President's Column: Community Action Network — CAN-Do Heroes
by John Baker
For the past 20 years, dozens of Denver Bar Association members have volunteered thousands of hours to perform charitable public service through the Community Action Network (CAN) organization. These lawyers epitomize the "Citizen Lawyer" in the same mold of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and other founders of our nation, who believed that aspiring lawyers should be simultaneously trained to be excellent legal craftsmen and good citizens. The CAN lawyers possess the same fierce desire and strong drive as our Founding Fathers to work for the community’s common good.
What is CAN?
The precursor to CAN was the DBA Community Concerns Committee (CCC). From 1995 to 2002, under the devoted leadership of Chair Chris Little and CCC member Tom Kim, the committee focused its community service with great success on the Roll out the Barrels Food Drive, which benefits the Food Bank of the Rockies.
In early 2002, Lisa Williams and Rebecca Franciscus joined the CCC. At the time, they were new to the practice of law and were looking for a way to make a difference in the Denver community. Their involvement marked the beginning of several changes in the committee — the first of which was creating a new name for the committee that would represent its expanded community involvement. In the fall of 2002, the DBA Board of Trustees officially changed the name of CCC to the Community Action Network.
CAN broadened project involvement and volunteer opportunities for DBA members. Rebecca and Lisa envisioned expanding the work of the committee to four quarterly community service projects per year. During their leadership, these projects have served many local charities. Here are a few examples.
Who are CAN’s Citizen Lawyers?
Dozens of DBA lawyers have volunteered their time for CAN. The roster of volunteers includes Norm Beecher, Aaron Bradford Laura Embleton, Kenzo Kawanabe, Tom Kim, Chris Little, and Leslie Toepfer, and many others. All of the lawyer volunteers use their time, skills, and knowledge to help disadvantaged citizens in Denver, but there are five CAN lawyer volunteers whom I’d like to highlight for their outstanding leadership.
Lisa Williams and Rebecca Franciscus. After graduating from law school, Lisa Williams started her legal career as a summer associate at Isaacson, Rosenbaum in Denver. Lisa organized other summer associates in a citywide summer associate community service day. She realized there were many lawyers like her who wanted to work on behalf of their communities. Lisa’s community activities did not stop when she left Isaacson, Rosenbaum to work in Qwest’s legal department. Her new employer encouraged her to continue performing community service. For the past four years, Lisa has been a "full-time mommy" to her "three little loves" (ages 5, 2-1/2, and 1), and she continues to be active in community service projects at her kids’ schools.
For three years, Rebecca Franciscus had a private law practice in New York City. In 2001, she joined the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Division in the New York Regional Office. When she transferred to the Denver SEC office in 2002, she began to perform community service locally, joining her college friend Lisa Williams in the reorganization of CCC and the development of CAN. Rebecca is married and has two daughters, aged 5 and 3. Supplementing her work with the CBA and the DBA, Rebecca volunteers with Meals on Wheels, the Ronald McDonald House, and provides pro bono legal services to several nonprofit organizations.
Lisa and Rebecca’s joint community efforts were quite extensive, and in 2002, the DBA named them Volunteer Lawyers of the Year. In 2005, Rebecca also was recognized nationally by the SEC with the 2005 Community Service Award.
After three years as assistant corporate counsel for the city of New York, Michelle came to Colorado in 2002 to start her own private law practice. She now is a director at Ireland, Stapleton where she specializes in employment law. In 2006, she was selected by the DBA as Young Lawyer of the Year.
Nike Fleming is a 2006 law school grad. She began her role as a citizen lawyer early in her legal career when she joined the law
The work of these individuals and all of the other citizen lawyers of CAN, along with the strong support and assistance of many DBA staff members, makes Denver a better place to live and helps improve the public perception of the entire legal profession. They deserve our applause and thanks. I encourage you to join them in working for the community’s common good.