Marinating for 25 Years: Take a trip through the past quarter-century of The Docket
by Diane Hartman
Once upon a time, before The Docket there was a boring, blue rag called "The Calendar." Kingpin Bill McClearn banished it (too staid! he said), and soon The Docket was born—in April 1978. It’s been such for 25 years and we’re celebrating (see page two for requisite party).
In that first year of The Docket, mandatory CLE was announced, the Women’s Bar formed (and The Docket debated it). You could go to the bar lunch for $6 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and hear Bronco Coach Red Miller, police chief Art Dill or even Dan Hoffman. A touch football league began and the Denver Lawyers’ Wives had a fashion show at Cherry Hills. It was shown that the DBA Judicial Poll in no way impacted how voters voted. A new bar picnic was announced, even though the old ones were still remembered: "the halcyon days when injudicious supreme court justices held court at the crap tables and scantily clad ecdysiasts fled the premises to avoid the police raid." Oh my.
In 1979, Alan Friedberg was elected chair of the newly formed 1,600-member Young Lawyers Section. The April issue not only featured a new crew in some hot tubs, but also Will Carpenter as the centerfold in a three-piece corduroy suit. The DBA Credit Union began and was stampeded—200 members joined in 10 days. Mischief was rumored among the softball teams—something about trading associates and getting summer clerks based on their sporting ability. Omer Griffin was named treasurer (and thereafter named again and again).
In 1980, it was announced that the state’s lawyer total was near 10,000. 4,200 Clients received free or low-cost legal services from 1,200 Denver lawyers through the Thursday Night Bar "and another 1,000 clients were counseled on the spot or interviewed and referred to other agencies." Revered executive director, Bill Miller, retired on Halloween. National law firms started moving to Denver, while the "local hicks" carried on. Phil Dufford began a wonderful series on luminaries with one on Sam Sherman. Chuck Turner became the new bar executive director and the bar moved from the DU law school to 250 West 14th Avenue.
Each year, it should be noted, hilarious stories by Bob Kapelke and John Mulvihill were printed on a wide variety of strange subjects.
In 1981, the headline screamed "Starting pay for new associates hits $30,000 at some Denver firms." Miles Cortez, looking all of 13 years old, was nominated for president. In a theme that would be sounded throughout history, the Thursday Night Bar (now known as Metro Volunteer Lawyers) needed more lawyers to help out. The Colorado Women’s Bar had a group of entertainers called the "Untimely Motions." The Docket grew to eight pages.
In 1982, Mike Martin reported that about 12 percent of the 8,451 active resident lawyers in the state were women. 30 counties had nary a one. Pueblo had the lowest percentage of female lawyers and Aspen had the highest. Another milestone: Felicity Hannay and Beth McCann were admitted to the Law Club (even though it was pointed out that the Law Club show was more sexist than ever). 102 members went to Hawaii for some CLE credit. The DBA thought about establishing a day care center downtown.
1983: The DBA launched a settlement program to "help people settle disputes outside of the court at greater speed and less cost." More than 500 members went to the Law Day luncheon to hear the governor of Illinois. The Nuclear Education Subcommittee of the Community Concerns Committee sponsored two films on nuclear disarmament: "Boom" and "The Big If." A salary survey showed you made more if you worked downtown—average salary was $55,464. A new building was planned for the DU College of Law on the old Colorado Women’s College campus. Dan Hoffman said: "We will have come a long way from a law school located above Mapelli’s Meat Market." In July, the bar exam was held in the National Western Stock Show Complex—with no air conditioning. A district judge’s salary was $47,260.
1984: The DBA considered polling lawyers to find out how they would evaluate federal judges. There was a thought they "might welcome reactions from the lawyers who appear before them." They did not. The Entertainment Committee had a ski party and then revived the DBA picnic. Phil Dufford asked: "Is Magic Gone from Denver Bar?" The bar moved again, this time to 1900 Grant St, ninth floor. State Treasurer Roy Romer (with funny hair and glasses) debated State Senate President Ted Strickland over whether Ronald Reagan should be re-elected. The new Colo. legislature had 18 lawyers.
1985: The Docket starts to let tiny ads slip in. Members were asked about the experiment of having cameras in the courtroom. DBA membership passed the 5,000 mark. 150 lawyers entered the first Law Week 5K Fun Run for Legal Aid.
1986: Paul Kennebeck wondered about those little bitty steps leading up to the Colorado Supreme Court. . . Should you take tiny steps or skip a step or what the heck is up? On Law Day, Ralph Nader spoke wearing sunglasses. Perhaps the first computer literacy seminar was offered by Gary Peterson. The Community Concerns Committee had a booth at the Capitol Hill People’s Fair. A candidates forum was held between Ken Kramer and Tim Wirth for the U.S. Senate seat, but Kramer had to go to the Springs as President Reagan did a last minute pitch for him down there and Wirth got the podium to himself. A charter for the Judge William E. Doyle American Inn of Court was granted, opening the door for many more to come.
1987: The bar became worried about low attendance at the monthly luncheons. An attempt to change the name of the Thursday Night Bar program was unsuccessful. Craig Eley wrote a story documenting a mediation session between evangelists Robertson, Swaggart and Bakker. DBA President Don Cordova and CBA President Frank Plaut staged a "mild protest" in front of the federal courthouse to call attention to the vacant positions on the U.S. District Court bench. A column by "Miss Management" appeared, beginning a 10-year run—she spared no one as she tackled the legal profession, decorating, relationships, UFOs, etc. She is missed.
1988: The Docket sponsored a contest to see which Denver lawyers most resembled characters on L.A. Law. The Denver Post put the story on their front page—Michael Katz as Douglas Brackman? Barb Salomon as Ann Kelsey? Mike DiManna as Arnie Becker? Karen Steinhauser as Grace Van Owen? For a few months, lawyer jokes were published (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em), but were soon yanked by outraged members. Starting salaries for major law firms was around $50,000. Judge Sandra Rothenberg (then presiding in domestic court) wrote what would become a much–discussed article on the increasing unprofessionalism in some domestic cases. Mary Kelly, chair of the Family Law Section, answered by saying their section would draft a code of civility. The Colorado Lawyers Committee celebrated its tenth anniversary.
1989: The bar hosted a green chili/red chili cookoff in the lobby of the Women’s Bank Building. The first Barristers Benefit Ball was held in May. The ABA mid-year meeting was in Denver during a record cold spell—people took cabs to go two blocks. The Docket began a restaurant column—we were only threatened with one lawsuit.
1990: One of the best, most reprinted stories ever to run in The Docket was Kevin Pratt’s "Airlines Going to Billable Hours?" It was dead–on about how people feel when confronted with the uncertainties of engaging a lawyer. The very first ridiculous April Fools’ issue of The Docket was published, with the front page designed like the National Enquirer. The annual lunch was at the new convention center (and seven 50-year members were honored).
1991: The DBA sponsored Teen Court for high school students facing disciplinary action at school; it got great media coverage, including NBC’s Today Show. 1991 marked the 100th birthday of the DBA—there was a gathering of memorabilia, a history book written, the selling of coffee mugs, coasters and t-shirts, the making of merry in the form of several parties. The DBA football team, the Lambs, managed by Tim Lamb and led by "quarterback sensation Dan Reilly," beat the Denver DA’s office in Lawyers League Football. The Senior’s Committee emerged and roasted Tony Zarlengo. Some stories were printed that caused Chuck Turner to ride herd more closely on The Docket Committee.
1992: Something called the DBA Bridge and Chocolate Club was begun. The Docket ventured back into The April Fools business by storming the doors of the Bitches From Hell, where their newsletter was being published, and doing a hostile takeover. It also did a "Do You Like Being a Lawyer" survey (only 36 responded, we didn’t learn much).
1993: The Docket Committee started doing surprise coffee tastings around town. An entertaining column that was to run two years was started by Julie Kreutzer who (right out of law school) partnered with Diana Miller, the first Vietnamese lawyer in Colorado. The two opened their office above a Vietnamese grocery store, and proceeded to have fascinating adventures. We began a classified section, including personals. The first batch was fake, but still prompted a desperate male attorney to try and find the fake female attorney who needed a social life. The Docket grew to 24 pages. A new writer from New Orleans opined that Coloradans work out too much, put too little emphasis on good food, don’t smoke and have no parades.
1994: We started off the year with a yummy story by the other Eley brother about why he’d "rather sell Cinnabons than be a lawyer because . . ." A new "drug court" was announced with Judge Bill Meyer presiding. Coffee tastings still going on—the group finds great coffee at (no surprise) Kobayashi & Associates. Wick Downing started a series on lawyers who are also writers. Marshall Snyder began his ongoing vacation series (still going). In April: "Last Issue of Docket on Paper!" the headline screamed. Only CD ROM discs would be sent, the story said. This was met by scathing phone calls (one from the AG’s office: Do you think we can afford this stuff?). Lawyers were invited to visit Vietnam, with "CLE opportunities." The Docket started experimenting with ways to cope with stress, including massage in the office, various vibrating machines, aromatherapy, fly fishing, country-western dancing, etc.
1995: The annual party was held at the new Denver Public Library—only the second party to be held there. Once the first restaurant critic was told by his doc to stop "all that sampling," the space was taken over by the "Aggressive Diner," who was mean to everyone, very funny and who lasted longer than many predicted. This year and the few previous, there were almost no 50-year members to celebrate—they had been off fighting a war.
1996: The phrase "unbundling of legal services," was being used quite a bit. Ah, the April Fools’ gremlins were back with a story that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled bar exams unconstitutional. We wondered why anyone would think the Supremes would break a story like that in The Docket. Writer Doug McQuiston took up bagpipe playing and gave a short concert in a Docket meeting, which caused everyone in the next room (Judiciary Committee) to stand.
1997: The restaurant column went away, the coffee tastings were a thing of the past, but The Docket crew decided to do "Bar Reviews," which still continue when the spirits move them. They reached one of many new lows by checking out "Don’s Mixed Drinks" on 6th Avenue.
1998: The bar Web site (www.denbar.org) was announced. President Tom deMarino tried out the delightful idea of ice cream socials (no CLE, no speaker, just socializing). We gave the idea up when the staff gained too much weight (sadly, lawyers had no time). Thursday Night Bar finally changed its name and had a grand party at the Wynkoop Brewery to say goodbye and welcome Metro Volunteer Lawyers. In April, The Docket reviewed a new bar called Shackles, located conveniently at 1437 Bannock Street. Angry members couldn’t find it.
1999: Greg Rawlings joined The Docket a few years back; he steps up his recommendation of movies, books, plays and bands that nobody has ever heard of. The YLD continues its sponsorship of great events: wine tastings, lock-up for Muscular Dystrophy, Christmas in January and much more. The Barristers Ball is in its 10th year. The dignified President Dave Furgason posed on the front page of the April issue, stocking up on supplies for the millennium debacle (in his trench coat and pork-pie hat). Through a collaboration with the Colorado Hispanic Bar, we made and distributed sets of Pro Se Divorce Videos in English and Spanish. After seven years of work by Joe Dischinger and others, the Warm Welcome Child Care Center for the Denver Courts finally opened. The debate over mandatory pro bono raged. Phil Dufford wrote his last wonderful note about rediscovering spring in Wash Park. This was the first year that honoring our 50-year-members was broken off into a party separate from the annual meeting—much more fun, lots of jokes and old stories. It became a solid tradition in its first year.
2000: Much talk about MDP (multidisciplinary practice). In one of the best April Docket stories yet, it’s announced that all Colorado attorneys must re–take the bar exam every 10 years. We laughed a lot at all the phone calls, but only because we knew the real truth. In May, right before the dot-com bubble burst, The Docket reported four area firms were paying $125,000 to new folks. This sent the "old line" firms into a tailspin, as one firm went from $70,000 to $90,000 and others were nervously studying what to do (as one lawyer said: "They’re not even worth $70,000!"). John Moye, who had been libeled by Craig Eley in the April Fools’ edition, challenged Eley to a bar exam shoot-out at high noon. They packed the room that August and when the smoke cleared, it was called a draw. A new Pledge to Diversity was signed by some Denver law firms. We had the DBA offices Feng Shui-ed, with good results. President Susan Fisher issued her "pro bono challenge."
2001: The Docket followed a first-year student at DU Law to see how bad it really was (it wasn’t). LawLine9 celebrated eight years of bringing in lawyers to answer calls. The DBA celebrated the publication of its literary compendium Disturbing the Peace—with more than 20 authors showing up at The Tattered Cover for a reading and signing. Some lawyers and judges were assigned to watch one of the countless TV shows about the legal profession. Their recommendation: some good, some wretched. As Tom MacDonald said, in his good review of Ally McBeal, "Who wants to watch what I do?"
2002: Surely you remember last year.
For some reason, some of the same attorneys have stayed with The Docket for many, many years and we thank them for eating so many free lunches, making fun of the staff, always being late turning in their stories and generally being obnoxious at meetings. Stick around. Please.