The office leader of Faegre Baker Daniels in Denver, Heather Perkins ('98), stopped short of calling herself a Boulder native, but she comes closer than most University of Colorado Law School graduates. After moving to Boulder in sixth grade, she stayed through college and earned a BS from the Leeds School of Business at CU-Boulder in 1993 with emphases in accounting and finance, after which she moved to Chicago for her accounting career before returning to Boulder for law school.
“I don’t get to say that I’m a native, but I lived in Boulder from the time that I was about 11 until when I graduated from law school, with the exception of a short stint in Chicago,” Perkins said.
She’s a third-generation lawyer, though her father never practiced as an attorney—he is a CPA who still practices in Boulder. Her grandfather was a prosecutor in Illinois, and later an in-house counsel. Perkins lives in Denver with her husband and 10-year-old daughter.
Perkins’ career as a CPA began at her father’s practice, then with KPMG in Chicago. But she grew restless in her job, and decided law school was the answer. Choosing between several law schools meant selecting the option that had the best value for her: “CU was unbeatable in terms of value for me,” she said.
Entering law school, Perkins envisioned herself as a corporate or tax lawyer, but that changed after her first year, when she took a job that sent her to Judge Edward Nottingham for a two-week externship in a federal district court judge’s chambers. The time Perkins spent in the courtroom as an extern would spark a change in her plans as a future lawyer. In addition to an employment discrimination trial that Judge Nottingham presided over, she had the opportunity to observe pre-trial evidentiary hearings in the Timothy McVeigh case before Judge Richard Matsch.
“That was really cool,” Perkins said. “I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to try clerking.”
After two weeks of her externship, she was no longer set on corporate or tax law. Rather, she wanted to clerk, and she wanted to be a litigator.
And that’s what Perkins did. She clerked for Judge Nottingham from 1998-2000, immediately following graduation. Her memories of clerking are positive; she laughed upon remembering that Judge Nottingham would schedule some discovery motions hearings for 6:30 a.m. After her clerkship, Perkins pursued litigation. She started at Hogan and Hartson’s Denver office in fall of 2000, where she worked on a variety of commercial and employment litigation matters. In 2002, she moved to what is now Faegre Baker Daniels, where she entered as a junior associate. She became a partner in January 2007, then hiring partner in 2010, a role she held until the end of 2011. After a year hiatus from administrative roles, she became the Denver office leader in 2013.
What she does depends on the day, she said. On the litigation side, she handles complex commercial cases, product liability, and antitrust and distribution matters both locally and nationally. Administratively, she helps leaders of the firm on any issues that arise and coordinates the office, which can involve different things on any given day. Even though she’s a leader in the office, she hasn’t let the position go to her head. “I don’t consider myself to be the boss of anyone because I hold the position of office leader,” Perkins said.
Since becoming set on litigation, Perkins’ body of work and professional recognitions demonstrate that she has excelled. She is “AV” ranked by Martindale-Hubbell, and Colorado Super Lawyers recently recognized her in the top five percent of practicing attorneys in the state.
Perkins also does pro bono work, and worked with veterans seeking benefits and the Sister Carmen Community Center. She serves on the board of trustees for the Legal Aid Foundation and on the community leadership board of Mile High Montessori. She spends her time outside of work with her husband, daughter, and their Labrador retriever puppy.
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
I don’t know if I can pick a single memory, but the best part of being a student at Colorado Law was the enduring friendships that I formed in my class. My friends from Colorado Law have been my rocks.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
I wish I had known how valuable the clinical programs could be to build real-life practice skills.
What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
Enjoy your last few weeks in school. Study, but don’t freak yourself out about the bar exam.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
I can’t narrow it to one. My family has been a tremendous influence. I learned a great deal about being a professional and juggling the demands of career and family from my parents (both of whom had intense careers); my own family has had to endure what they taught me. The mentorship I have received in my career has been the other major influence. I have been blessed to learn from some terrific lawyers, including my judge and my colleagues at Faegre, who have always pushed me to find my best.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
My family. We are a great team.