Betty Arkell ('75)

Alumni of the Month Jun '12

This month Colorado Law recognizes one of its highly distinguished alums in the Denver legal community, Betty Arkell. Arkell's impressive career in corporate law spans more than 35 years, and she is one of the most well-known and respected lawyers in the field.

Arkell moved to Colorado with her husband after graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in political science. She continued her education at the University of Colorado, first completing a graduate degree in political science, and then earning her law degree from the University of Colorado Law School in 1975. Upon finishing law school, Arkell started her legal career at the law firm of Sherman & Howard in Denver. She spent several years at the firm, and then joined the Chicago-based firm of Kirkland & Ellis, working in the firm's Denver office and becoming a partner within a year.

During her time at Kirkland & Ellis, Arkell began focusing on the growing field of venture capital and emerging growth, an area of law that became a fundamental part of her practice. In 1994, after a number of years with the firm, she joined Holland & Hart, and has been there ever since. Over the years, Arkell has worked with a host of business leaders and startup companies on matters ranging from securing financing to buying and selling businesses, and often has provided advice as a general counsel. Her character and expertise have earned her the respect and trust of not only other lawyers–she's been listed in The Best Lawyers in America®, Chambers USA and Colorado Super Lawyers for a number of years–but business and political leaders as well.

In 2008, Governor Bill Ritter named Arkell to the Governor's Venture Capital Investment Advisory Committee, a group that works to attract venture capital for specific industries, including clean energy, aerospace, and bioscience. The Denver Business Journal also recognized Arkell as Denver's Outstanding Woman in Businessin 2006, and she was selected as one of LawWeek Colorado's Top Women Lawyers in 2008. Although her practice keeps her very busy, Arkell has found time to give back to the community, and is involved in a number of organizations, including the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship, the Colorado Technology Association, the Holland & Hart Foundation and, most recently, Startup Colorado.

Arkell has remained committed to the law school.  She has served as chair of the Law Alumni Board, and in 1991, she received the Colorado Law Alumni Award for Private Practice.

What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law? 

My fondest memory is my classmates in the class of 1975.  We had a high achieving, but collaborative, class.  We supported one another and celebrated our accomplishments.  Many of us have remained good friends and try to get together regularly.  These strong feelings for our class and the law school were apparent when we raised a record $100,000 for our 35th reunion.

What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school? 

I wish I knew the importance of providing more than just the best legal advice.  In my area of corporate law, I strive to understand my clients' businesses so that I can anticipate their needs and be a trusted resource for them.   

What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate? 

Find your passion, whether it be in the practice of law or another field in which you can use your legal education.  Be willing to take risks.  Learn from your setbacks and failures.

Who was the biggest influence on your career? 

Lanny Martin, whom I met as a freshman at Northwestern and had the opportunity to practice with when he was the managing partner of Kirkland & Ellis's Denver office.  Even though I was still a young lawyer, he had enough confidence in my abilities to put me in charge of our venture capital/emerging growth practice at a time when that business was taking off in Colorado.  It has been my focus for the past 30 years and a source of work for many of my colleagues in a variety of practice areas.

Of what accomplishment are you most proud? 

Achieving prominence in the legal profession, having the opportunity to give back to the community and being part of a wonderful family. I am fortunate for the support of my husband, David Arkell ('73), and our children Elizabeth and Peter, who continue to tolerate my unpredictable hours and the phone calls from clients in the middle of dinner.