January 17, 2024

Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti changes leadership roles

BOULDER — Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti LLP, a Boulder-based commercial law firm, has changed up its leadership this week, with chief operating partner Kathleen Alt becoming the firm’s new managing partner while her predecessor, Giovanni Ruscitti, becomes chairperson and general counsel for the firm.

Alt, who joined BHGR in 2005, had become chief operating partner in March 2022. Ruscitti had served as managing partner since fall 2016, succeeding founding partner George Berg.

Alt “is an exceptional human and lawyer,” Ruscitti said, “and her leadership skills, while different from mine, are what we need as an organization today.”

Ruscitti told BizWest he had been thinking for the past seven years “about the importance of having succession plans in place, both for leadership and individual practices and practice groups. Then two years ago, toward the end of 2021, I really started thinking it was time to move forward with a succession plan for the managing partner position, and who would be the right person to succeed me. I pretty quickly landed on Kathleen for a number of reasons.”

Kathleen Alt

The decision to elevate Alt to managing partner was made at an all-partner meeting in January 2022, he said, but making it happen “didn’t happen overnight” because “a well-developed plan takes into account the multiple needs of a firm and individuals.”

Besides, he said, “we’re all practicing attorneys. It’s not like we sit around and manage the law firm. There are lots of moving parts that take time to make sure that person’s going to be the right fit for the firm and be a seamless transition.”

Alt’s legal career began with a year-long clerkship on the Colorado Court of Appeals and three years trying cases at a public defender’s office after graduating at the top of her class at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. That background led her to be hired at BHGR as a member of its criminal-defense practice group.

However, Alt recalled, “I did want to expand into civil litigation, and the firm was growing and was looking for lawyers to support its general-litigation practice, so I joined that group also. I was very fortunate because I was able to train with someone like Gio [Ruscitti] and George Berg and Josh Marks.”

Berg said Alt “was one of the first women to join BHGR, and we worked together a lot during her early years.”

As she expanded her practice into civil litigation and later employment law, he said, “I was always impressed with her jury-trial experience as I also have a significant background in jury trials. As such, I was also impressed with her ability to manage complex problems while maintaining a great understanding of human nature.”

Before taking on the newly created role of chief operating partner, Alt became the firm’s first female equity partner.

Berg “was, and still is, an incredible visionary,” Ruscitti said, “who created a law firm that could break barriers — a firm with exceptionally talented people who could provide ‘big-firm’ quality for boutique-firm service and cost-effectiveness.”

Giovanni Ruscitti

With Berg’s vision, Ruscitti said he realized he would need to adopt alternative and progressive leadership methods that would break the barriers of what the legal industry had historically practiced.

Breaking barriers also was needed when the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions “forced us to reconsider how we did everything from our physical work spaces, how we worked together,” Ruscitti said. “Law firms were very traditional in nature, where everyone was expected to come to an office and have a butt in a seat. Obviously the world events of 2020-21 forced us to re-evaluate what we do. I was very proud of our ability to adapt. I thought we were on the cutting edge of flexibility. In fact, we became the very first law firm in the state of Colorado to offer a four-day workweek to all of our employees, whoever wanted to take it. We really embraced the flexible work environment.”

The pandemic as well as the political upheaval of 2020-21 “impacted people, not in their roles as lawyers but just how we live our everyday lives and what matters to us,” he said. “So our focus really turned to our people and making sure everyone’s well-being was preserved. We started openly talking about things like mental-health issues, and because of those same world events, client needs became a lot of crisis management – things that had never been discussed before.”

In her new role, Alt said, “I’d like to continue the legacy George Berg first started and also Giovanni continued, and also the initiatives and workplace culture and the policies, procedures and growth Giovanni kind of captained over these past seven years. I’d like to continue these over this next decade, and that means smartly managing our growth, because we are growing. Addressing our facilities, our physical space, our recruitment and our retention of our employees and lawyers so that we are able to continue to offer the legal services we do.”

Recruitment is an evolving science, Alt said.

“We get very good lawyers who are in law firms for maybe three years, then move to another three years. That doesn’t mean they’re not good lawyers because they’re jumping around; it  reflects a change in the market and the workplace. We have to acknowledge that, but we want to create an environment where we want our employees to have careers here.”

Keeping up with a changing market also means continuing BHGR’s culture of breaking barriers, Alt said.

“The makeup of the market we’re recruiting from is changing,” she said. “We see a lot of statistics that women now are making up over 50% of law-school classes. And that’s being reflected in the workplace and from where we’re recruiting. So we want to make sure we’re responding to that, and also have a workplace that has a culture where everyone can succeed and have professional fulfillment.”

The changing market is also “a little bit generational, with people working longer,” Ruscitti said. “We have lawyers here now who are 25 and some in our 70s.”

And that’s yet another barrier the firm broke down, Ruscitti said.

“Most law firms have a mandatory retirement age,” he said. “BHGR has no mandatory retirement age.”

BOULDER — Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti LLP, a Boulder-based commercial law firm, has changed up its leadership this week, with chief operating partner Kathleen Alt becoming the firm’s new managing partner while her predecessor, Giovanni Ruscitti, becomes chairperson and general counsel for the firm.

Alt, who joined BHGR in 2005, had become chief operating partner in March 2022. Ruscitti had served as managing partner since fall 2016, succeeding founding partner George Berg.

Alt “is an exceptional human and lawyer,” Ruscitti said, “and her leadership skills, while different from mine, are what we need as an organization today.”

Ruscitti told BizWest he had been…

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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