President's Theory: Make it Happen
by Molly Osberg
by Molly Osberg
Once destined for medicine, Susan Smith Fisher now makes time for 4 a.m. e-mails.
Susan Smith Fisher's theory on life has always been: "If you want something bad enough, you'll make it happen." This belief has shone through in her education, personal commitments, career and legal obligations.
As new president of the Denver Bar Association, she's taking her responsibilities by the reins and looking forward to her new role.
A Colorado native, Susan spent her first year at Colorado State University and then transferred to Yale University, where she not only received her bachelor's degree in psychology, but was a member of the first class of women undergraduates ever admitted to the university.
"Getting into Yale at that time was extremely competitive," Susan said. "Luckily, being out here in Colorado, I didn't know that. Co-education was a controversial decision for Yale, and there were many who wanted it to remain a male bastion. But the university was very welcoming, and most of the male students were thrilled to have women on campus.
"Being the only female in a classroom full of men helped prepare me for the legal world," she continued. "While my law school class was about 50 percent women, the practicing bar is not so well diversified--yet."
Susan returned to Colorado in 1973 and worked at the National Asthma Center as a cardiopulmonary research technologist. While working there, she became very good at doing pen and ink illustrations for medical journals, and did some freelance graphics as well. Susan designed the original logo for Safehouse of Denver.
Her transition from health care to law happened during her work doing drug efficacy studies on children. She became interested in the ethical issues of biomedical research, which eventually piqued her interest in the law.
"At Yale in the 1970s, typically about half the graduating class went to medical school, and the other half went to law school," Susan said. "I was determined not to do either, but law got the best of me."
In 1978, she started her studies in law at the University of Denver College of Law and earned her degree in 1981.
"My education is an aspect of my life that I highly value," she said. "My dad didn't believe girls needed education beyond high school, so I got through college and law school on my own. My two brothers have one degree between them, and my sister and I have earned five degrees."
After receiving her J.D., she joined Breit, Best, Richman & Bosch, a firm that emphasized health care-related work, becoming a partner in 1986. In 1990, Susan went solo to have an office closer to home and her two kids, Sarah and Ben. Sarah is a marketing/finance student at the University of Denver, and Ben is a junior at Columbine High School.
The past events at Columbine motivated Susan to volunteer for SAFE Colorado, a bipartisan organization that promotes the regulation of the manufacture and distribution of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons, while recognizing the right of Colorado citizens to own and use firearms designed for legitimate hunting, sport and defensive purposes. Susan is helping support the ballot initiative to close the gun show loophole.
In addition to volunteering, tending to her personal commitments and serving members of the DBA, she continues to maintain a solo practice that is focused on civil litigation and appeals.
"Susan is such a neat person," attorney Phil Figa said. "I enjoy her wicked sense of humor and admire, tremendously, her ability to be a single mom, maintain an active practice and fill numerous bar leadership rolls with flair and grace. She reminds me of what was said about Ginger Rogers. Ginger did everything as well as Fred Astaire, only backward and in high heels."
Susan currently serves on the Judicial Administration Committee, Bench-Bar Retreat Committee, CBA Ethics Committee and is a member of the Judge William E. Doyle Inn of Court. In April, she co-chaired the Barristers Benefit Ball Committee. That event brought in nearly $100,000 for Metro Volunteer Lawyers. Susan also has served on the Board of Trustees, 1993-1996; CBA Executive Council, 1995-1996; CBA Board of Governors, 1992-1994 and 1996-1998; and was the CBA Senior Vice President, 1994-1995.
"I've gotten to know Susan very well this past year as we both have prepared for our upcoming presidential terms and have served as co-chairs for the Multidisciplinary Practice Task Force," CBA President-Elect Dale Harris said. "I have come to admire her very much for her dedication to our profession and the bar association."
Dale has seen Susan's dedication to the law on many occasions. Both were recently responsible for drafting the MDP Task Force report. When crunch time came, Dale recalled Susan "sending me e-mails in the wee hours of the night and morning" to finalize the report.
"I don't know how she juggles everything, but I suspect that she gets very little sleep," Dale said.
Susan likes to have fun, too. In 1998, she was a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. She won a pool table on the show and enjoys friendly competition.
"I love what I do and I love having an impact on people's lives," Susan concluded. "Helping people resolve their disputes and helping them learn something in the process, puts me on top of the world.
"Would I do it all over again? Absolutely."