Alumni of the Month Oct '12
Although her career has literally taken her around the world, Colorado has always been the happiest spot for Roxanne Jensen. After Jensen graduated from St. Olaf College in 1981 with a dual BA in chemistry and philosophy, she returned to her hometown of Colorado Springs to intern at a local firm that would later become part of the Denver-based Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons. This experience affirmed Jensen's interest in attending law school, and in 1985 she earned her JD from Colorado Law. Following law school, Jensen clerked for then-Chief Judge Sherman Finesilver at the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
Jensen joined the Denver office of San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster in 1987 and practiced there for 17 years. At Morrison & Foerster, Jensen worked with a number of seasoned and renowned litigators, including Steve Dunham and the late Robert Hanley, both of whom mentored Jensen and helped solidify her interest in litigation. Intellectual property was a growing area during Jensen's early years in practice, and she capitalized on the rise of IP law, developing a specialty practice in intellectual property ownership and antitrust policy. Morrison & Foerster had and still has a tremendous presence in Asia, which allowed Jensen to spend a substantial amount of her time serving Japanese clients at home and abroad. Jensen was the managing partner for Morrison & Foerster's Denver office for three years.
In 2006 Jensen withdrew from the partnership and she later established a Lateral Partners and Firm Mergers division for a national recruiting company, growing the business successfully for four years. Jensen joined Catapult Growth Partners in 2011, where she remains employed as a consultant for law firms nationwide on a wide range of management issues, including growth and business strategies, talent management, market differentiation, governance, compensation, and succession planning. Her consulting practice draws upon years of law firm practice and management experience and her expansive knowledge of the market–from top-tier international firms to fledgling firms.
In addition to her work at Catapult, Jensen remains extremely involved in the community and at Colorado Law. Currently, Jensen serves in key positions for several community organizations. She is on the Board of Trustees of Challenge Denver, an organization that develops and provides anti-bullying and community-building programs for schools and for Teach for America. She also is on the board of Stanley British Primary School, a K-8 school focused on individualized learning in multi-aged classrooms. In addition, she serves on the development committee for El Sistema Colorado, the Colorado affiliate of the worldwide organization that provides intensive musical training for elementary-aged and older school children as a path to broader opportunities for students who may not otherwise progress. Jensen is also a member of the Dean's Advisory Council at Colorado Law, a group of business and legal leaders that provides strategic advice and input to Dean Phil Weiser.
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
Graduating! Seriously, I enjoyed the rigor and intellectual stimulation of Colorado Law; but the privilege of receiving the degree and realizing the doors it opened for me was the real zinger. I'm very thankful for my experience.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
The practice of law and related pursuits invite—indeed demand—tremendous creativity. Law school can seem mind-narrowing, since much of the academic work focuses on providing the framework for practice by looking to structure (systems and codes) and examples from the past (case law). Having been a philosophy and chemistry major in college, the law school rubric sometimes felt confining to me. It's not. The best lawyers—who are also the best counselors and advisors—think broadly and creatively.
What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate?
On finding your path: network, network, network.
On being the best lawyer you can be: go beyond the rubric, challenge the current thinking, and create!
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
Inside the practice, Steve Dunham, now VP and General Counsel at Penn State and immediate past VP and GC at Johns Hopkins. His current position (achieved in March) speaks eloquently to his capacities, both intellectual and emotional. I couldn't have had a better mentor and partner at Morrison & Foerster.
Outside the practice, my dad, who I see as the consummate big-thinker. He has passed on so many wonderful bits of wisdom, including the importance of reinventing and repurposing oneself daily. Now in his late 70s, he still asks himself every morning: "Lord, what should I be when I grow up?"
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Professionally, it's hard not to focus on the present–I'm proud that my career as a whole has led me to the place where I can be a helpful resource for strategic thinking in law firms, especially at a time when the business model for legal services is challenged.
Personally, I'm proud of working with my husband (appellate lawyer Dean Neuwirth) to raise our delightful 14, 12, and 10 year-old kids, who astonish me every day with their capacity for love and their amazing gifts.