I haven’t developed a single major theme, either for the CBA or for this column for the coming year. From time to time, I’ll probably toss out a few thoughts about current issues of note; for example, the importance of preserving an independent judiciary and protecting the physical well being of judges, lawyers, and court staff. I also have in mind to use some columns and the presidential local bar visits to tell you about activities of the CBA that might not be that familiar to you.
If I were to articulate some broad theme to characterize this year’s activities, it would be a renewal, and reenergizing, of pride in our profession and in this association—to remember why we became lawyers and why we continue in this work. From time to time, though probably too infrequently, I will mention CBA members whose dedication and hard work are noteworthy. There are more of those stories than we can ever tell. If you know one, pass it on to me. Even if I’m not able to cover your hero’s story in this column, I’d like to know about those folks and get the chance to send them thanks for their efforts.
One of the special members of our Bar I’d like to mention is Willis Carpenter. Each year, the CBA gives its Award of Merit to one distinguished member of our profession. Willis was the 2004–2005 recipient. Steve Briggs was out of town when the award was presented at the Bar Fellows dinner in January, so I got the chance to give the award in Steve’s absence. The following is based on the remarks made on that occasion:
Although a cliché, Willis Carpenter truly does need no introduction. And any words about him would be more entertaining if he was delivering them himself.
But we’ll give it a shot.
Willis V. Carpenter was born in a log cabin on the high plains near Hayden, Colorado—several years ago. We’ll not linger on his childhood years. As is the case with most of our award recipients, he wrote the usual symphony by age 3, lettered in every sport, every year, and found a cure for a disease or two by the time he graduated from East High School in Denver.
But his true passion was always real property law. And, of course, his lovely wife Barbara, and his children.
Will received his BA, cum laude, from Princeton and his LL.B. from Harvard Law School. He returned to Denver in 1954 to practice law and has been there ever since. He served with distinction in the Navy and the Navy Reserves for many years, retiring as a captain.
Once his law practice took off, Will quickly became known as one of Colorado’s premier real estate lawyers. He chaired the CBA Real Property Section in 1976–77 and received that section’s first "Deserving Member Award" in 1986. Will has served on the Title Standards Committee since 1980. He developed and continues to teach the Colorado Real Estate Practice Course, which has virtually become a required course for Colorado real estate lawyers.
Will has authored numerous publications on the subject of real estate law, including, two books, Colorado Title Insurance Practice and, along with his long-time paralegal Holly Hoxeng, the real estate law bible, Colorado Real Estate Practice.
Will is a frequent lecturer at Continuing Legal Education ("CLE") conferences. He served as director of CLE in Colorado (now called CBA–CLE) from 1967 through 1988 and was CBA–CLE’s President in 1976–77. He has regaled countless CLE gatherings—and cocktail parties—on the history of Colorado real estate law.
In 2002, Will was the first recipient of CBA–CLE’s Richard N. Doyle Award of Excellence. He is a charter member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and a Fellow of both the American Bar Foundation and the Colorado Bar Foundation. Will also served as President of the Denver Bar Association in 1978–79. He received the DBA Annual Award of Merit in 1993, so that award and the CBA Award of Merit together will make nice bookends. It wears you out just to hear about how much he has accomplished, doesn’t it?
In his continuing efforts for the good of the Bar, Will co-produced daughter Stacey, who, like her father, is enthusiastically dedicated to her law practice, to service to the profession, and to her community. Last summer in Snowmass, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary year of his law practice, Will was named as the first inductee to the Colorado Bar Real Estate Section’s Hall of Fame. When I was listening to the tapes of the Real Estate Section’s Snowmass Seminar in early December—yes, to finish up my CLE requirements—I heard daughter Stacey and Wills’ long-time partner, Andy Klatskin, praise the honoree in a manner almost as excited, and deservedly over the top, as one of Wills’ own lectures on the history of real property law.
Will has rightly become known as the Dean of Colorado Real Estate Law—and a kindly, good-humored, and generous Dean at that. With all the publications, Bar activities, and personal and professional success that Will has had, perhaps his greatest impact on the Colorado legal profession is through the time and expertise he contributes as a mentor to other lawyers.
I recall that many years ago, I phoned Will for help on a real estate matter that needed some corrective work. I don’t remember what the problem was, but with Wills’ advice and a generous amount of his time, the matter was resolved in a completely satisfactory way. When I asked Will to let me compensate him for his time, he predictably declined and said: "Roger, I hope it’s smooth sailing from here on out."
That was not the only time he’s given me invaluable help. And many others could recite similar memories. Throughout his career, Will has made the practice of law smoother and more fun for so many of us.
What else is there to say about him? Oh yes: Will is the only person ever featured as a centerfold in The Docket. He’s a gardener and a stamp collector, and he drives a 1966 Plymouth Fury Convertible, which can never be lawfully driven in the left lane or, indeed, any lane of I-25.
We’ve only scratched the surface of his honors and accomplishments. The most surprising thing about this year’s recipient of the Colorado Bar Association Award of Merit is that it took us fifty years to present it. Will Carpenter is the perfect metaphor for what I hope the focus for this CBA year will be.