John ('99) and Erica Entsminger ('99) both came to law school after originally considering careers in secondary education, and have since built successful legal careers in Las Vegas, Nevada. Erica is a partner at the law firm of Eglet Prince, and John is the general manager of the Las Vegas Valley Water District (LVVWD) and the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). They met at the University of Colorado Law School.
Wanting to blaze her own trail after high school, Erica declined to attend college in her home state of Michigan or follow her siblings to the University of Colorado. Instead, she chose to attend the University of Notre Dame, where she graduated magna cum laude in three and a half years with a degree in English and a minor in secondary education. Although she considered law school, she turned her eyes to teaching.
“Because I graduated early, I was able to get a position as a permanent substitute for a teacher who was going on maternity leave,” Erica said. “I had my own class for a semester at the local high school.”
While it was a rewarding experience, Erica came to realize that teaching wasn’t for her.
“It was a very difficult decision, but I decided that law would be a better career for me.”
John came to the same realization two years earlier. In contrast to Erica, he elected to obtain his undergraduate degree from the state in which he grew up, attending the University of Northern Colorado. John graduated with a degree in history, and had considered pursuing a master’s degree in education. However, his experience as a student teacher helped him decide to expand on his minor in legal studies.
“(I) got a little bit of classroom time, and very quickly shifted my focus to law school,” John said.
John wanted to stay in-state, and Colorado Law was the clear choice. Erica was likewise tempted by the beauty of Colorado and the value of a Colorado Law degree. And two of her siblings met their spouses at CU Boulder.
“Boulder’s been very good to my family,” Erica laughed.
Reflecting on their time at Colorado Law, Erica said her fondest memories were of her law school classmates, whom she described as “impressive and diverse.” She enjoyed that dynamic along with her studies.
“And, of course, I met John.”
John believes that his time at Colorado Law was ideal preparation for the path his career has taken.
“The opportunity I had to learn directly from experts like Charles Wilkinson and David Getches gave me an early leg up in navigating the complex world of water law and policy,” he said.
After graduating from Colorado Law and a completing a stint clerking for the U. S. Department of Justice, John was hired as deputy general counsel at LVVWD and SNWA. He oversaw water rights and environmental compliance, later advancing to department director. His knowledge of Western water law prompted his selection to Nevada’s team for negotiations with the other six Colorado River Basin states, the federal governments of the United States and Mexico, non-governmental organizations, and Indian tribes for Colorado River operations. John continued to advance within the organizations, becoming deputy general manager and finally general manager in 2014.
As general manager, John oversees the day-to-day operations of the two organizations. The LVVWD serves nearly 370,000 customer accounts in Las Vegas, while the regional SNWA delivers water to local agencies that collectively serve two million residents and nearly 40 million annual visitors. When asked of what accomplishment he is most proud, John replied that it is his contributions to creating the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines and Minute 319 to the United States-Mexico Water Treaty of 1944, achievements that also cemented his role as the governor of Nevada’s chief negotiator for Colorado River matters.
After her graduation from Colorado Law, Erica clerked for the Honorable Edwin Ruland on the Colorado Court of Appeals, where she gained valuable and unique insight into all aspects of the trial and appellate process. Erica joined John in Las Vegas in 2001, where she was hired at a prestigious Nevada law firm and became an experienced litigation associate. She later began her own law firm, but decided to first take a break and have children.
After spending some time at home with her young family, Erica joined Eglet Prince, Nevada’s top personal injury firm. As a partner on the trial team, Erica’s practice focuses on civil trials, personal injury and catastrophic injury cases, complex product liability cases, and multi-district litigation. She takes pride in a career spent fighting for the rights of injured clients and their families.
Erica’s advice to students preparing to graduate is to be unafraid of exploring opportunities in areas outside of your expected areas of practice.
“It is hard to know exactly what you want right out of law school, but you will have time to figure it out,” she said.
John has similar advice.
“Having a law degree is like having a PhD in how the country actually works; it can be very empowering, but to harness that potential you should be open to opportunities beyond the traditional career paths for young attorneys.”
While no one can say what the future holds for these two distinguished alumni, one can safely presume that the path they have chosen will lead them to even greater heights.