Alum of the Month Sept '13
This month Colorado Law recognizes another successful alumna in the Denver area, Erica Tarpey. After growing up in Englewood, Tarpey attended Grinnell College for her undergraduate studies, and she graduated in 1993 with a BA in political science and French. Tarpey grew up knowing that she wanted to be a lawyer someday, and she didn’t waste any time in applying to law schools around the country. Although she looked at a number of schools, many of them on the east coast, Tarpey didn’t want her career options to be narrowed by the debt constraints resulting from a high-priced legal education, and she returned to her home state to attend Colorado Law. While in law school, Tarpey interned at the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, where she worked on the civil matters handled by the office. She clerked for the Boulder firm of Caplan and Earnest during her 3L year, and she earned her JD from Colorado Law in 1996.
Tarpey began her legal career at Mountain States Employer’s Council, where she advised a wide range of clients on all aspects of employment law, including employee discipline matters, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, wage and hour issues, and other matters. Tarpey remained at the Council until 1998, when she moved to Boston and joined the firm of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. She started at the firm working on international development projects in Africa, but ended up moving to the firm’s public utilities regulatory practice when the international development work started to dry up. Tarpey’s move occurred during a time when deregulation was just beginning to happen, and so her practice involved some of the rulemakings to occur in the deregulation era. However, after several years Tarpey knew it was time for a change, so she left the firm in 2001 and moved to Chicago.
Although she had envisioned the move to Chicago as an opportunity to take some time off and regroup, Tarpey soon signed up to do temporary contract legal work because, as she put it, she isn’t “the kind of person who can sit around and not work for weeks.” After doing temp work for about six months, one of Tarpey’s projects took her to the headquarters of Citadel LLC, a global hedge fund. Tarpey’s background in utilities regulatory work made her well suited to advise the company on its energy-related business, and Citadel soon offered her a permanent in-house position. She began conducting the company’s major corporate work in 2004, and by 2011 she had become Citadel’s chief corporate counsel. In this capacity her responsibilities included oversight of the corporate compliance aspects of over 100 entities, preparation of corporate documents, and drafting various Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
In 2011, Tarpey returned to Colorado and joined the Denver firm of Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe, where she currently practices, and has not wasted time finding ways to give back to the local community and to Colorado. Tarpey serves on the Development Committee for Colorado Law, where she provides strategic advice and leadership with respect to the school’s fundraising efforts. When she isn’t in the office or taking her 3-year-old labrador retriever for a walk, Tarpey enjoys skiing (“when there’s actually snow…”), hiking in the mountains, and cycling.
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
The people I met, some of whom are still my closest friends.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
That a significant key to my success as a lawyer was going to come from understanding the ins and outs of my clients' businesses and industries.
What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
Be open to the opportunities that present themselves. There are fields of law and clients and areas of practice and ways to use your JD you can't even imagine and that you may love and excel at.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
Trish French, my mentor in Boston. She has unending passion for her work, her clients and their business.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Having the confidence to leave a job I wasn't passionate about without any idea what my next step would be.