Vol. 30, No. 11
Profiles of Success
Lucy A. Marsh
by Doris B. Truhlar
The Colorado Lawyer publishes profiles of practicing lawyers on a quarterly basis. The CBA Profiles Committee chooses Colorado Bar Association members who are nominated as outstanding lawyers by their peers. With these profiles, the CBA hopes to: promote the image of lawyers by emphasizing qualities that should be emulated; show the benefits of public service to both the lawyer who serves and the community; emphasize professionalism; provide role models for new lawyers; manifest ways of becoming successful and respected; and reward deserving lawyers for their contributions to the profession. Standards and procedures for these profiles differ from those established for the annual July issue featuring outstanding lawyers in Colorado history. These profiles of lawyers are an opportunity to highlight the qualities that are important for effective lawyering in today’s legal practice. We welcome feedback at any time. Please send your suggestions, comments, or questions about this ongoing feature to: Arlene Abady, Managing Editor, 1900 Grant St., Ninth Floor, Denver, CO 80203; (303) 824-5325; fax, (303) 830-3990; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lucy A. Marsh
What do Benjamin Franklin, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elvis Presley, Tennessee Williams, and Calvin Coolidge have in common? The wills of all five of these prominent Americans are featured in a book written by University of Denver College of Law Professor Lucy A. Marsh. Entitled Practical Applications of the Law: Wills, Trusts, & Estates,1 the text utilizes the wills of these individuals and others2 to teach law students how to draft wills and trust instruments.
The use of celebrities’ wills as a teaching tool is only one example of Professor Marsh’s creativity in the classroom. She also teaches by employing a unique system adopted by thousands of law students and attorneys to mark and analyze cases. The system, known as the "Technicolor System" (invented by her father), has helped generations of law students learn how to analyze cases. The different colors are used to underline the parties and outcome (red), black letter law or rule of the case (black), facts (green), and dicta or other important statements (blue). Attorneys who were students in Professor Marsh’s classes credit her with teaching them how to analyze cases in a way that makes it easier to understand and remember the holding of the case.
A life-long innovator, Marsh comes by her intelligence and creativity honestly, by way of genetics. She is the daughter of Professor Thompson Marsh, a brilliant man and one of the most well-known professors in the history of the University of Denver College of Law. Thompson March died in 1992, after a sixty-year career as a professor of trusts, estates, and property. Lucy Marsh’s mother, Susan Raymond Marsh, also was exceptionally creative, industrious, and diverse in her talents. She was a musician, mother, writer, athlete, outdoorswoman, traveler, and constructor of backyard ice skating rinks. Susan Marsh died in November of 2000 at the age of 86. She was a thirty-year member of the Denver Symphony Orchestra and played in several other musical groups as well. She also climbed all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks and explored mountain ranges throughout the world. In 1969, while on a New Year’s bird count on Pikes Peak, Susan Marsh unexpectedly had to spend the night alone, without shelter, on the mountain. At daybreak, she snow-shoed out to find help.
Professor Marsh and her three sisters3 grew up in Denver. They were a diverse family, pursuing a myriad of individual interests. Lucy attended Steck Elementary School and lived in Denver’s Hilltop area. She and one of her siblings still own the home in which they grew up.
Professor Marsh teaching at DU
College of Law.
Lucy Marsh is a 1963 graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and a 1966 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. One of Professor Marsh’s proudest accomplishments took place when she was in law school at Michigan. She initiated a project to convince the Michigan Supreme Court to adopt a Student Practice Act, similar to Colorado’s law. She was subsequently instrumental in setting up the first legal clinic to serve the poor in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Part of her job was to recruit local lawyers to volunteer their time in the clinic.
Admitted to the bar in both Connecticut and Colorado, Professor Marsh is the mother of sons Neil Yee, age 32, and Carl Yee, age 33. She spent the years from 1966 to 1973 "mainly raising my kids," and felt "lucky to be at home with them, although it’s a hard job, one in which you don’t ever get a coffee break." Carl, an engineer, was married in November 2000 to a pediatrician and lives in San Diego. Neil is an entrepreneur in Detroit who owns his own businesses.
Marsh believes that people should not have to choose between their children and a job. "There should be things like flex-time and job-sharing" so that men and women alike can devote the time that is needed to their families. Many women in the workplace, including attorneys, have found that they need jobs and schedules that are more flexible. "It is often impossible to be both supermom and superlawyer," she states.
It was family that brought Professor Marsh back to Denver after law school when she was ready to start her teaching career in 1973. She also had scheduled an interview at the University of Colorado School of Law to be considered for a teaching position there, but canceled it when the job offer came through from her father’s law school.
An Academic Life
Marsh came to the University of Denver College of Law ("DU") as a part-time professor in 1973; then she became an adjunct professor in 1974. She was promoted to an assistant professorship in 1976, became an associate professor in 1979, and a full professor in 1982. She also has been a visiting professor at Santa Clara University College of Law and the Vermont Law School. She was named DU Professor of the Year in 1985 and was elected by the graduating class to give the commencement address in 1987.
When Professor Marsh came to DU, she started out as one of the first teachers in environmental law. She also taught civil procedure and future interests early in her teaching career. Her father was known as the "king" of future interests, and Lucy Marsh believes there was an assumption that she had "inherited" his knowledge. She had not—but she learned fast. Eventually, she switched to teaching trusts and estates, property, and civil procedure.
Professor Marsh’s approach to teaching drafting of wills and trust instruments is hands-on and practical. She not only utilizes the wills and trust instruments of famous people, but also oversees a unique project in which students write wills for indigent people, primarily the elderly, as part of her regular trusts and estates course. The clinical component to the class is extremely important. Lucy goes with the student to the interview, and the student is then required to draft the will from scratch. Professor Marsh reviews and assists the students in writing the wills. "As far as I know, we are the only program in the country in which real wills are written for real people as part of a regular trusts and estates class," she states. This work provides the most gratification when she is able to see the caring bond that is established between a law student and an elderly person. She states, "I love seeing the relationship grow between a lonely old lady and a young charming law student."
Community and Professional Service
In addition to her work with the elderly, Professor Marsh has been involved in a number of projects that have provided legal assistance to people in need. She has, for example, worked in the Colorado AIDS Project, preparing wills for individuals who suffer from AIDS. In the 1970s, she worked at the Denver District Attorney’s Office at a time when there were not many women working there and recalls the "real disparity" between women and men in the legal profession. She worked for then-Denver District Attorney Dale Tooley from 1976 until 1979. During that time, she studied child support payments and the collection of those payments,4 which resulted in her writing a landmark article on the subject.5
Lucy Marsh has published many other articles and papers, and in addition to the text on wills, trusts, and estates, has also published another book, Practical Applications of the Law: Real Property Transactions.6 Some of the topics she has covered in her articles include the rule against perpetuities, estate planning, the augmented estate, estate planning in non-traditional relationships, future interests, living wills, tenant protection, the Colorado Security Deposit Act, and solid waste laws at all levels of government. In regard to her writing, she thinks it is important that "I only write stuff that I think might actually be useful."
She also has served in many capacities within the community, including being an active parent during the time Denver used busing for integration in the 1970s and 1980s. Professor Marsh is proud of working within her children’s school to build a community of parents of different races working together to make their school, Swansea Elementary School, a model for parents of diverse backgrounds. Moreover, she was the first woman elected to the Colorado Bar Association Real Estate Section’s Title Standards Committee and was a member of that section from 1988 to 1996.
Additionally, Lucy Marsh has been a commissioner on the Colorado Real Estate Commission, appointed by former Governor Richard Lamm. She has served as a board member of the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Denver and as a board member of Families First. She was a Precinct Committeewoman in her precinct for many years.
Professor Marsh says that she’s not sure what has been the greatest accomplishment of her life, although the Student Practice Act in Michigan and the establishment of the clinic rank right up there with the tremendous pride she obviously feels for her children. She believes that her goal "has always been to do a little bit better job. I have always hoped that the best is yet to come."
1. Boston, MA: Aspen Law and Business, formerly Little, Brown & Co., 1998.
2. John Lennon, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Alfred Hitchcock, Henry Fonda, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Humphrey Bogart, Mark Rothko, Cole Porter, Norman Rockwell, John Wayne, and Ira Hunphreys.
3. Nancy Banks, a librarian in Fort Collins; Alice Abbott, a homemaker in Bermuda; and Mary Zulack, a law school professor in New York City.
4. With the excellent assistance of research assistant Robert Truhlar, husband and law partner of the author.
5. "What Really Happens in Child Support Cases: An Empirical Study of Establishment and Enforcement of Child Support Orders in the Denver District Court," 57 Denver Law J. 21 (1979).
6. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., 1992.
Doris B. Truhlar, Littleton, is a partner in the firm of Truhlar and Truhlar and concentrates in the area of domestic relations. She is a member of the CBA Profiles Committee.
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