Randi Grassgreen’s philanthropic and self-assured nature has allowed her to balance a rewarding career with serving nonprofits in order to make a difference in the world. As director of family wealth planning at Crestone Capital, LLC, and an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Law School, Grassgreen makes an impact on the lives of her clients, students, and community.
As a child, Grassgreen envisioned a career in law, but she worked in accounting before attending law school. “I planned my future career as a lawyer in my fifth grade ‘Future Book,’ a project where we illustrated our lives at age 35. I even had my outfits for the courtroom all picked out,” she remembered.
Grassgreen received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Master of Taxation from the University of North Carolina.
“I was working as a tax accountant [in New York] when I saw that the attorneys were the ones on the ground floor doing a lot of the planning and I started to think about going back to school to study law,” she recalled.
She followed her passion for the environment to Boulder, where she was drawn to Colorado Law’s nationally recognized environmental law program. “I actually thought I wanted to do environmental law and Colorado had the best environmental law program,” she said. “But even though I’m passionate about the environment, environmental law wasn’t as exciting for me.” She wasn’t interested in being in the courtroom, nor did she want to practice environmental defense.
She began looking for other ways to make an impact on the world.
“I took Wills and Trusts, and then Federal Estate and Gift Tax with Professor Wayne Gazur (’81) and I realized I could make an impact doing estate planning and focusing on estate planning for individuals,” she said. In her previous career, Grassgreen had delighted in the intellectual challenge of tax where creative solutions were often needed, and she found something similar in estate planning.
“I saw estate planning as a way to couple intellectual challenges with rewarding experiences,” she said. In her current role at Crestone, that is exactly what she does, combining the ability to analyze tax law with the opportunity to work with her client families to maximize their impact and legacy on the world.
Two professors at Colorado Law influenced Grassgreen’s career and eventual position as an adjunct professor. “Professors Gazur and J. Dennis Hynes (’60) were both mentors to me while I was at Colorado Law,” she recalled. “Professor Hynes was my first-year Contracts professor and he was very traditional. He used the Socratic method, wore a suit and tie every day, and he also knew the name of every student by the second day. He had a specific way he wanted students to think and analyze. I adopted his style of learning to my other classes which was very helpful and made law school make sense.”
Grassgreen’s ability to adapt to thinking like a lawyer allowed her to excel in Contracts.
“Professor Hynes chose me to be his tutor for his class the following the year,” she said. “Once I started tutoring I realized that I enjoyed giving back and helping others.” Her experience tutoring her peers in law school eventually led Grassgreen to the path of teaching students part-time.
Although she knew she enjoyed tutoring, teaching an entire law school course was entirely different. “Wayne [Gazur] asked me to be an adjunct professor initially,” she recalled. “At first I was torn. I knew I would enjoy teaching, but it’s also time intensive on top of my other commitments.” In the end, Grassgreen agreed to become an adjunct professor at Colorado Law in 2008. She started teaching Wills and Trusts and has since moved on to teaching Estate Planning. She will teach a new course, Estate and Gift Tax Planning, in spring 2019.
In order to become a more effective professor, Grassgreen made sure she also learned more about teaching law. “At first I observed other professors who had been rated highly by their students and I also learned about myself that first year. I learned that silence is your friend, which is counterintuitive to me as someone who grew up in New York,” she joked. “Since estate planning is something I work with every day, it’s easy to infuse the class with practical experiences.”
One of the reasons Grassgreen continues to come back as an adjunct professor at Colorado Law is how rewarding she finds teaching. “Teaching is rewarding when students come up to me after class and tell me how my class inspired them to look at estate planning as a career. Even now, I sometimes see my former students out and about in practice and I love seeing them thriving.”
While she enjoys her work with Crestone and her students at Colorado Law, Grassgreen is possibly proudest of her time spent working with nonprofits as a volunteer. “I’m gratified that I can balance my high-pressured career with teaching and still be able to give back to the community,” she said. “I do a lot of work for nonprofits through Social Venture Partners serving as a board member and nonprofit volunteer consultant in order to help them do what they do best. Additionally, at Crestone, I’m able to work with clients who have the ability to make a difference and I can help them help the world at large,” she said.
Besides classes and work, Grassgreen believes in the importance of maintaining close relationships, especially with her classmates from Colorado Law. “It’s also important to maintain your close personal relationships,” she advised. “My first-year section bonded really quickly and we’re still friends to this day. One of the biggest impacts on my life from law school is the relationships I built.”
When she is not volunteering, working, or teaching, Grassgreen values spending her free time with her husband and her black lab. “We really enjoy spending time in the Colorado mountains,” she said. “We try to hike every weekend. We also love to travel as much as possible and we find exploring new places very enriching. Additionally, we also really enjoy film festivals. This past summer we went to the Telluride Film Festival where we saw Boy Erased, which was very moving and my favorite recent film.”
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
The close friendships I made that are still in place today.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
School goes by so quickly—enjoy the learning environment while you’re there.
What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
You certainly don’t need to figure out everything before graduating. Plenty of successful attorneys started out doing one thing and end up on another path! Also, have confidence in yourself.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
Both of the women who were effectively my first two “bosses” in my career: Janet Moran (in NYC) and Lynne Lehman (in Denver). They taught me how to practice my craft, how to put clients first, how to think critically. They also modeled what it looked like to be a successful professional woman.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Being able to balance my career, along with relationships, along with the nonprofit work I do.