I have always wanted to be a lawyer. I never considered another profession other than perhaps ski film star. The combination of intellectual challenge and service to others was irresistible even from a young age. Being an attorney suits my serial desires to devour information and to download thoughts in written and verbal form. Although I do not seek conflict, the inescapable conclusion is that I excel at arguing. A blessing and a curse, I suppose.
This synopsis of my life’s story is here for you to read not out of narcissism but because my work does not exist in a vacuum. It is informed by my history and I bring my life’s knowledge to bear when handling any matter, from the routine to the complex. Fierce and determined in the courtroom, but unfailingly polite and respectful with an innate sense of how best to help a client, I am a blend of my many different influences. A wide swath of experiences allows me to relate to all manner of clients, opposing parties, counsel, judges, clerks, experts, and the other people who comprise the story of a lawsuit. My professional and other experience has also taught me creative problem-solving. While litigation is one way to address a dispute, a single-minded focus on winning is not always in the client’s best interest. My work, even if objectively successful, is all for naught if the client is not content. Happiness is the bedrock of it all.
Knowing my professional destination early on allowed me freedom to pursue knowledge for its own sake. This was encouraged by my wonderful parents, who knew that I needed no outside pressure or motivation in order to reach my goals. Even prior to college, mine was a true liberal arts education as my formal schooling was supplemented by outside reading on variegated topics, with favorites being World War II history and early twentieth century American literature.
Sports and the outdoors in particular were always counterpoints to my studies both formal and informal. Skiing was in my genes and I started when I was a toddler. It is still an obsession for me. More than that, it is a way to experience the dichotomy of nature: peaceful but with great energy. My family was always together skiing and, as I got older, my brother and I would go out and explore the mountains together. Our incredibly strong brotherhood, which continues to this day, was forged on these skiing and other adventures. I was never a great athlete, but enjoyed stints playing soccer and baseball when I was younger and then transitioned to running in high school.
With an inquisitive nature and a healthy tolerance for risks physical and psychological, it is no surprise that travel has been a key component of my life’s balance. It was my parents who showed us the benefits and challenges of rambling. To date, I have explored 39 countries on six continents and almost all of the States. Living in such a special Valley has mitigated my wanderlust, but has not cured it. There are still many places which stir my imagination and favorite spots that must be revisited in time.
Dartmouth College was the perfect destination for me for my college years. A small, beautiful town in the New Hampshire woods filled with curious young minds and with its own ski hill: bliss. I froze through early-morning rows with the crew team and spent many hours curled up next to the fire in old New England buildings reading tomes. Originally a Government major, I switched to Geography when captivated by a class on Geomorphology, the study of how the physical world was formed and changes. My major ran the gamut from geology/earth sciences to classes on 3-D mapping and satellite imagery to more social-science oriented studies of economic and political geography. Besides the small and intimate nature of the department, it was the best fit for my diverse interests. I was the president of my fraternity and had my fair share of social endeavors. It was an exciting four years.
My legal destiny called me to the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, another gorgeous town with a rich history. My legal education was mostly traditional, with many of my professors employing the Socratic method to teach landmark cases. Knowing that I wanted to litigate, I chose elective courses with practical application such as Trial Advocacy and Complex Civil Litigation. However, true to my nature, I also took some classes purely for the enjoyment, chief among them a class on Environmental Ethics in which I wrote my final paper on the impacts of backcountry skiing.
Charlottesville had many extracurricular activities to offer and I enjoyed mountain biking, going to football games, and even skiing over at Wintergreen. During my second and third years in town I lived in a house (formerly a brothel) with seven of my law-school friends/classmates. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot from each other, though not necessarily about the law.
My crowning achievement in those years was meeting the woman who would be my wife. Lauren is a Charlottesville native who was attending the University while I was at the law school. Our romance was swift and we quickly became inseparable. When I graduated and went to begin my career in Atlanta, Lauren followed a year later after her own graduation.
I learned an incredible amount in my first years of practice. I chose and was chosen to work at the litigation department of a sophisticated mid-size firm in Atlanta, where I focused on commercial and securities matters in federal and state court and before arbitrators. I also handled ERISA litigation and collections matters on behalf of the firm’s fringe benefit fund clients. My mentors at the firm were all accomplished attorneys, but more importantly, were excellent teachers and stellar human beings. They taught me the technical ins and outs of high-level legal practice but were also models of how to live a complete and balanced life.
If my original firm had existed in Colorado, I would still be practicing there. However, the call of the mountains was too strong, so Lauren and I packed up our things and moved to Telluride sight unseen for the winter of 2007-2008. I secured a job as a law clerk for a lawyer in town while I studied for the Colorado bar examination. In that position, I learned a lot of the basic tenets of Colorado law, particularly in the homeowners’ association realm, that now serve me well in my current practice.
I proposed to Lauren on the Crystal run at Telluride and we were married six weeks later in Atlanta. The reason for the short turnaround was that the trip we were planning had now morphed into a honeymoon and we wanted to have her name changed for her passport. This turned out to be a prescient decision, even though it required Lauren to plan the wedding remotely in a remarkably short time period.
After our wedding, we returned to Telluride to close out the ski season and then embarked on a global honeymoon adventure that spanned a year. We explored 18 countries over that time, much of which was spent in remote and exotic places like Malawi, Istanbul, and Laos. It is impossible to begin to explain the joys and stresses of such a massive undertaking, but fortunately a rather detailed account of the trip (with pictures) can be found here.
Upon our return, Lauren and I were essentially broke, having spent all of our money, with no regrets, on an unimaginable first year as a married couple. We lived with my parents in Atlanta for four months while we plotted our return to Colorado and worked temporary jobs. It was an excellent way to reacclimatize to “normal” life. While we were sad to leave the comforts of a childhood home, we were also overjoyed to both find excellent jobs in Vail.
For two and a half years, I was the litigator at a small and busy firm in Vail, handling all manner of disputes and advisory matters. From my mentor there, I learned not only a lot in the technical sense, but also about the vagaries of practicing in a small mountain community.
Our daughter Violet was born in the amazing Vail Valley Medical Center and is the light of our lives. She serves as an inspiration to all of our personal and professional endeavors and, although I may be biased in this regard, she is darn smart and cute.
I was happy with my professional and family life, but when an opportunity arose to join another firm as a partner, I left to create Thompson, Brownlee & Voboril, LLC. When one of my partners there moved home to Texas, it was the perfect chance to join forces with two attorneys for which I had already had tremendous respect on a professional and personal level. Hence, RKV Law was born.
After four years of practice with RKV Law, a time that saw the firm more than double in size, Dan and I knew that the time had come to refocus our efforts and concentrate on our respective practice areas. Proud of the accomplishments achieved during our run with RKV Law, the firm disbanded into its constituent parts and out of that amicable dissolution sprang Alpenglow Law. Alpenglow Law represents the purest vision yet of the balance between my work, family, and community lives.