The University of Colorado Law School celebrated six distinguished alumni and friends at its 41st annual Alumni Awards Banquet on Thursday, March 10, 2022, at the Seawell Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Follow this link to watch this year's honoree videos.
Colorado Law’s signature alumni event recognizes alumni and friends for their contributions to the legal profession, service to their communities, and dedication to the law school. Net proceeds from this year’s event benefit the Dean’s Fund for Excellence, which supports Colorado Law’s areas of strategic importance, and the Law Alumni Scholarship Fund awarded annually to a student who has demonstrated academic achievement, financial need, and service to the law school community. Alumni award honorees were nominated by their peers and selected by the Law Alumni Board.
We are pleased to honor the following individuals:
William Lee Knous Award
Gail H. Klapper ('68)
A fourth-generation Colorado native, Gail Klapper received her BA in political science from Wellesley College, where she served as president of college government. She earned a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Colorado Law School in 1968. Klapper was appointed as a White House Fellow by President Gerald Ford. After her term in Washington, Klapper returned to Colorado to serve as a member of the Governor’s Cabinet, running the Department of Regulatory Agencies and the Department of Personnel. In 1982, she was a candidate in a statewide race for attorney general of Colorado.
Klapper has been the member/president of the Colorado Forum since 1989. She currently serves on the boards of Guaranty Bancorp, Gold Inc., and Great-West Funds, Inc. She serves as chair of the board of Great-West Funds and previously was a member of the Boston-based Houghton Mifflin board. She also served on the board of the National Western Stock Show Association, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and National Jewish Health. Klapper was the founding president of the Hotel Authority Board that secured funding for, built, and operates the Hyatt Regency Convention Center Hotel in Denver. In addition, Klapper has chaired the following boards of trustees: Boston-based Wellesley College, the Denver Metro Chamber, the Downtown Denver Partnership, the Public Education and Business Coalition (founder), the Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee, and the Regional White House Fellows Selection Panel. Klapper was the first recipient of the annual Leadership Denver Association Award for Outstanding Achievement. She has received the University of Colorado’s Norlin Award for Professional Excellence, the University of Colorado’s Public Service Award, the University of Colorado Law School’s Honorary Order of the Coif Award, Urban Peak’s Maverick Thinker Award, the Denver Regional Council of Governments Service Award, the Cal Frazier Investing in Education Award, the Downtown Denver Partnership Honorary Partner Award, and the Top Hand Award from the National Western Stock Show Association.
Klapper manages her family’s 6K Ranch and Tack business in Elbert, Colorado, where they raise, train and show reining horses and sell equipment and clothing for the western discipline. She is married to Jack A. Klapper, MD. They have four wonderful daughters and seven awesome grandchildren.
Distinguished Achievement—Public Service
Victoria J. Ortega ('90)
Victoria “Vicky” Ortega was appointed in August 2019 by the Denver Clerk and Recorder as the city’s deputy clerk and recorder. In this role, Ortega is second in command for the Office of the Denver Clerk and Recorder. She supports the clerk by overseeing the agency’s constituent services and business operations for recordings, marriages, public trustee, public records, city clerk, elections, and general administration. She manages the agency’s legal compliance, technology development and fiscal functions. Ortega is active in both the conduct of elections and recording and marriage operations for the City and County of Denver.
Before her appointment as deputy clerk and recorder, Ortega worked in the Denver City Attorney’s Office for almost three decades, as an assistant city attorney assigned to the Municipal Operations/Contracts Section of the Denver City Attorney’s Office. Her work included elections and campaign finance, contract transactions, federal grant administration and compliance, minority and woman-owned small business contracting programs, human rights and community partnerships, data protection, trademarks, and copyrights, and general municipal law. Ortega started and managed the first multi-level student internship program in the contracts section to provide learning opportunities for students interested in public sector law.
Ortega received her BA in political science from the University of Colorado and her JD from the University of Colorado School of Law. She is a 2019 graduate of the University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Elections Administration certificate program. She is a 2021 graduate of the National Association of Election Officials, Election Center program for Certified Elections Registration Administrators (CERA). In 2003, Ortega received special recognition from the Metro City Attorney’s Association as a member of a team that successfully defended Denver’s affirmative action ordinance.
Distinguished Achievement—Private Practice
Herrick K. Lidstone Jr. ('78)
Herrick Lidstone is a shareholder in the law firm of Burns Figa & Will P.C. He practices in the areas of business transactions, including taxation, limited liability company and corporate organization and capitalization, mergers and acquisitions, ethics, real estate, and securities. Lidstone has lectured at the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, has been an adjunct professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law (1986-1997, 2012, and 2014 through 2017) and at the University of Colorado School of Law (2009). Lidstone has presented over 120 papers for various professional organizations on securities law, ethics, limited liability companies, and partnerships. He has also written more than 30 articles on business and securities law published in the Colorado Lawyer and is the author or co-author of three books on legal subjects. Lidstone is a contributor to several other legal treatises and has more than 45 papers published on the Social Science Research Network and has served as an expert witness.
Lidstone earned his AB degree from Cornell University in 1971 and his JD degree from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1978. He served on active duty as an officer in the United States Navy from 1971 until 1975, and in the U.S. Naval Reserve until 1980. His experiences in the U.S. Navy led to his contribution to Professor Don Stanton’s 2018 book, Looking Back At The Cold War (30 Veterans and a Patrol Plane Commander Remember).
Lidstone has been a member of the executive council of the Colorado Bar Association’s Business Law Section and as the Business Law Section’s representative to the Working Group on Legal Opinions Foundation, both since 2007. He has testified on behalf of the Colorado Bar Association more than 20 times on bills pending before the Colorado General Assembly and has been involved in the drafting of those and a number of other bills in his work through the Colorado Bar Association. He has served on the Colorado Securities Board (Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies) from 1999 until 2011, and 2014 until 2017. Lidstone is a fellow emeritus of the Colorado and Arapahoe County Bar Foundations, the charitable arms of the Colorado Bar and the Arapahoe County Bar Associations. He has been a member of the board of directors and involved with various committees of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce since 2010. Lidstone has served as a high school moot court judge and enjoys mentoring young lawyers.
In September 2018, Lidstone received the Cathy Stricklin Krendl Lifetime Achievement Award from the CBA’s Business Law Section. In February 2019 the Continuing Legal Education in Colorado, Inc. awarded him the Richard N. Doyle CLE Award of Excellence. He has been recognized by Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and Who’s Who in the World.
Lidstone has been married to his wife, Mary Lynne O’Toole, for 43 years as of August 2021. They have three sons and loving, caring daughters-in-law, and five wonderful grandchildren (ages five to 12). After coaching and attending their son’s soccer, baseball, and basketball games, Herrick and Lynne now take pride in cheering their grandchildren at their athletic activities, dances, plays, and recitals. Herrick and Lynne also enjoy taking their grandchildren to cultural events, playing chess, and golfing with them, and having family gatherings.
Outside the practice of law and spending time with his grandchildren and family, Lidstone enjoys fly fishing on the Little Snake River in northwestern Colorado, genealogical research, and writing. When there is time to get away, Herrick and Lynne are looking forward to more travel adventures.
Distinguished Achievement—Small/Solo Practitioner
Dru R. Nielsen ('97)
Recognized as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Colorado, Dru Nielsen has devoted her entire career to aggressively defending individuals accused of committing crimes.
Since graduating from the University of Colorado Law School in 1997, Nielsen has won dozens of “not guilty” verdicts at trial. Her unique ability to successfully resolve serious cases prior to trial has also earned the respect of clients and opponents alike.
For a decade, Nielsen honed her skills in the courtroom as a Colorado Deputy State Public Defender. Nielsen left the public defender’s office in 2007 to join Iris Eytan and Larry Pozner in the criminal division of Reilly Pozner. In 2015, Nielsen and her longtime partner and friend, Iris Eytan, formed Eytan Nielsen with the goal of providing the highest level of representation and service to those facing allegations of wrongdoing.
In addition to winning high-profile murder trials in 2016 and 2020, Nielsen’s work for her client Curtis Brooks earned her recognition as the Case of the Year by the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association in 2019. Curtis Brooks, who had been behind bars since he was 15 years old and spent nearly 25 years in prison, was granted clemency by Gov. Hickenlooper.
Dean's Choice Awards
Dean Lolita Buckner Inniss will also present two Dean's Choice Awards, recognizing exceptional contributions to Colorado Law.
Richard Schaden Adopted Alumnus Award
George V. Berg
George V. Berg Jr. is one of four founding partners of Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti LLP. Mr. Berg's practice of over 45 years emphasizes complex commercial transactions, litigation, real estate, construction, banking and finance, and insurance coverage law.
Mr. Berg began his law career in Houston, TX, where he practiced law for sixteen years. He moved his family to Boulder, CO, in June of 1991 and his legal practice in April of 1993. On November 1, 2001, Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti LLP opened its doors to Boulder and beyond with Mr. Berg at the helm as managing partner, and he carried that role for fifteen years. His client-centric approach in managing the firm led the firm to where it is today. When the firm started, it focused on real estate, construction, and water law. Today, the firm has over 45 attorneys strong with offices in Denver, Cheyenne, Wyoming, San Diego, and Irvine, California.
Mr. Berg has been recognized as a Super Lawyer in the area of construction litigation more than ten times. He is also AV-rated by the Martindale-Hubbell peer review rating system
Sonny Flowers Award
Kathleen B. Nalty ('85)
This award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion among the law school and legal profession, specifically including the advancement of individuals from underrepresented groups.
Kathleen Nalty has devoted her entire career to her passion for diversity, civil rights, social justice, and inclusion, earning 11 awards for her thought leadership and advocacy efforts.
After graduating from Colorado Law in 1985, Nalty clerked for U.S. District Court Judge John Kane. She was then selected to participate in the Attorney General’s Honors Program at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. As a federal civil rights prosecutor in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, Nalty worked on cases involving hate crimes, police brutality, and slavery.
Upon returning to Colorado, Nalty co-founded the Hate Violence Task Force of the Colorado Lawyers’ Committee. She also worked for the University of Denver Sturm College of Law as a consultant in the Career Development Office, where she specialized in assisting employers and students with diversity programs and initiatives. In that role, she helped found the Rocky Mountain Legal Diversity Career Fair and the first annual Diversity Conference. Nalty also co-chaired the Colorado Bar Association’s Diversity Committee and helped establish the Deans’ Diversity Council.
In 2007, Nalty was selected as the founding director for the Center for Legal Inclusiveness and led the nonprofit’s ground-breaking efforts for over five years. In that role, she developed the only “how to” manual for legal organizations with a comprehensive step-by-step process for removing hidden barriers to retention and creating an inclusive workplace. In 2012, Nalty was selected to lead training sessions across the U.S. for the Minority Corporate Counsel Association as part of its new Academy for Diversity & Inclusion. From 2012-2018 Nalty served as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law where she taught a course on diversity and inclusion.
In 2013, Nalty established her own consulting company. She published a book entitled Going “All-In” on Diversity and Inclusion: The Law Firm Leader’s Playbook that includes new tools for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. In April 2017, Nalty was invited to give a TEDx talk – Diversity Makes You Smarter – at the University of Colorado. Nalty has taught tens of thousands of lawyers and legal staff about diversity, equity, and inclusion across the U.S. and Canada and mentored dozens of lawyers in their careers.
Nalty’s late husband, Craig Shaffer, whom she met at the USDOJ where he was a senior lawyer specializing in prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan, was her lifelong behind-the-scenes partner in her work. Their sons, Ryan and Nick Shaffer, helped as well – as volunteers with CLI and in assisting in her consulting business.