1. Why did you become a lawyer?
I went to college to be an actress, but realized partway through that I wasn’t willing to “suffer for my art.” As I drifted along in theatre school, lots of people told me that they assumed I would go on to law school. After hearing this many times, I started to think that maybe they were right. It turns out that they were.
2. What’s the most valuable thing you learned about being a lawyer that you weren’t taught in law school?
I clerked in the Colorado Court of Appeals for Judge Leonard P. Plank. He showed me that all people deserve some measure of human dignity, regardless of the horrific things they may have done, or the circumstances in which they may find themselves.
3. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your career?
As a prosecutor for nearly 20 years, it is no surprise that I did rewarding work every day. Recently, I went into private practice, and I wondered if those days were over. Then a client in a dire situation walked into my office. She was caught in one of the most serious domestic abuse relationships I had ever encountered, which is saying something. Using the experience I gained in the DA’s Office, I was able to achieve an outcome that went as far as possible to keep my client and the children safe. I was very happy to discover that I would also find private practice rewarding.
4. How do you achieve work–life balance?
I try hard to maintain a clear boundary between my personal time and my work hours.
5. What’s the biggest difference between your prior work in criminal law and your current work in family law?
Criminal court is a court of law, where the burden of proof and the party who bears that burden are clearly defined. Domestic relations court, on the other hand, is a court of equity or fairness, where there is often no clear burden of proof and the standard by which decisions are made is entirely subjective. I’ve had to make a real shift in the way I think about cases.
6. What are some of the challenges of helping those under extreme emotional stress?
In family law, our clients are usually under a lot of emotional stress, and it’s pretty easy to identify with them. Any of us could find ourselves going through a divorce one day. Our natural inclination is to empathize. This can easily lead to us losing the professional objectivity that is essential to doing our jobs well. Over many years of working with crime victims, I have found that simply making a conscious decision to explore all those messy emotions without getting sucked into them myself helps me maintain professional objectivity.
7. Where are you going on your next vacation?
I’m going to visit the Strandbeest in its natural environment. (See strandbeest.com.)
8. If you could change anything about Denver, what would it be?
I’d put an ocean next to it.
9. What is your favorite movie and why?
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I’ve always loved it. It has some great lines: “Who are those guys?” and “Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.”
10. If you weren’t a lawyer, you’d be:
A Hollywood producer, which is what I originally thought I’d become after I gave up acting. Clearly, I was wrong about that career path as well.
More about you:
Works at: Gutterman Griffiths, PC
Practices in: Family law — litigation and collaborative divorce work
Law School: Boalt Hall School of Law, U.C. Berkeley
Undergraduate School: University of Southern California D
Editor’s Note: Do you know a DBA member who should be featured? Email nominations to Jessica Volz at firstname.lastname@example.org.