Janet Drake, a criminal prosecutor, is full of energy and is ready to share some of that zeal for life and the law with the Denver Bar Association. As the 2015–16 DBA President, Drake is a force to be reckoned with in the legal community. Her ongoing theme for the year is to “Make a Difference.”
Within the Make a Difference initiative, Drake is hoping to inform members about important work being done in the Denver community, and encourage her fellow members to act and participate. Drake notes that she doesn’t want to limit this to legal work and she does appreciate that attorneys have unique gifts to offer the community. She believes that it’s vital to use individual knowledge and skills to give back.
To better align bar members with the bar mission, Drake will focus on highlighting specific issues in her Docket columns. Homelessness and human trafficking are just a few of those that she’s passionate about, and she wants to increase awareness about them within the local legal community.
“I want to encourage our members to get more involved in the Denver community, whether that’s taking pro bono cases and assisting with programs that already exist, such as MVL, or getting involved with community-based committees like CAN,” she says. “Or even just writing a check to local nonprofits to help people have better access to justice.”
Drake is also hoping to focus on increasing membership and increasing diversity among membership throughout her year-long tenure. And she will continue to support John Vaught’s efforts with young lawyers in the association.
“I want to encourage our members to get more involved in the Denver community, whether that’s taking pro bono cases and assisting with programs that already exist like MVL or getting involved with community-based committees like CAN,” she says. “Or, even just writing a check to local nonprofits to help people have better access to justice.”
“I want to be responsive and respectful in terms of what’s working well and how we can go from there,” she explains.
Adamant that the DBA needs a strategic plan in place for the future, Drake praises new Executive Director Patrick Flaherty’s nonprofit management experience. She notes that as Denver and the legal profession continue to grow and change, she strives to use her relationships and experience to be a better ambassador for the bar association.
“I’ve really appreciated the relationships I’ve built through my work with the bar association,” she says. “I do appreciate that the bar does a lot of community outreach, but at the end of the day it’s the personal relationships through professional organizations that are the most meaningful.”
Drake is already an impressive leader in the local legal community. A past president of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, she’s active with the DBA YLD, DBA Board of Trustees, CBA Criminal Law Executive Council, a CBA Fellow, and the CWBA Circle of Minerva/Leadership Circle (among others). When she has time, Drake also helps with training and legal education on human trafficking laws and prosecution.
“My parents always taught me how important my reputation is,” she says. “And I would pass that advice on to other attorneys, particularly new attorneys, to keep in mind that their conduct is establishing their reputation every day.”
Although Drake’s parents are Canadian, she is a Denver native. She attended the University of Denver for her undergraduate degree and the University of Colorado for her law degree. In between DU and law school, she worked as an assistant division clerk with Ken Stuart and volunteered as a victims advocate for Victim Outreach Information.
“Through those experiences I decided definitely that I wanted to be involved in criminal justice,” Drake says. “And I thought I could make the most difference as a prosecutor.”
Now, she calls it a privilege to work in the Special Prosecutions Unit at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. She handles multi-jurisdictional organized crime cases which range from sex and drug trafficking to elaborate economic crime schemes.
“I actually feel like I can help people,” she explains. “My work with juvenile sex trafficking victims has left the biggest mark on me.”
When Drake isn’t in the office—hers or the bar associations—she is planning her next trip with her husband, Todd (an attorney at Hershey & Decker). They’ve been together since law school and share a “work hard, play hard” mentality: they have a pact to use their passports every year—and Canada and Mexico don’t count! Although they often try to visit new places, Hawaii, Argentina, and Sicily are a few of their favorite destinations.
by Courtney Gibb. Gibb is the former communications and marketing specialist for the Colorado and Denver.