The Law Club—1914–2014: A Century of [S]milestones

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The Law Club, a venerable association of sometimes talented and occasionally civic-minded attorneys, will celebrate its 100th anniversary on April 10.

Two weeks later, on April 25 and 26, The Law Club will toast its first hundred years by hosting a gala celebration at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Among the scheduled activities will be reprises of some of the club’s most memorable (and infamous) skits and songs, memorabilia displays, silly speeches, and assorted tomfoolery. Club alumni will gather from all over the nation to reminisce about the ground-breaking accomplishments and laugh-provoking antics of the Club. Law Club alumni include: one governor, two mayors, seven state Supreme Court justices, several court of appeals judges, numerous attorney generals, ten district court judges, six deans of law schools, and scads of federal officials such as referees in bankruptcy, a Secretary of Agriculture, senators, congressmen, district and circuit judges and a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Some of the notable milestones that will be toasted at the Centennial celebration are below.

1914 The Law Club is founded on April 10, 1914. A group of 24 lawyers in the Denver bar organize what they call “The Junior Law Club” at the Albany Hotel. Initially a serious-minded group, their objectives are “the discussion of legal subjects; [to] present or propose legislation on legal ethics; to maintain an active interest in the Denver Bar Association; [and] to cooperate in the encouragement and maintenance of high standard of legal ethics among the members.” The club’s name is changed within the year, however, to “The Law Club.”

1916 The Vital Statistics Committee and cigar tradition are born. The Committee identifies members who dare to get married or have a child and orders cigars—at the lucky member’s expense – for the entire membership.

1920 A blue ribbon committee of Law Club members is appointed to confer with state bar examiners to raise the standards of the bar exams.

1922 Two real estate title questions are debated by the membership, resulting in the first real estate title standards promulgated in Colorado.

1925 President Henry Toll requires The Law Club motto: “Strive mightily but eat and drink as friends” to be printed on The Law Club’s stationery. Within a decade, the Last Resort Committee begins to specialize in “quaint and curious decisions, with especial attention to cases of libidinous character.”

1925 The Club creates “The Green Book “for the purpose of preserving and collecting under one cover, all information, statistics and data concerning the club, its members, past and present, and its acts and doings.” Published irregularly, but reverently, thereafter, this book chronicles the history of the Club, which by this time has abandoned its singular dedication to serious-minded pursuits and has established more fun-loving traditions of fining members for missed meetings, attending annual picnics, punning, telling bawdy jokes, and engaging in high-spirited pranks that result in damage to dining room furniture and table settings.

1934 The Club’s annual meeting is one of the largest and most raucous in its history, probably because Prohibition has just been repealed and beer flows freely.

1939 On Sept. 22, 1939, the Club conducts a mock luncheon meeting during the CBA’s annual session at the Broadmoor Hotel, which is probably the first formal appearance of the Club as a troupe.

1944 The bylaws are amended to raise the membership limit to 85 to accommodate extensive absenteeism by members in the armed services.

1946 By this year, the Grievance Committee has seen nearly a hundred different members—but never had a single grievance referred to it. Shortly thereafter, this committee is charged with producing shows—since it apparently has nothing else to do.

1947 “The Law Club Show” is born. The Club presented Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial By Jury,” the first departure from luncheon skits to a full-blown theatrical production. For the first time, wives are invited to participate on stage.

1951 The Club develops a template for its shows, which have developed into elaborate “revues.” This year’s show, “Esoterica,” merits coverage from both The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post.

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1953 A reprise of “Trial By Jury” marks the end of a fifteen-year string of annualized productions for the CBA convention at the Broadmoor. Thereafter, shows are produced bi-annually until the 1990s.

1955 The Club publishes rules for its previously unruly audiences, which include prohibition of unscheduled participation in skits, requirement of applause at the conclusion of each musical number, and direction for laughter “after each line that is prima facie funny.”

1955 President Lowell White addresses the American Bar Associations’ annual meeting in Milwaukee about the activities of the Club, thereby providing a model for what becomes the Junior Bar Section of the ABA.

1969 “Lady Loverly’s Chattels” is staged in the Denver Hilton as a feature of the ABA Mid-Year Meeting.

1975 For the first time, Law Clubbers record a show, “Star Spangled Banter, or 1775 ½, or Yankee Doodlings.” The recording is done on vinyl.

1981 Law Club show participation is opened to any member of the Denver Bar, in recognition of the support given to the shows by the DBA.

1982 The bylaws are amended to allow Felicity Hannay and Beth McCann to become the first female members.

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1983 Grievance Committee member Pam Hultin invites her non-lawyer spouse to join her in the cast of “The Law Boat.” Since there were no female members until 1982, Pam Hultin’s husband had the honor of being the first male, non-member spouse to be in a show.

1987 “Whee the People or Constitutional Capers” marks a collaboration between the Denver and Jefferson County Bar Associations.

1988 Marion Brewer is chosen as the first female president.

1989 The Club holds it Diamond Jubilee (75th year) event at the Denver Athletic Club, presenting “The Law Club’s Greatest Hits.”

1990 The CBA’s annual convention moves away from the Broadmoor Hotel and heads for mountain towns. “Legal Tender,” produced in Snowmass Village sans set, inaugurates the era known as “Law Club in the Wilderness, ” a period when productions are staged on risers in hotels in Colorado resort towns.

1996 The Law Club stages its first “Virtual Law Club Show” in Denver.

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1997 With “Bar Wars: the 50th Anniversary Edition,” the Club celebrates the 100th anniversary of the CBA, the 50th year of the Law Club show, and the 20th year of spoofing Star Wars.

2000 The Club’s last show for the CBA annual convention is in Keystone, titled “Channel Surfing USA.” The show marks the end of a 47-year period of performing alternate years at CBA annual meetings.

2001–04 Without a CBA annual meeting audience to thrill, the Club begins a four-year odyssey that leads them to perform shows for a variety of smaller—and often non-lawyer—audiences in the Denver area.

2005 The birth of the “Ethics Revue”—Opening with a rendition of “That’s Entertainment,” the Club launches its first Ethics Revue at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver. This show represents a collaboration between the Club, CBA-CLE and the CBA Ethics Committee, which continues annually to this day.

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2010 An “Avatar”-themed show is the first show staged at Lannie’s Clock Tower Cabaret in downtown Denver.

2012 The Club produces a show with a “Spiderman” theme, which brings a statue of heroic Governor Ralph Carr to life to tutor ethically challenged lawyers. This show wins the 2013 Award of Professional Excellence from the Association of Continuing Legal Education Administrators.

2013 The last show of the Club’s first century, “Austin Powers: International Man of Ethics,” honors the Club’s 66-year tradition of lampooning attorneys and legal trends.
By year end, the Club can boast that it has maintained a century-long membership roster totaling nearly a thousand lawyers, produced more than 100 theatrical shows (including nine Ethics Revues and multiple reprises), presented more than 2,300 well-crafted and often influential speeches, and induced tens of thousands of lawyers, judges and others to laugh at themselves and at the legal, political and cultural trends of the times.

2014 On April 25–26, the Club will celebrate 100 years of service to the Denver Bar. The Law Club invites all lawyers living in, working in, or passing through Denver to join the Club at the Broadmoor to honor the traditions of this wacky club that has undoubtedly helped shape the legal, political, and cultural history of Denver.

 

For more information about the Centennial celebration at the Broadmoor (April 25-26), contact Greg Garner at ggarner@comcast.net

 

If you are interested in joining the Law Club, contact current president Trevor Updegraff at trevor.updegraff@gmail.com.

 

 

By Gregory B. Cairns

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