Alum of the Month May '17
From a dirt road in Colorado to the diverse streets of Berlin and San Francisco, Colorado Law alumnus Jeffery Grimes (’90) has pursued his passions across the globe in ways he never expected.
“One of the truisms that I learned about having a legal education and legal degree is that it is amazing the things you can go and do as a lawyer,” Grimes said. “The train of life is going to take you to really strange and interesting places…and all of it is because you’ve gotten your ticket punched as a lawyer.”
Grimes is now in-house counsel at ARC Document Solutions, Inc., which has offices in the United Kingdom, India, China, Australia, Canada, and the United States. He has come a long way from his humble beginnings in Parker, Colorado, where he grew up surrounded by cows and chickens.
“My dad worked in the city,” Grimes said. “He wanted us to have a Colorado bucolic life out in the country on a dirt road.”
The only nearby junior high school and high school were in Castle Rock, so Grimes made the trek from Parker each day for school. During a senior class encouraging career exploration, Grimes looked through a book listing the presidents of the United States and realized that the majority of them were lawyers. “That’s when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer,” Grimes said.
After high school, Grimes took a gap year and headed to Berlin at the height of the Cold War.
“My peers thought I was crazy…but I wanted a big adventure. I wanted to learn a foreign language, and this was the front seat of the Cold War,” Grimes said. “It was a big city and it had witnessed history.”
Grimes spent the next year in Berlin learning German, and the experience profoundly changed his life in ways that still affect him today. Upon returning to Colorado, Grimes spent his first two undergraduate years at the University of Denver, and then transferred to the University of Colorado Boulder.
During his undergraduate studies, Grimes proactively furthered his legal education by reaching out to law firms in Denver asking for a job. He became a runner for one of Denver's largest regional law firms, Rothgerber, Appel, and Powers, where he met famed Colorado lawyer Ira C. Rothgerber (’35). Grimes attributes much of his success to Rothgerber, who eventually hired Grimes as his assistant and provided mentorship that changed Grimes’ life.
“Suddenly, I’m having dinner with Byron White of the U.S. Supreme Court and all these other people—judges and ambassadors—and I’m a 20-something-year old kid,” Grimes said.
Grimes remembered going to Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving one year and meeting up with White, who took him on a personal tour of the entire Supreme Court.
Rothgerber influenced Grimes’ path in a big way when he encouraged Grimes to transfer from DU to CU. Grimes considered leaving Colorado after undergraduate, but decided to stay at CU for law school. “Being in Boulder and certainly under Ira’s influence and wing made many things possible,” he said.
Grimes fondly recalled some influencing professors he had at the University of Colorado Law School, including contracts Professor Dennis Hynes (’60), property Professor David Hill, and water law Professor Charles Wilkinson. Grimes especially noted Wilkinson’s passion for water law. “[Wilkinson] reminded me of that passionate Coloradan who is in love with their place, and he showed me the beauty of it,” Grimes said.
As much as he appreciated Colorado, Grimes was soon on to bigger cities. After graduating from Colorado Law in 1990, Grimes moved to Sacramento to work for a law firm where he clerked the summer before his graduation. “I wanted to be out where things happened and not where they came,” he said.
During his first seven years in California, Grimes worked in private firms and moved to San Francisco in the winter of 1995. A couple years later, Grimes realized the thing to do at the time was to go in-house.
“The dot com was happening right outside my window, and I wanted to join that parade,” he said.
Since then, Grimes has worked in-house in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, as well as for a Danish company headquartered in Copenhagen. Grimes never expected to work in a field that involved chemistry and biology but found the work fulfilling and exciting.
“Me—somebody with no chemistry, no biology experience—is working for those companies where that’s their whole purpose,” Grimes said. “And suddenly, it’s my whole purpose.”
Leaving his dirt road beginnings behind, Grimes has traveled around the world doing mergers and acquisition work, buying companies in Brazil, Australia, Germany, Spain, and the U.S. He still calls San Francisco home, and appreciates the Bay Area for its celebrated diversity.
Now at ARC Document Solutions, Inc., Grimes works in intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, securities, and employment law. The company provides services focused on document and information management for the architectural, engineering, and construction industry.
Despite his international experience, Grimes’ Colorado upbringing is still reflected in his after-work activities. “As a good Coloradan, of course I’m into fitness and exercise, so I run marathons,” he said.
Grimes has run a total of six marathons and is currently training for the San Francisco Half Marathon. He has also become a bit more of a Californian, with an extensive knowledge of wine and a wine cellar. He finds respite at his Sonoma County cabin in the middle of wine country and participates in wine education classes.
Amazingly, Grimes also finds time to pursue his passion for writing and is working on a novel, which he hopes to publish someday.
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
For Constitutional Law, I had Professor Archibald Cox. Mr. Cox was a visiting professor at Colorado Law from Harvard Law School during the semester I took Con Law. Mr. Cox's credentials were unmatched. He had been the solicitor general under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations (his successor was Thurgood Marshall). He was later the special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal (and was subsequently fired by President Nixon). Having Archibald Cox as my professor of Con Law on the 200th anniversary of the Constitution was life-altering. Professor Cox had argued many of the cases we studied, and was able to describe oral arguments he made to the Supreme Court. He made the subject matter sing to us.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
My legal career turned out vastly different than I planned it, or could have even begun to plan it to be. And this is one of the truths about a legal career (and indeed life). It turns out to be such a mystery. So little is revealed to us at the beginning. All of it ends up surprising us in delightful and disturbing ways.
What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
If you don't find the study of law entirely satisfying, the practice of law is infinitely more pleasing. Completing law school is merely a rite of passage, and for some—as was the case for me—an endurance test. Passing the bar is the last stop to getting your ticket punched. After that, everything begins.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
I think our first bosses leave deep marks (or scars!) on our careers and, thus, lives. One of mine was a meticulous writer. He challenged me with scorn and praise to be fastidious with my own writing. He is now one of the outside counsel I use. We speak nearly weekly. I would never have guessed it given that I moved cities, went in-house, stopped being a litigator—we have been practicing law together (now as attorney and client) for 26 years.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Early in my career I did volunteer work for California Lawyers for the Arts. I represented an artist in Sacramento who created a sculpture that was incorporated into a commercial real estate project. When the property was sold, I was able to obtain a judgement for the artist based on a somewhat obscure California law (California Resale Royalty Act, Civil Code sec 986) that gave him rights to the appreciation in value of his work of art. The California law is unique in the U.S. (but can be found in many other countries) and recognizes the moral rights that artists have in their work, including the inalienable right of attribution, such that if a work is altered by someone other than the artist it can be disavowed by the artist. I think many of us dream in law school about fighting for the rights of the unrepresented. This was my chance to have a taste of that dream.