” Hauptman said. “It was clear to me it was a mistake … and I felt it wouldn’t be clear to the court that a mistake had been made.”
Hauptman ended up calling the opposing counsel and let them know about it to fix it before a ruling was entered.
Hauptman is also gaining experience by the minute, including getting a lot of time in the courtroom, arguing and winning an appeal and giving an opening statement in a major federal case.
“A law firm the size of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell handling matters of the scope that we handle … it’s really rare for younger lawyers to have substantial courtroom experience,” he said. “It’s much more common at law firms of our size that a lawyer with four to six years of experience will be writing memoranda, reviewing documents … [and] will see little if any courtroom action.”
Hauptman also does a lot of volunteer work including as a member of the Colorado Bar Association Ethics Committee and as a member of the executive committee of the Minoru Yasui American Inn of Court. That group, which was founded in Denver, works to improve the ethics, professionalism and skills of the bench and bar.
“I think it’s important that everybody be involved in the community in some way, shape or form in a capacity that allows them to make the world better in some way,” Hauptman said.
But how does a young lawyer get on the fast track like Hauptman?
“I certainly found great mentors who support my career development, who advocate for me to get these opportunities and who really push me to be the best I can be,” Hauptman said. “Also, I’ve worked just incredibly hard to show that I’m capable of handling these significant responsibilities.”
Hauptman noted that to be successful you always have to do the ethical and professional thing and follow the work you love.
“Don’t waste time doing something that you might look back at after 20 years and say ‘gosh, I was wasting my time. I wish I’d been doing something else,’” Hauptman said.
Hauptman has also received high praise from his co-workers.
“When Will applied to WTO, the Colorado Supreme Court justice (Brian Boatright) for whom Will clerked called me to tell me we would be making a mistake not to hire Will—and he was right,” said Carolyn Fairless, a co-managing partner at Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell. “From day one, Will has earned my trust to handle some of our most challenging cases. He has not just lived up to, but exceeded, our high expectations.”