Alum of the Month April '17
Law runs in Kristin Bronson's ('97) family, but the newest Denver City Attorney did not always know that would be her career path. From work in the political arena in D.C. to holding one of Denver’s top positions, Bronson has kept public service at the core of what she does. Growing up in Pensacola, Florida, Bronson was influenced by her grandfathers, both of whom were small-town lawyers, one in Pensacola and the other in Caldwell, Idaho. She was the third generation in her family to attend the University of Virginia, where she graduated with a degree in American government. After college, she had her sights sets on working on Capitol Hill—which she did for four years as a legislative assistant for her then-hometown U.S. Senator Bob Graham. It was there that she also met her now-husband, Jeremy, who was also working for Graham.
“It was a very exciting time as a young person working in Washington D.C. on the most important issues happening in the country. You got a lot of responsibility very quickly,” she said. “I enjoyed the policy work, constituent contact, and service. I worked very closely with legislative counsel on drafting legislation, and that is really what led me to law school.”
Law school had crossed her mind in the past, but it was not until she got more involved in the policy area and working with attorneys to create and implement laws that she realized it was something she might have a knack for. She took the LSAT and began looking at schools across the country in areas where she and Jeremy could settle down and eventually start a family.
“[My husband and I] were paying for law school ourselves, so I knew I wanted a good state school in a state where I would ultimately practice. I looked across the U.S. at top public law schools, and it came down to University of Texas and University of Colorado. We came to Boulder and fell in love,” she said.
Bronson’s interest in real estate and community development led her to take as many related classes in law school as she could.
“I have always been fascinated by the way cities develop through community investment, infrastructure development, the architecture with which we surround ourselves, office buildings, neighborhoods,” she said.
She has fond memories of the Colorado Law faculty, from her section Professor Mark Loewenstein to classes taken with Professors Rick Collins, Bob Nagel, and David Hill. She recalls having conversations with Mimi Wesson about the challenges of being a woman practicing law, and the thought-provoking race and racism seminar she took with Richard Delgado.
Following graduation, she worked for Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie for nearly 20 years. Most recently, she represented real estate, banking and other business clients as a partner in the firm’s litigation area.
In October 2016, she began a new adventure by taking the helm as Denver’s City Attorney, managing a public law firm of over 200 attorneys, paralegals, victim advocates, and staff who advise the mayor, city council, auditor, clerk and recorder; the city’s 26 agencies and departments; and all of its boards and commissions. The decision to leave the firm was not an easy one, and it took the encouragement of two unrelated people to finally convince her to apply.
“My husband first mentioned that I should think about the City Attorney job, but at the time I wasn’t sure,” she said. “Then, a week later, one of my former Colorado Law classmates, Rob Wheeler (’97), sent me an email asking me to consider applying for the job. That’s what really got me thinking.”
Since she was sworn in, she has seen her job change drastically as a result of the new presidential administration.
“One of the most rewarding things for me—in light of all the turmoil and changes at the federal level—is seeing the greater impact that the city can have on the day-to-day lives of people living in Denver. If we stay true to our values, we can really make a difference,” she said.
She has worked on some of Denver’s biggest projects, including the renovation/rethinking of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center, the Great Hall Project at the airport, the National Western Center, and growth of transit and mobility options.
“It’s a really exciting time to be in Denver,” she said.
Bronson has also served the community in several volunteer capacities. She sat on the board of Denver Downtown, Inc., was chair of the Downtown Denver Partnership’s Economic Development Council, is past president of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Foundation, and is a member of the Faculty of Federal Advocates, Inc. She also served for 10 years as the pro bono legal advisor to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
“I grew up with a model of attorneys being leaders in their community. It was not something you do outside of work, but is very much a part of your duty and responsibility as a holder of a law license to be involved civically. I’ve always embraced volunteer and public service work because of the way it complemented my day to day practice and helped me be a better lawyer and a better human being,” she said.
When she’s not working, she likes to go to antique shows with her mom and dad, hang out with her two teenage daughters, cook and play tennis with her husband, Jeremy, and spend time with her family.
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
Well, it does not involve the old law school building! I regret that I never had the chance to attend classes in the new Wolf Law Building, which isn’t even that new anymore. My fondest memories were the incredible friends that I met at Colorado Law, many of whom are still close friends today.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
I wish I had known that 29 years old (the age I was when I graduated) is young, that a legal career is long, that I need not rush into finding a focus for my practice, and that breadth of experience only helps you be a better lawyer.
What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
Remember that you are going to work for the rest of your life. You should love the people you work with every day and love the work you are doing. Being a lawyer and holding a law license is a privilege and an honor. You are representing the legal community in each and every communication and interaction, so be professional, courteous, strong, and brutally honest in all that you do. I was struck recently by a sign that I saw hanging in a middle school hallway that said, “Work Hard, Be Nice,” which I think is a great motto to live by.
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
I was lucky to have a myriad of mentors and advocates during my career, starting with my parents who were very involved in their community, teachers in my early school years who taught me to be intellectually curious, U.S. Senator Bob Graham who gave me my first job out of college, my incredible partners and colleagues at Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP where I learned to practice law, and now Mayor Michael B. Hancock who I admire greatly. I don’t believe you should ever stop learning and growing from those around you. The day you decide you know everything is the day you should quit the practice of law.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
My two beautiful daughters who are 16 and 19. They inspire me every day.