Alumni of the Month Jul '12
For Ron Sandgrund, surprises are nothing new. The last thing Sandgrund anticipated at this point in his career was an invitation to teach a Colorado Law CLE on the entrepreneurial practice of law, given his self-described lack of any business savvy. Moving to Colorado in 1979 with degrees in psychology and English from the State University of New York at Albany, Sandgrund expected to obtain his law degree from Colorado Law, enjoy a few ski seasons in the process, and then move back east to settle down and practice. He did not expect that he and his girlfriend, Cheryl (now his wife), would fall in love with Colorado and make it their home. He also did not expect to land a summer clerking position with a small Denver law firm headed by Dean Vanatta, or that the experience would evolve into a lasting partnership along with second year associate Scott Sullan.
Sandgrund spent his first 14 years handling product liability and insurance bad faith and coverage defense work for national manufacturers and insurers. These manufacturers' "no settle" policy provided Sandgrund with early and ample trial and appellate experience. However, following seismic changes in the insurance and legal services sectors in the early 90s, Sandgrund's small law firm needed to retool its expertise and redirect its energies or face merging with a larger firm and giving up its autonomy. Beginning in the mid-90's, Sandgrund helped build one of the state's most successful and influential boutique law practices, now called Sullan², Sandgrund, Perczak & Nuss P.C., riding the crest of the housing boom to more than a dozen construction defect class actions against some of the nation's largest residential developers and material manufacturers, as well as hundreds of collective and individual lawsuits. This work included one of the largest class action trials conducted in Colorado and one of the biggest expansive soils-related class action settlements in the country.
Along the way, Sandgrund became Colorado's most prolific author of books and journal articles on construction and material defects, and related liability insurance and class action professional responsibility issues. He also authored many amici briefs supporting consumer and homeowner rights and became a significant player in fashioning Colorado's construction defect laws. Most recently, Sandgrund received the 2011 National Award of Professional Excellence from the Association for Continuing Education for Residential Construction Law in Colorado (3rd ed.) (CBA-CLE 2011). His journal articles were republished nationwide in Thompson-West's Legal Handbook for Architects, Engineers and Contractors, in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012 as reflecting "cutting-edge thinking" in construction litigation. Sandgrund is a member of The Colorado Lawyer's advisory board.
In 2009, Sandgrund established an environmental law fellowship at Colorado Law for students who want to participate in summer internships they might not otherwise be able to enjoy due to financial constraints. Earlier, in 2005, he established a consumer rights writing award for both Colorado Law faculty and students to encourage and support this work. Sandgrund currently works part-time so that he can focus on his writing, travelling and outdoor adventures, and enjoy regular visits to his orthopedic surgeon.
Five Questions for Ron Sandgrund
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
The truly wonderful students I met and the committed professors under whom I studied, and discovering how interesting and worthwhile the law could be. This latter point was really driven home this past spring after spending a month in China: most folks there are really hungry for the rule of law to replace the whim of the cadres.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
Unfortunately, space limitations prevent me from answering this question.
What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate?
Try to have fun, pursue your passions, and spend a lot of quality time with your family and friends.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
My family, friends, classmates, and teachers laid the foundation. Dean Vanatta and Scott Sullan showed me how to be both a vigorous advocate and a responsible and thoughtful human being. Along the way, many lawyers, such as Bob Harry, Brooke Jackson, John Holland, Mike Touff, Dan Frost, Gil Goldstein, Fern Black, Dave Higgins, JoAnn Vogt, Tom Roberts, Rich Gabriel, Dennis Polk, Scott Lawrence and others too numerous to name, taught me by example. They might not have thought I was watching and learning, but I was.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Professionally: building and sustaining a law firm that helped to level the playing field for a lot of folks in need, helped to contribute to the development of Colorado's statutory and common law, and helped to support the firm's employees and their families.
Personally: managing all of the above while cherishing a wonderful family and many, many good friends, and treasured colleagues. A particularly lasting memory was the irony of arguing and prevailing in Hoang v. Assurance Co. of America P.3d 798 (Colo. 2006), which required overruling Browder, et al. v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company P.2d 132 (Colo. 1995), which I had argued and prevailed in 11 years earlier.