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TCL > July 2003 Issue > Robert J. Truhlar: A Profile of the New CBA President

July 2003       Vol. 32, No. 7       Page  49
Features

Robert J. Truhlar: A Profile of the New CBA President
by Diane Hartman

One clue to the personality of new CBA President Bob Truhlar is that he’s a Chicago Cubs fan and has been for fifty years. "It doesn’t matter if they win or lose. I think the first inning is just as entertaining as the ninth. I don’t always have to see the score; I get to see the team playing along the way. The Cubs keep losing, but it doesn’t matter. You get to root for them again the next day."1

He points out: "The Cubs have never refused to come out of the dugout."

You could say the same of Bob.

He’s a participant in life and in the law; he holds strong opinions, but maintains a calm demeanor.2 Interesting ideas flow from him in a seemingly endless stream. He often has a creative way of looking at situations.

Members will get to meet him at nine regional presidential visits (combined with CLE programs) held around the state, starting in July and running through November. Members are invited to attend meetings in Denver, Steamboat Springs, Fort Morgan, Grand Junction, La Junta, Durango, Fort Collins, Cañon City, and Jefferson County.

One of his top priorities will be "to make every lawyer I come in contact with feel good about themselves and the fact that they’re a lawyer. . . . I really like lawyers and think we perform an incredible service to society."

Bob was born in Chicago, the youngest of three boys. He was a Cubs fan early, "following the team with a full set of baseball cards and imitating the batting stances of the entire lineup from the time I was six." His first dog was named after Ernie Banks and his law office now features a Sammy Sosa bobble-head doll.

He also started early with music and played lead guitar in a variety of rock bands. "You haven’t heard anything until you’ve heard me imitating Gracie Slick."

Good in school (valedictorian) and recreational sports (baseball, football, basketball, roller hockey, ping-pong), he got his first job as a parking lot attendant. The downside: One Saturday night while he worked, his best friend Stanley Zaworski stole his girlfriend.

His next job was traveling with a carnival during summers. At first, he handed out change at the penny arcade. Then "I worked the nickel bear pitch. I was a carnival barker and a master at hawking stuffed animals." He then ran the twenty-four-horse traveling jockey derby, an electronic racing game.

He swears the next is true: While traveling with the carnival one summer, he forgot to call his parents for a couple of weeks. The next time he called, he found the phone disconnected. One of his brothers informed him that they had sold their house and moved to Colorado. He caught up with them at Thanksgiving break.

In his youth, Bob Truhlar played lead guitar in a
variety of rock bands.

He and his brothers always went to Catholic schools, and all went to St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota. Bob was a biology major—his brothers had already chosen physics and chemistry. After deciding biology was too messy, Bob got a minor in education so he could teach.

While in college, he was active in a music fraternity and was in charge of student concerts. After booking one group, he was told by their agent that they had to substitute The New Chad Mitchell Trio for the planned group—minus Chad Mitchell. Bob met the group at the train and introduced himself to the new lead singer, an unknown replacement named John Denver.

After graduation, Bob got a call from a nun in Denver asking if he wanted to teach junior high science. He said yes. She asked what else he could do; when he answered that he played guitar, he was instantly appointed the music teacher, too. He taught junior high for two years, followed by one year as a fourth-grade teacher, and started what would become a lifelong habit —coaching youth sports teams. His mother later confessed to having sent out his resume to Denver Catholic schools. (His mother, "a saint," died last December.)

The lure of free travel inspired him to leave teaching and go to work with Frontier Airlines for almost eight years. His various jobs there included customer service, training, supervising operations on the ramp, and being in charge of security. After a while, the idea of becoming a lawyer occurred to him—like many lawyers, he was told early on he should be one because he could argue both sides of any issue.

Bob and Doris Truhlar at the
April 2003 Barristers Benefit
Ball in Denver.

 

Those who know Bob will be waiting for mention of his wife and law partner Doris—it’s hard to think of one without the other. In fact, in honor of all the contributions they’ve made to the legal profession, they will be honored jointly at the DU Law Stars dinner in the fall. It’s fitting—they met the first day of class there.

While standing in line to register, they had "words." The next day, Doris came in late to class and took the only empty seat, which was next to Bob. "Oh, it’s you," she remarked. They were told by the lecturing professor to form study groups and at the end of class, Doris turned to Bob and asked if he wanted to be in her study group. "I was tremendously impressed," he said. "I had only heard about study groups some twenty minutes before and this lady next to me already had one. I joined her group and the rest of my law school career (and life) was history."

They married at the end of the first year. Both of them had other jobs and Doris had two children from a previous marriage (Samara and Brett). Bob began to coach them in soccer.

During Bob’s last year of law school, he stayed home for a while to care for their newborn baby Ivy. Meanwhile, Doris was clerking for Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bob McWilliams. Each noon, Bob would drive Ivy to the federal courthouse and while Judge McWilliams was out, Doris would nurse the baby. Later, Judge McWilliams said: "I knew something was going on, but I thought it better not to ask." (This May, Ivy received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute.)

Two years later, their daughter Holly was born. (Holly became the family soccer star and is a junior at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.)

Despite their busy schedules, Bob and Doris both graduated with honors and after several starts elsewhere, decided to work together. Doris primarily works in the area of family law and Bob is best known for employment law cases. The most recent Chambers USA guide to business lawyers has their firm tied for first place in plaintiff employment and labor law. The book called Bob "sought-after" and a "tireless worker" who is "really good at getting money out of defendants."

One horribly low point in their lives came when son Brett died while at CU in Boulder at age 22 (ten years ago). "There’s nothing worse I can imagine. We remember him; we talk about him all the time. We celebrate his life. We know friends of his who are still our closest friends. We work really hard to go on. After his death, I have a much higher threshold for things bothering me. Many things happen in life and I realize they’re not all that important."

Both Truhlars are known for their intense volunteer involvement in legal and community organizations and projects. Bob has been president of the Arapahoe County Bar. This month Doris swaps being president of the Colorado Women’s Bar for being president of the Arapahoe County Bar. Bob’s long list of activities includes: adjunct teaching at DU Law and at Chapman University; being president of the Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association; being an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association; a member of the Faculty of Federal Advocates; numerous committees and sections in the CBA, often in leadership roles; and leadership positions in the Arapahoe County Bar. He’s been a coach for the Colorado Mock Trial competition, has taught for the Denver Bar Pro Se Divorce Clinics and the Small Claims Clinics. Bob remembers when he and Doris answered late night phone calls at KLZ for a ground-breaking call-a-lawyer radio show. Both are active in their church.

Bob calls his family his "first, second, and third priority."

But, really . . . how does all that togetherness work?

"Doris and I talk about everything a lot. I think lawyers should marry each other more often. We have separate responsibility in the practice, but we talk about every major decision. We each stick to our own fields and don’t second-guess the other. We share our core values—about service, how to treat people, certain things you just have to do for people when they can’t help themselves. We find humor in almost everything."

As far as working together at their home, Bob said, "Doris is a wonderful cook. And she does all the flowers and gardening. I mow the lawn and pick up the dog poop. It’s been my job forever. Doris hates emptying the dishwasher but I think it’s a good job. I do the laundry and pay all the bills. Doris doesn’t even write down the checks and I’m lucky if I get numbers. She picks most of the places we go and I get to drive." Doris and Bob have vacationed with their family and friends at the T Lazy Seven Ranch outside Aspen, on the road to the Maroon Bells, for twenty-three straight summers.

Doris, he says with great understatement, "is a force to be reckoned with. She gets better and better at being Doris and I have to stay on my toes."

Bob said he feels privileged to help direct the Colorado Bar Association. "This presidency thing is really cool." He said when he comes to the bar office, "I always see attorneys who are affecting people in a positive way. At the CBA, you start to meet and become friends with lawyers who aren’t in your geographical sector. It expands who you get to know and share ideas with and who you can work on projects with."

One of the ideas he’s considering is to have bagels or doughnuts delivered to members attending committee meetings by calling in on the speaker phone. "They’ll get a knock on the door and someone will be delivering a bag of Krispy Kremes."

NOTES

1. Bob’s wife Doris vehemently disagrees with this "don’t care" business. "He cares passionately. Sometimes, when the 10 o’clock news comes on, he is falling asleep and says, ‘You can’t let me fall asleep—you’ve got to keep me awake until the Cubs’ score comes on.’"

2. Another dissent from Doris: "He is anything but calm. You should see him around here. He gets excited, but is always sweet to everyone. He never is mean."

© 2003 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved. Material from The Colorado Lawyer provided via this World Wide Web server is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and may not be reproduced in any way or medium without permission. This material also is subject to the disclaimers at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/disclaimer.cfm?year=2003.


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