BizWest is proud to recognize women who set legal precedents, winning big cases for their clients, and mentoring the next wave of women in law – all while finding ways to give back to their communities. The leaders profiled in the following pages were nominated by their peers at work and in the community and showcase the diversity of talent in our market. The leadership shown by the individuals profiled here is setting an example to shape a better future for our region.
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METHODOLOGY: The honorees did not pay to be included. Their profiles were drawn from nomination materials. This list features only individuals for whom nominations were submitted and accepted after a review by our editorial team. To qualify for the list, nominees must be employed at companies in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado, notable executives are running businesses, navigating company restructurings, arguing high-stakes legal cases, and finding efficiencies in manufacturing processes. These notable individuals also mentor, teach and volunteer in their communities.
To nominate for future Notables, please click here.
Years in law: 20
Colleges: University of Maryland, University of Denver College of Law
Kathleen Alt was Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti’s first female partner. She co-chairs the employment law practice group and works in the criminal defense practice.
In the last year, her employment law practice grew and positioned her as a community expert in helping companies tackle the ever-changing landscape brought on by COVID-19. She worked to ensure her clients were in compliance with OSHA, CDC, and federal, state, and local regulations.
Alt also serves on the firm’s management committee. In addition to her legal practice, Alt is active in the Boulder community. She is an equestrian and supporter of canine rescue and arts organizations. Notably, she is the chair of the Boulder Ballet not for profit.
“On a more personal note,” said her nominator Ashley Cawthorn, marketing director at the law firm, “Kathleen is a great leader and mentor. She inspires and empowers me to also be a female leader in a male-dominated world, and I am truly grateful for the example that she sets.”
K. Michelle AmRhein
Attorney at law
Years in law: 25
Colleges: Oral Roberts University, University of Colorado School of Law
Attorney K. Michelle AmRhein is a partner with Coan, Payton & Payne LLC. “With more than 25 years of experience, AmRhein brings invaluable knowledge and skill to her work each day,” according to law firm founder Michael Payne.
“Clients and colleagues describe Michelle as a committed and intelligent attorney with an innate ability to see the big picture in complex dealings. Everyone who comes into contact with Michelle knows her as a kind and thoughtful person with an unwavering dedication to her clients and the community. She is a genuinely selfless individual who is always willing to help those around her.”
AmRhein’s practice focuses on estate planning, wealth transfer and philanthropy for families; assisting in the administration of probate estates and trusts; and working with business owners to achieve the successful exit from and succession of their businesses.
“She inspires the trust of her clients through her extensive knowledge and approachable demeanor,” Payne said.
AmRhein is licensed to practice law in both Colorado and Arizona and is also a licensed certified public accountant in Colorado. She volunteers in the community at Junior Achievement Northern Colorado & Wyoming Advisory Board, the Good Samaritan Society Advisory Committee and the Poudre Valley Hospital & Medical Center of the Rockies Foundation Planned Giving Advisory Committee. She has been a part of the Coan, Payton & Payne team for 10 years.
Years in law: 12
Colleges: St. Ambrose University, St. Louis University
Heather Boelens facilitated a transaction between Etkin Johnson Real Estate Partners, a large Industrial property owner, and Quicksilver Scientific, a rapidly growing company in the health industry. What complicated the situation was that the current tenant was Packard Plus, a large player in the oil and gas industry.
Working through issues with these three different companies with different cultures and different goals, Boelens made this transition for Quicksilver Scientific smooth and productive, according to her nominator, Eric Rutherford, a client, who is a broker at WK Real Estate. Quicksilver itself was going through a leadership change and growing pains, and Boelens managed to keep the transaction on track.
She is on the real estate advisory committee for the Boulder Community Foundation, advising it on its real estate needs. In addition she is involved with CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women network), mentoring and working with young women as they enter the commercial real estate industry. She is involved with the Downtown Denver Partnership as this organization follows through on its vision to make Denver economically strong. “Heather performed in a professional manner and continues to do so and is an active participant in the community where she works,” Rutherford said.
Years in law: 21
Colleges: UCLA, University of Denver School of Law
“Rebecca is a perfect honoree for this recognition. She is very professional and works to understand each client and the client’s needs,” said Deb Alles, owner of Cardallies Properties LLC, a client.
“She is a respected personal injury lawyer but is knowledgeable in other areas of the law. She is quick to respond and respectful of time. She is unique by holding a very special and humbling knack for understanding and balancing options for all involved.”
“We recently worked on a case together (I was her client), and she went above and beyond to provide answers that would keep our case on track. She is passionate about her work, and does it well. She has successfully, (legally) represented so many in Northern Colorado in the past 20 plus years,” Alles said.
Burton is a Loveland native. She has been involved with numerous organizations, including the McKee Wellness Foundation board, educational and children’s non-profits, board member of Sculpture in the Park, co-founder of backpacks for kids, and Rotary. “She is passionate, loyal, and humble, and gives to many causes. I have personally witnessed this on multiple occasions. She is an outstanding member of our community, and I am a better person for knowing her.”
Years in law: 5
Colleges: University of Vermont, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
“Stephanie is a dynamic, devoted attorney who has worked in our law firm for more than five years, diligently building her client base among both domestic law and criminal law teams within the firm,” said senior paralegal Trish O’Flaherty. “She acts as a volunteer for several organizations. I have witnessed her speaking with clients, emailing with clients, and generally impressing the firm so much that she has become a shareholder in record time.”
Fournier has been a member of the board of Children’s First of the Rockies, a non-profit devoted to working with the underserved children in Northern Colorado, as well as serving as a volunteer for the Weld County, Larimer County, and Boulder County Legal Services organizations on a regular basis. She previously worked closely with both the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office and was a guardian ad litem with the University of Denver Civil Litigation Clinic.
“Stephanie is truly an exceptional advocate for both parents and children in the domestic law area and for clients involved with criminal matters including DUI and DWAI. I can only imagine how respected she is among her client base. If I needed an attorney for either domestic or criminal matters for myself or anyone I care about, she would be my first contact.”
Equity partner, managing partner
Years in law: 16
Colleges: Colorado Christian University, University of Colorado School of Law
“In no time at all, our team realized the perfect candidate for nomination [to Notables in Law] is Messner Reeves’ managing partner Michelle Harden,” said Jennifer Bulotti from Dovetail Solutions, the marketing agency for the law firm.
“Yes, she has been named to a number of top lawyer lists since starting her career in 2005. Yes, she was awarded the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association Professionalism Award for 2020. Yes, she was identified and promoted to a management role at her award-winning national law firm. On paper, Michelle Harden is the perfect candidate to be recognized by BizWest as a notable woman of law, which becomes even more apparent in person.”
In addition to balancing a litigation and trial practice, Harden focuses her time to mentor many of the firm’s female attorneys and those new to the team. “Her insight and perspective on the industry is empowering, as she works to find ways to make connections that lead to networking and leadership opportunities for each of them. Never one to be complacent, Michelle herself continues her own career development, most recently as an active board member with Colorado COVID Legal Relief and was a catalyst in the development of a pro-bono program for local small businesses offered by Messner Reeves,” Bulotti said.
She serves as the vice president for The Zarlengo Foundation board, is actively involved in Messner Reeves Diversity Initiatives, established the Women’s Executive Networking Series, and has a history of involvement in philanthropic efforts throughout Colorado.
“From her mentoring initiatives to exceptional counsel, Michelle is a recognized leader within the firm, who embraces a team mentality offering support and guidance when needed. She successfully balances intelligence with empathy, initiative with experience and should be recognized as one of the most notable women in law.”
Attorney at Law
Years in law: 4
Colleges: University of Northern Colorado, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Attorney Amanda Huston is a senior associate with Coan, Payton & Payne LLC who focuses her practice on business law and real estate matters. Colleagues and clients describe her as an exceptional attorney who is dedicated to the details and commits with courage to achieving outcomes for her clients. She never backs down from a challenge and constantly finds ways to exceed expectations.
As described by her nominator, Michael Payne, she has a kind demeanor that makes clients and colleagues alike feel at ease when working with her. “In everything she does, Huston shows her heart for others,” Payne wrote.
In 2019, she was selected as a BizWest 40 Under Forty Honoree.
Her community service roles include: Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority board member, Neighbor to Neighbor asset management committee member and board member, Uncaged board of directors, Urban Land Institute Northern Colorado committee member and education subcommittee member and Colorado Lawyer Young Lawyer Division coordinating editor. She is also a former member of the Immigrant and Refugee Center of Northern Colorado board of directors (2018-2021). Huston has been a part of the Coan, Payton & Payne LLC team since 2017.
Years in law: 24
Colleges: Arizona State University, University of Colorado School of Law
“We at JBP are proud to have Anne B. Jorgensen as our managing shareholder,” Anne Jorgensen’s nominator, Andrea Rau, wrote in her nomination. “As a litigator, Anne focuses on issues related to contested probate, trust, conservatorships and guardianships. In addition, she practices in areas of estate planning, elder law, Medicaid planning, and long-term care planning.”
Jorgensen is an attorney accredited by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and works with her clients to take advantage of veteran’s benefits to help pay for long-term care. “Always creative, genuine, and tenacious, she makes every effort to meet the needs of our clients. Her streamlined approach to the cases she handles translates into efficiency. As the managing shareholder, Anne was able to successfully navigate the serious downfalls that affected so many businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic last year. [Using her] leadership, business management style, and genuine care for her employees, Anne pulled together her tenacity and savvy with creative ideas to ensure all of the attorneys and staff remained a part of the firm without any layoffs so we could continue our work in the communities we serve,” Rau wrote.
In addition to her law practice and management of the firm’s 38 employees, participates in the community. She volunteers as a committee member with several organizations, including the Boulder County Senior Law Day and Elder Care Network of Northern Colorado. Her work helps bring law events to seniors who might not otherwise have access to resources and information that are vital to their lives.
“Anne shows compassion and strength to lead JBP everyday. We often say how does she do it? Answer: It’s her passion for the law, her community, and her ‘family’ at the firm.”
Years in law: 30
Colleges: Davidson College, University of Kansas School of Law
In the words of nominator Susan Kirkpatrick, a friend and owner of Savory Spice Fort Collins, “Celeste Holder Kling is dedicated to finding positive solutions to difficult situations. She practices in the areas of mediation, children’s advocacy, estate planning and probate. As a mediator, Celeste is encouraged that an increasingly high percentage of individuals, couples, families, and businesses with legal issues are deciding to resolve their conflicts through this constructive, non-adversarial approach.”
She has been a member of the Early Neutral Assessment team for the Eighth Judicial District and brings state level involvement with children’s rights and representation. She taught family law at Colorado State University for 22 years.
She served for eight years on Colorado’s Board of the Office of the Child’s Representative. Subsequently, she served as a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Standing Committee on Family Issues from 2009 through 2019. She is a member of the Eighth Judicial District’s Best Practices Committee for Domestic Relations. In addition to her legal practice, she has served the Northern Colorado community on the board of the Health District of Northern Colorado for more than 10 years — two terms followed by a recent re-election to the board, and is a member of the Poudre Valley Hospital/UCHealth Board. She mentors young lawyers who are interested in child advocacy, estate planning and mediation.
Years in law: 21
Colleges: University of Iowa, University of Colorado School of Law
“I nominate Lisa Larsen as a Notable in Law winner for 2021. In addition to being an outstanding expert and prominent attorney in the areas of estate planning, estate and gift taxation and business planning, Lisa is also an exceptional person,” said Cindy Bragdon, a wealth adviser at First Western Trust.
“She is ethical, compassionate, considerate, proficient and competent. She gains the trust of her clients and other advisors who seek her expertise and is always very proactive in finding the right solution for her clients.”
Larsen has served her community for many years in various roles, including on the board of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, serving as treasurer, executive committee member, and recent chairman of the Regional Development Council.
“One of the characteristics that makes Lisa so successful is her ability to communicate to each of her clients individually and develop the right solution for the issues at hand. She is incredibly efficient and keeps her promises. When there are documents to be delivered, calls to be made, meetings to be held, Lisa is on time and delivers when she says she will. People can count on her,” Bragdon said.
Larsen is a wife and mother of two daughters and is actively involved in their lives.
Attorney at law
Years in law: 6
Colleges: University of Florida, Georgia State University law school
Lauren Lester is a solopreneur who practices family law in Colorado with her firm Lester Law LLC (www.mylifelawyer.com). Unlike traditional law firms, Lester Law provides only flat fee services, and clients control cost by paying only for the help they need.
Lester graduated from the University of Florida and earned her law degree from Georgia State University. Before becoming a lawyer, she worked for a decade as a project manager overseeing website development projects for numerous clients, including national brands. She is passionate about the business of law and helping other lawyers build practices they love. She co-founded On Purpose Legal, which provides resources to legal professionals about how to develop a modern practice that provides valuable legal services while supporting wellbeing. Learn more at www.adifferentpractice.com.
Lester sits on the board of Legal Entrepreneurs For Justice, a non-profit legal incubator that trains and supports socially conscious lawyers who provide affordable legal solutions to low and middle-income clients in Colorado. She has also been a volunteer with Metro Volunteer Lawyers since 2015 and donates a portion of profits to local organizations voted on by her clients.
Senior legal counsel
Years in law: 8
Colleges: University of North Florida, Florida Coastal School of Law
Brandy Natalzia has served for the past two years as senior legal counsel for Brinkman Real Estate in Fort Collins where she handles real estate transactions for the company. Prior to private corporate practice, she was an attorney at Otis, Bedingfield & Peters LLC where she practiced for almost five years. Her specialty there was also real estate law, especially in the commercial real estate sector.
“Brandy has been a leader in her field for more than eight years. In addition to her career, she has been active in CREW, Commercial Real Estate Women, where she has served as both president and board member,” said Gary McDonald, a business banker at Ent Credit Union.
Her role with CREW has included a term as president and as a member of the board. CREW is a networking group that helps women in commercial real estate advance their careers. The Northern Colorado chapter is part of a world-wide organization of more than 11,000 members. The local CREW chapter represents women in commercial real estate in Weld and Larimer counties and has about 50 members.
“CREW Network seeks to influence the success of the commercial real estate industry by focusing on fulfilling four key initiatives: business development, leadership development, industry research and career outreach,” according to information provided in Natalzia’s LinkedIn profile.
Years in law: 25
Colleges: University of Colorado, Boston College Law School
“I came to know Amy, in 2013, when she assisted us at Longmont Humane Society with charges regarding a dangerous dog,” wrote her nominator, Elizabeth Smokowski. “Amy was thoughtful and educated our LHS team regarding the law. She gave advice to our board of directors that was nonpolitical and law-based regarding the options for how to handle the case, and she gave me support through her intelligence and compassion.
“She helped prepare witnesses for trial, eliminating any ‘fear’ of the legal system for our staff. Ultimately, after a trial in front of Judge Archuleta, she prevailed on our behalf.
“Over the years, I have often consulted Amy on legal issues facing LHS, and she has always been generous with her time and pro bono advice. As a member of the board of directors with the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce, Amy’s inclusive and outgoing approach distinguishes her from others. She displays a strong commitment to the community and acts as a bright, inquisitive, energetic leader who understands the big picture. It has been exciting to watch Amy pursue her passion of law and pledge to bring good to our community.”
Partner and shareholder
Years in law: 29
Colleges: Pomona College, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
“I have had the pleasure of working for and with Rebecca Pepin since 2012. Over the last 29 years, Rebecca has dedicated her time in the industry to helping people with the two most important things in their lives: family and finances,” said Stephanie Whaley, senior paralegal at the firm.
“Rebecca’s caring nature makes her a strong advocate for her clients, and willingness to go above and beyond speaks volumes of her character. Rebecca is well known for always going that extra mile for clients and those around her. She truly has a heart of gold.”
Pepin has volunteered at many nonprofit organizations and holds the following affiliations: Colorado Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, vice president; Boulder Interdisciplinary Committee, member; Weld County Best Practices, team member; Weld County Legal Services, Ask-An-Attorney volunteer; Boulder County Legal Night, Ask-An-Attorney volunteer.
“It is with extreme pleasure that I nominate this wonderful individual as notable as she has definitely earned her spot among this amazing group of women.”
Attorney at law
Years in law: 9
Colleges: University of Colorado Boulder, University of St. Thomas School of Law
“Kelli Riley has devoted her legal career to advocacy for workers’ rights. She sees people at their worst, when they have been taken advantage of, discriminated against, and shorted their hard-earned wages,” according to her nominator, Deborah Yim with the Primera Law Group.
“Ms. Riley uses her expertise and experience to guide her clients through these difficult times toward resolution,” Yim said.
Riley earned her law degree, cum laude, at University of St. Thomas School of Law, where she served as membership editor for the school’s flagship law review. She received her undergraduate degree in both history and Spanish & Portuguese Language and Culture at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is a member of the Colorado Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association, the Colorado Bar Association, Weld County Bar Association, and Weld Chapter of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association.
Riley is also involved in the Wage Theft Task Force, working to eradicate wage theft through advocacy, litigation, outreach, and education. She is fluent in Spanish, and even hosted a weekly local call-in radio show for a time in Greeley for Spanish-speakers to ask legal questions. Additionally, Riley serves on the board as vice president for the Women’s Fund of Weld County. Women’s Fund raises money and gives grants to area nonprofits to empower women and girls. She also serves on the committee for the Weld Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, which works to conserve waterfowl and wetlands.
Riley is the Weld Chapter liaison to the CWBA Board and the lead of the Weld Chapter, which involves planning all events for women lawyers in Weld County, from CLEs to yoga. She is the chair of the law school and law clerk working group for the CWBA’s Sexual Misconduct in the Judiciary Committee, and she is also a long-term member of the Wage Theft Task Force.
Years in law: 30
Colleges: University of Chicago, University of California law school
Carrie Schiff is co-founding partner at Sage Law Group in Boulder, where she is a corporate, securities and commercial transactions lawyer who serves as an outside general counsel to her company clients, as well as deal counsel for her investor clients in the acquisition and disposition of their portfolio companies.
In addition to Schiff’s accomplishments in corporate, securities and commercial transaction law, three areas stand out regarding her leadership, according to Sharon King, executive director of the Boulder Small Business Development Center office.
(1) Schiff has contributed her expertise, time and insights to many small businesses in Boulder County and Northern Colorado, as well as serving as a board member for the Boulder SBDC Foundation. She has helped many entrepreneurs to avoid major pitfalls and to make decisions based on expert information.
(2) She impacts the Boulder Valley, Northern Colorado and the entire state in her role as chairperson of the state economic development commission, serving two governors.
(3) Her leadership is demonstrated through ongoing mentorship of many young attorneys, both in her own firm and in collaboration with statewide nonprofits whose missions are to build legal and other professional resources throughout the state. She is an advocate for doing business in rural Colorado.
“Carrie’s clients seek her out for her unique business and operational perspective, accumulated from her decades of experience as a business executive and corporate attorney. She has been developing these skills since she began her legal career with an international law firm, and honed them throughout her tenure as a general counsel and business executive in venture-backed, employee-owned and public companies,” King said. “In those roles, Carrie participated in the development and execution of financing and commercialization strategies for a range of companies, from global multinational companies to start-ups.”
Senior legal counsel
Years in law: 28
Colleges: Penn State, Temple Law School
Since the pandemic first started to hit Colorado in March of 2020, Linda Schutjer has made herself available to provide legal advice and assistance to the Colorado Manufacturer’s COVID Task Force.
“Her tireless dedication to the health and safety of all Coloradans has been evident from the beginning when we began to manufacture emergency PPE for first responders, domestic violence centers, and homeless shelters across the state, through developing the COVID Safety System, which would eventually be adapted and adopted as the 5 Star Certification program for Boulder, Denver, and San Miguel counties,” said nominator, Nathan Morimitsu of H2 Manufacturing Solutions. “Her volunteer work led to economic and safety impacts that we are not even able to measure yet. However, we know that she did assist more than 5,000 people getting their jobs back and more than 500 businesses re-opening safely. As a Colorado constituent, a thank you just doesn’t seem enough but acknowledging her efforts on this level does feel better.”
Her specific accomplishments with these programs include helping to create liability waivers that not only protect the counties but the businesses that were being aided by the 5 Star programs, and the volunteers who went into the field to audit them, making sure that the contracts between program provider H2 Manufacturing Solutions and the counties were ironclad and protected all parties equally under local, state, and federal laws.
“We can say with great confidence that Linda’s assistance on these programs was instrumental in protecting life and property not only in Northern Colorado and the Front Range but in businesses as far away as Wisconsin. And all of this assistance was provided pro-bono, enabling us to ramp up faster and protect more lives and businesses,” Morimitsu said. “You can view the COVID Manufacturing Taskforce annual report for further details at https://bit.ly/2020CoMfgCOVIDTF. Linda had a hand in everything outlined in that.
Years in law: 13
Colleges: Colorado State University, University of Kansas School of Law
Sara Stieben works primarily in the area of personal injury law, dedicating her career to assisting injured parties in Northern Colorado achieve justice.
“Part of this drive is a result of Sara being raised on a farm outside of Fort Collins where she learned from an early age that hard work and dedication are necessary components to achieving success,” said client John Berkhausen of Adams Bank & Trust. “She also realized the importance of giving back to her local community. Sara has volunteered as a youth basketball coach, as a mock trial coach and judge, and has served on boards for various organizations,” he said.
Stieben has served as a board member of the Fort Collins Bike Co-op and serves as a member the Colorado Bar Association and Denver Bar Association Joint Management Committee, where she serves as a presidential appointee. She is active in both state and local bar associations.
She received her law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law in 2008, where she received both the Mary Anne Chambers Service Award and Class Leadership Award.
She is a former insurance defense attorney. Prior to working at her current firm, she spent years working with insurance adjusters and protecting the at-fault parties from liability. She is now in the position to use the knowledge she gained as an insurance defense attorney to advance the interests of her injured clients in order to obtain favorable outcomes and to hold the insurance companies and at-fault parties accountable. Stieben has litigated cases and negotiated settlements in the areas of bodily injury claims, premises liability, construction defect, large loss property damage claims, insurance bad faith and other general civil litigation, including business disputes, partnership dissolutions and probate.
Years in law: 7
Colleges: Washington State University, University of Colorado School of Law
Lia Szasz may be the only Notable nominee to be actively engaged in both law and cattle farming. Szasz and her husband live in eastern Colorado and in addition to their professional obligations have a small cattle farm and are active in both managing this business and helping their neighbors, as is often the case in rural Colorado.
“Lia brings a level of enthusiasm and energy to our team that is contagious. Even while working remotely during much of 2020, she has led several initiatives within the company including systems to develop deeper and more valuable professional relationships with our clients and the administrative infrastructure to support our efforts,” said Timothy Brynteson, a colleague in the firm. “Her work on behalf of her clients who are caught in litigation for various reasons has been thorough and effective, resolving her many matters with positive results for her clients and in the most efficient manner possible.”
“Lia Szasz combines the best of the professional expertise and sophistication required to be a talented litigator in a competitive field, yet the approachableness and kindness that makes her an effective leader in our company and in her community,” Brynteson said.