Alum of the Month March '17

Laurie Rust ('06)Laurie Rust has translated a desire to have a profound effect and help others into a successful career. From serving as partner in the employment law and commercial litigation groups at Gordon & Rees to volunteering across the globe, she has an impressive resume that is bolstered by her penchant for helping others.

Rust has been honored as far back as 2008 as an “Up and Coming Lawyer” by Law Week Colorado, and has been named a “Rising Star” by Law & Politics in business litigation, civil litigation defense, employment and labor, health care, and intellectual property litigation for the last five years. From serving on the University of Colorado Law Review to studying at Oxford to being an esteemed lawyer, Rust has a proven track record.

Her decision to enter employment law can be traced back to her upbringing in Nashua, New Hampshire, where her father was a labor union leader.

“He taught me the importance of treating employees with respect and dignity,” Rust said. “Employment was the one area of law I felt like I understood—I’d had several jobs and grew up hearing about the union. It turned out to be a perfect fit.”

Rust heard from an early age that she should consider law (“likely due to my penchant for arguing,” she joked), but she wasn’t originally drawn to it. After attending CU Boulder for her undergraduate education, she spent several months volunteering in Ukraine and Turkey before becoming a mutual fund accountant in Boston for a year. Then the atypical path to law school continued, as she transitioned to becoming an international human rights accompanier, where she worked with a genocide case in Guatemala. This role involved accompanying Guatemalans facing threats and violence for their work defending human rights.

“It wasn’t until I understood the profound effect lawyers have on shaping society that I knew I wanted to go to law school,” she said.

Her work following college took her across the globe, but when it came time to pick a law school, she was drawn back to Boulder. She’d applied to schools on both coasts, plus the University of Colorado Law School. The value of a JD from Colorado Law was the swaying factor in her return to the Front Range.

“The relatively low debt burden would give me options to pursue a career based on my interest and not on the salary,” she said. “I also really appreciated the small and collegial environment.”

It wound up being a great fit, as she bonded with her class immediately.

“(We) had a unique spirit de corp. Our 1L year was Dean Getches’ first year as Dean,” she said.

She was there during the final years in the Fleming Law Building, before the current Wolf Law Building was finished. In fact, Rust and her classmates assisted with getting the new building’s plan approved, helping to shape future Colorado Law students’ experiences at the school.

“We were dedicated to helping out in every way possible,” she said. “Our class was heavily involved in getting the capital construction fee passed to complete funding of the new building. Dozens of us traveled to the UMC to testify on behalf of the bill—during finals! It was amazing to see so many people take time away from studying to support taxing themselves for a building that would not open until after we left.”

Rust’s global travels continued during her time at Colorado Law.  She spent the summer of 2004 studying international human rights law at Oxford, where she and other law students from across the globe learned from professors “on the forefront of research and action.” That experience also helped draw her to litigation.

“One of my mentors suggested that I would be much more of an asset with a few years of practical litigation experience,” she said.

That advice was taken to heart. Rust got a summer associate position at Holme Roberts & Owen, where she enjoyed the work profoundly. After graduating from law school, she accepted an associate position at HRO, where she was mentored by future Colorado Supreme Court Justice Richard Gabriel. She stayed at HRO for almost five years before the opportunity to become senior counsel at Gordon & Rees presented itself. Rust made the switch and thrived in the new role. Just four years later, she was promoted to partner. She identifies that moment as the top accomplishment in her career.

“It was a recognition that I’ve built my own successful business by working hard, understanding my clients’ needs, and delivering great results,” she said.

In her current role, she partners with businesses to help them identify and mitigate risks within their workforce. She defends them in litigation when needed, and handles a variety of employment-related disputes. She prolifically wins decisions for her clients, and in the past year alone, she’s won major decisions including:

  • being the lead trial counsel for a hotel management company in a successful OSHA hearing of a whistleblower retaliation claim
  • winning summary judgment on Title VII claims, and
  • getting dismissal of claims for interference with contractual and business relations made against one of her clients.

Her favorite moments aren’t any one case—from which she plenty to choose—but rather when she helps her clients find the best route forward.

“My advice and counsel is very much influenced by my background,” Rust said. “I love it when a client chooses not just to do what is required, but to follow best practices.”

When Rust isn’t working, she’s active in two senses. First, she does yoga, hikes, and bikes. Second, and more importantly, she does international volunteer trips every other year. She recently hosted an event to benefit the International Rescue Committee, which supports refugees in Colorado. As her body of work shows, she’s helpful to the community in and out of the courtroom. And she’s still receiving Rising Star honors as recently as last year. The odds are, the best is yet to come.

What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?

Our class was heavily involved in getting the capital construction fee passed to complete funding of the new building Law Building, which was completed in 2006.

What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school? 

I wish I had understood the business of law—both as it applies to law firms and to my clients’ businesses. 

What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?  

Stay true to your heart.  Remember why you went to law school and figure out how to make it part of your career—even if it is not the most obvious path. 

Who was the biggest influence on your career?  

I have two:

  1. Colorado Supreme Court Justice Richard Gabriel was my first supervising attorney at HRO. He taught me the importance of professionalism and integrity by way of example. We worked on some high-profile and emotional cases. Even after opposing counsel unfairly attacked him in the blogosphere, Justice Gabriel always shook their hands and wished them well. He taught me to attack the argument, not the lawyer. 
  2. My father. He was a labor union leader, which has made for some interesting dinner table conversation. He taught me the importance of treating employees with respect and dignity. 

Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

In the fall of 2015, I was elevated to partner at Gordon & Rees.

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