Profile of 2016–17 CBA President
I love lawyers; I love being a lawyer, working with lawyers, and helping lawyers,” is the unequivocal view of incoming CBA President Patricia M. Jarzobski. For those who have had the pleasure of meeting her, such a declaration is an understatement. With her stylish sophistication and flair for grace under pressure, she projects an aura of charisma that makes her a fitting candidate for raising the bar in more ways than one. The timing of her presidency could not be more opportune, as she will be joined by incoming Denver Bar Association President Nancy L. Cohen and American Bar Association President Linda A. Klein. Never before have women simultaneously led these associations. Not one to let historic firsts overwhelm her, Jarzobski aims to make the CBA the best it can be for its members by engaging the diverse talent of the entire community. “This has been the biggest honor of my entire career,” says Jarzobski, who will be the fifth woman to be president of the CBA in 119 years and the first in a decade.
ABA Past President Paulette Brown, CBA President
Patricia Jarzobski, and ABA President Linda Klein.
For Jarzobski, a native Nebraskan who has spent the past 31 years in Colorado, being president of the CBA calls for a productive calibration of collaborative inspiration and courageous aspiration. She seeks to build engagement through real relationships that are focused on mentoring and sponsorship. For her, the value of belonging to the CBA is timeless, as there will always be a need for a supportive legal community that encourages talent to spread its wings. As she puts it, “It’s all about bringing a fresh perspective to an organization and creating a community rooted in inclusive growth.”
A pressing element on Jarzobski’s presidential agenda will be implementing the CBA’s strategic plan. “This is the first time that the organization has undertaken a rigorous and thorough strategic planning process that has compiled the input of members, staff, bar leaders, and other stakeholders,” she reveals. The plan, which has been in the works since 2014, seeks to address the question of what the CBA can do to remain valuable and relevant during a period of significant social, technological, and industry-wide change. A project that she is particularly excited about is her ACTNow Initiative. Appointing Critical Talent Now seeks to bridge the information gap and lessen the intimidation factor when it comes to diversifying talent in the bar association’s leadership roles. To facilitate this, she intends to “refocus” the CBA’s vision by encouraging the affinity bars to become more active in the “big bar” and by creating an institutionalized leadership pathway from the affinity bar associations to the CBA.
In Jarzobski’s opinion, so much comes down to what she describes as “the power of community and inviting members to engage.” When she graduated from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 1989, Jarzobski secured a position as an associate attorney at Schaden, Swanson & Lampert, a boutique national aviation law firm. “The personal injury field really chose me,” she confesses. “I was terrified of flying but applied for the job and got it.” After that foundational immersion in the practice of law, her career as a solo attorney took flight in 1996. At that time, there was more of a stigma attached to not adhering to the big-firm vision of success. “It was scary. It was risky. But it was the best decision of I’ve ever made,” she claims.
Clearly, Jarzobski is not one to shy away from challenges or routes less traveled. “I’m in this field because I want to help others. I get a chance to help people navigate a system that is stacked against them in a lot of ways.”
Patricia Jarzobski with ABA President Linda
Klein and DBA President Nancy Cohen.
Patricia Jarzobski and her wife, Judge Emily Anderson.
Jarzobski attributes much of her progress to the unassuming heroes who helped launch the climbing trajectory of her career. When prompted to elaborate on some of these role models, Judge Elizabeth Starrs, the last woman to be president of the CBA, immediately comes to her mind. “She ingrained in me the importance of always doing the right thing and doing what’s best for the organization,” says Jarzobski. Another significant role model for the incoming CBA president has been John Baker, the former executive director of the Colorado Supreme Court Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP), with whom she shared an office for a number of years. His zeal for actively rooting for others’ success prompted her to come to a decisive conclusion: “When I grow up, that’s who I want to be like.”
When asked whether she saw herself as CBA presidential material, Jarzobski intimated that it was not something that she spent time contemplating. Instead, it was her colleagues who first recognized in her the qualities that the CBA needs on the eve of its 120th anniversary. The presidential nomination tested Jarzobski’s philosophy of saying “yes” to opportunities, even when they are intimidating.
Despite her unwavering modesty about her accomplishments, Jarzobski’s record of leadership during periods of organizational transformation is a force to be reckoned with. She became president of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association (CWBA) in 2012, at a time when membership had been declining and events were losing their former sparkle. At that point, Jarzobski unleashed the talent of the board of directors and, as CWBA president, promoted collaboration, creativity, and camaraderie. “We came together to focus on one thing: how to engage our members and re-establish value and relevance in the organization.” By saying “yes” to innovation and thinking outside of the box, Jarzobski and her fellow collaborators sparked a cultural shift wherein investing in others’ success became a contagious phenomenon. Jarzobski embraced the next generation of leaders, made recognizing and implementing talent a priority, and had fun along the way. Even simple things like sharing a meal had the power to cultivate conversation and foster a genuine sense of community. Jarzobski’s results-driven approach, coupled with her sincere concern for others, produced quantitative and qualitative progress. Membership increased by 23%, and morale increased immeasurably.
We need the diverse talent of our entire community shaping
how our bar association moves forward.
Perhaps those who have known Jarzobski the longest are best-equipped to describe her. Casey Schaden Cassinis, who co-organized the CBA/CWBA Cuba trips earlier this year, depicts her as a “first-class lawyer, a leader, and someone capable of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.” Paul Chan echoes this perspective, adding: “All generations of CBA members will see Patty as ‘one of them.’ She will have the respect and admiration of the Boomers, the Gen-Xers, and the Millennials as a professional attorney.”
Some of Jarzobski’s other leadership roles include being appointed to the 17th Judicial District Judicial Nominating Commission (2013–19) and serving as vice chair of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Board of Trustees (2013–present). She has been a CAMP mentor, and her law practice has been named a Legal Aid Foundation Leadership Law Firm.
Jarzobski promises to bring to the role of CBA president the grit and poise of someone who has worked her way up the ranks. Having waited tables and cleaned houses, she imparts the perspective of someone who genuinely understands people from disparate walks of life. She will also contribute the perspective of a gay woman of Lebanese and Polish descent. Jarzobski knows what it is like to be treated differently and unfairly but believes that society can change to be more accepting by making inclusiveness the new normal. For her, diversity also applies to the very definition of success: “It is important to define your own view of success and to be the champion of your own circumstances,” she says.
In her spare time, Jarzobski loves traveling the world and meeting people from different cultures. She also enjoys surfing and, in accordance with CBA tradition, is not a novice when it comes to fly fishing. She married 17th Judicial District Court Judge Emily Anderson on paddleboards in Hawaii on their 25th anniversary. As exciting as the previous chapters of her life have been, Jarzobski is particularly thrilled about the one to come.