Vol. 30, No. 7
Laird T. Milburn: A Profile of The New CBA President
by Diane Hartman
As a child, new CBA President Laird Milburn was always the new kid on the block. The son of an Air Force colonel, he moved with his family all over the world. By the time he got to Colorado, he had been to five high schools in four years. Finally, he got to stay at Boulder High his entire senior year.
Barbara and Laird Milburn
Although he felt "disadvantaged" because of all the moving and having to make friends again and again, now he says it gave him a perspective not many people have and an ability to cope with change. "It also made me pretty independent."
As Laird makes his way around the state this year visiting local bar associations, make the new kid welcome!
One of Laird’s early memories is playing in the rubble of World War II. His father was stationed in Germany in the early ’50s, when that country was still occupied by four world powers. "It was amazing how much damage still existed." He and friends played among the ruins: "It was eerie and fascinating; we could imagine the war and the Nazis." At that time, officers were still living in occupied housing. "We had a huge house, three stories and eight bedrooms with a roof garden. As we were leaving in 1956, an older lady who owned the house moved back in. She got her house back after eleven years."
They returned to the United States by ship (Laird was seasick the whole way) and were stationed in Washington, D.C. "I remember watching President Eisenhower’s second inaugural parade as part of a Boy Scout honor guard. I was 12. My main memory is how shiny Eisenhower’s head was. It looked like he’d waxed it.
Laird’s grandparents (on both his mother’s and father’s sides) homesteaded in the early 1900s. His mother’s dad (Dwight Mason, reputed to be a descendent of the George Mason who signed the Declaration of Independence) was probably most influential in his life, he said. Mason graduated from the University of Indiana School of Law in 1902, then went to Western Montana and homesteaded. He ran for the legislature and was elected to six terms as a representative. He was Speaker of the House once. At different times, Mason was the mayor of Missoula, the district attorney in Missoula, and a solo practitioner. He received a fifty-year pin from the state bar of Montana. "He was my inspiration," Laird commented.
Laird was one of five children; his mother was one of nine. "Every summer that we could, dad would get thirty days’ leave and drive from wherever we were (before the days of air conditioning and interstates) and go to my grandparents’ cabin on a lake in western Montana. We would dream about it all year long. It was secluded and beautiful, with plenty of fishing and swimming—‘a kid’s delight.’"
Since there were lots of families and forty-nine cousins, everyone would camp around the main house. At night, his grandfather would sometimes tell stories. Other times, the kids would be required to "perform": sing, play an instrument, or recite. "Because I had no talent, I would try to memorize some passage. I always hated that part."
Laird’s father was the disciplinarian: "He made sure I participated in sports and Boy Scouts (I am an Eagle Scout because of him.)." His mom stayed home "and did all the things moms did. Nobody can touch her apple pie—she’s a wonderful cook. She could throw anything together and make it taste good."
It’s usually tradition that military officers get to choose their last duty station. Laird’s father wanted to be near a large university for his five children. He was assigned near Boulder, and he bought a house at 10th and College on "the Hill." "He paid for tuition and books for all five; the rest was on our own." After Laird’s father retired, he ran for office and got elected as Boulder County Treasurer, serving for twelve years.
College and Law School Years
Laird was at CU during the early 1960s, "really before drugs, but at a time of social and intellectual ferment. I loved my years there—it was a college experience everyone should have." There were fraternity parties and plenty of beer, still sort of a "’50s hangover," Laird said. "But you could feel a change coming. The value system of the dominant culture was getting challenged. Both my girls went there because I persuaded them."
After Laird finished at CU, he sold office equipment and life insurance and worked in a lumber mill. Before he could think about law school, he was called up by the Air National Guard. "President Nixon activated several units when the Pueblo was seized off the coast of Korea in 1967."
He was 27 years old when he started law school at the University of Denver. "I was ready for it and I enjoyed the intellectual challenge." At that time, the law school was across from the Denver Art Museum. "DU had some great clinical programs and they were downtown. Dick Lamm was the head of the program and I worked for him. I tried two or three cases in court before I even graduated. Plus, I spent a lot of time just watching trials."
Laird clerked for a year in the AG’s office; "I got my tuition for that. Aurel Kelly (former judge and chief justice on the Colorado Court of Appeals who died last year) was head of the criminal appeal’s division the year I was there. I learned to like and admire her. She was a wonderful lawyer, a great person, and in some ways a mentor."
After law school, Laird planned to work for the EPA in their regional office. That was before he and his wife, Barbara (who’s now a teacher) went to Grand Junction for Christmas to see her folks. While there, Barbara’s father surprised Laird by setting up a "bunch of interviews" with Grand Junction law firms. "One of them is the firm I’m senior partner with now. Then, the senior partners were Jim Dufford [Phil Dufford’s brother, who died a few years ago, predeceasing Phil by one year]—everyone loved Jim and Ed Ruland, who’s now on the Colorado Court of Appeals. I just really liked those guys. They had an interesting private civil practice. Much to Barbara’s chagrin, we returned to Grand Junction. She was not enthusiastic at first, but now we’re both very pleased."
Laird has been president of the Mesa County Bar Association and the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. He is a mediator-arbitrator with the Dispute Resolution Group, Inc. He was a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Grievance Committee and a member of the Judicial Nominating Commission for the Twenty-first Judicial District for six years. He served two terms on the Board of Directors of Colorado Rural Legal Services. He’s a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Laird’s firm is now Dufford, Waldeck, Milburn & Krohn. He has a civil trial practice with a current emphasis on commercial, products, personal injury, and professional liability litigation. He’s been at the firm for thirty years.
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