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Get to Know the 2023 Raising the Bar Honorees, Part 1



On Thursday, September 7, 2023, from 5 to 8 p.m., the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Foundation will hold its 17th Annual “Raising the Bar” celebration at the Denver Athletic Club. The evening will honor three individuals who “Raise the Bar by Fostering Well-Being in the Legal Profession”: Justice Monica Márquez, J. Ryann Peyton, and Sarah Meyers. Each has “implemented well-being strategies, modeled and promoted health and wellness, and taken concrete steps to enable lawyers to thrive.”


The 1891 asked each of the honorees a few questions to let you know them better:


Justice Monica Márquez


Justice Monica Márquez was appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court by Governor Bill Ritter and sworn in on December 10, 2010. Prior to joining the Court, Justice Márquez served as Deputy Attorney General at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and in Private Practice with Holme Roberts & Owen, LLP.


As one nominator enthused, “Perhaps what I admire the very most, is her willingness to be vulnerable in sharing her own powerful story. Through openly sharing her own story of well-being challenges in her career, it allows others to also express their own challenges more openly. Her courage to directly facilitate difficult conversations and her ability to create a truly collaborative and inclusive culture has promoted rich conversation regarding deep issues that would have never otherwise been culture has promoted rich conversation regarding deep issues that would have never otherwise been uncovered or discussed. Justice Márquez models well-being even within such a demanding and high-profile role. She is always exploring and sharing resources with those around her such as mediation apps, articles, podcasts and websites.”


The 1891: What does this award mean to you?


Justice Márquez: I’m delighted to be recognized along with Sarah Myers and Ryann Peyton for our collective work in fostering well-being in the legal profession. Change is hard. This work is hard. And the pandemic has made it even harder. But Sarah and Ryann have been both passionate and relentless in their commitment to this work, and thanks to them, Colorado has become a guiding light and national leader in this area. It means a great deal to me and my colleagues on the supreme court to have our efforts supported and recognized by the CWBA. I have admired the many amazing women recognized by the CWBA for “Raising the Bar,” so to receive this award is a tremendous honor.


The 1891: What accomplishment relating to fostering well-being in the legal profession are you most proud of?


Justice Márquez: Our former Attorney Regulation Counsel, Jim Coyle, asked me in 2018 to chair the Colorado Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. I was not convinced I was the right person for the role. At our first planning meeting, I asked him, “What are we trying to accomplish, Jim? What’s the goal?” He responded, “Justice Márquez, we’re just trying to change the culture of the legal profession.” I remember saying, “Oh, that’s all? And we’ve got what, 18 months? Great!” I remember thinking, how on earth do we start doing this? And for each of us, it’s been one step at a time: one phone call, one meeting, one presentation, one project, one goal at a time. But as the word spreads, and as the army of well-being leaders grows, all of that is adding up. It’s been more than 18 months for sure. And the pandemic, for all its many challenges, came with a silver lining in that it heightened everyone’s awareness of these issue. In so doing, that awareness actually accelerated our work. We are talking openly and honestly about these issues in our law schools, at law firms, in our government offices. The work of the Task Force has carried over to the Judicial Department, where we now have a Standing Committee on Judicial Well-Being, a wonderful public website focused on well-being resources, and are now incorporating employee well-being issues into our Workplace Culture Initiative. So, five years after that meeting with Jim, I can say, the culture is actually starting to change on these issues, which is truly amazing. I am grateful to Jim for his inspiration, and proud to have been a part of what I hope will be lasting change.


The 1891: Who has been most influential for you in doing this work?


Justice Márquez: None of this work is possible alone. I am forever grateful to the members of the Task Force, which included 50+ lawyers, law students, and judges from around the state, as well as mental health professionals and law school administrators. These individuals volunteered untold hours to this effort. I learned so much from all of them about the various challenges and obstacles to well-being that we face, and I have remained inspired by their dedication and commitment to this work. I am particularly grateful to the core group of individuals (especially Jonathan White) at the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, and other key leaders in the legal community like Dave Stark and Mark Fogg, without whom the work of the Task Force would never have been possible. With their collective help, we produced a robust report in late 2021. Since then, we have carried on the Task Force recommendations through ongoing work at the law schools, at the Judicial Department, and through the new Employer Well-Being Recognition Program. Sarah and Ryann in particular have gone above and beyond to ensure the long-term success of this endeavor. I am particularly inspired to change the culture for our younger attorneys, and in this process, I have come to recognize the close connection between well-being and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession (another topic close to my heart). I do this work for all of them.


The 1891: How do you hope to continue your work in fostering well-being in the legal profession in the future?


Justice Márquez: We are extremely lucky in Colorado to have leaders like Ryann and Sarah to continue to foster well-being in our legal community. I will continue to promote the importance of well-being in the legal profession as I shift into my role as chief justice next summer. Although I will need to hand off several of these projects to other leaders as I focus on my new role, I have laid the groundwork for a continued focus on well-being at the Judicial Department through our Workplace Culture Initiative. Our WCI projects will benefit both judicial officers and employees across the state, so we have plenty of opportunities ahead. I’m excited!


J. Ryann Peyton


J. Ryann Peyton serves as the Director of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP) and Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice (LEJ), lawyer professional development programs of the Colorado Supreme Court. A former litigator and a seasoned consultant and advocate on professionalism, diversity,

and equity in the legal field, Ryann focused their law practice on civil litigation with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ families and civil rights.



Ryann has been routinely recognized for their legal practice, most recently earning the American Bar Association Rosner & Rosner Young Lawyer Professionalism award and the IDEA Leader in the Community award from The Center on Colfax. Ryann sits on the boards of several Colorado nonprofit legal organizations and served as the 2022 President of the Colorado Bar Association. Ryann earned their law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law and holds an LLM and undergraduate degree from the University of Denver.


The 1891: What does this award mean to you?


Ryann Peyton: So much of the work of well-being in the legal profession is about confronting the inertia of the culture of the profession that rewards lawyers for becoming and staying unwell. Culture change is hard, and it takes a very long time. To be recognized by the Colorado Women’s Bar Association for our work to create systemic, structural well-being change in the profession is validating of our vision and motivating to our continued work in breaking down systemic barriers to well-being change in the profession.


The 1891: What accomplishment relating to fostering well-being in the legal profession are you most proud of?


Ryann Peyton: I am incredibly proud of the Colorado Pledge to Lawyer Well-Being which we created to invite legal employers into the conversation and into the work of well-being change. This pledge is not just a performative mechanism for organizations to indicate their support of lawyer well-being, it is a toolkit in and of itself to assist legal organizations in creating meaningful and sustainable change. This pledge is one of the first in the nation of its kind and we even created a unique pledge for solo practitioners and small law firms.


The 1891: Who has been most influential for you in doing this work?


Ryann Peyton: I am most inspired by the community of lawyers I have found who share a vision of a legal profession where lawyers are happy, healthy, and successful. These lawyers have the courage to approach the practice of law differently and they are willing to share, mentor, and coach others to embrace a professional model that works well for clients and works well for lawyers. They call it a “win-win” practice approach and I am constantly motivated by that framework.


The 1891: How do you hope to continue your work in fostering well-being in the legal profession in the future?


Ryann Peyton: I hope to make the Colorado Well-Being Recognition Program for Legal Employers a national model in creating well-being change in the legal profession. This issue is not unique to Colorado and if we can expand our partners and resources across the profession, we can engage more legal employers and lawyers in this work. Programs like the recognition program help to normalize these conversations and draw attention to the systemic and structural challenges of the legal profession that negatively impact well-being. We know that we cannot yoga our way out of these challenges. We need practical changes that start at the very top of the profession. This program gives those at the top the practical tools they need to be part of the solution.


Sarah Myers


Sarah Myers is the Executive Director of the Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program. She received her B.A. from the University of Richmond in Virginia, her M.A. from Naropa University in Boulder, and her J.D. at the University of Denver. She is a Colorado licensed attorney, licensed marriage and family therapist, and licensed addiction counselor. Ms. Myers is also a licensed post-graduate level professional teacher, certified trauma and abuse psychotherapist, and certified LGTBQ+ therapist.


She writes and presents, locally and nationally, on psychoneuroimmunology and the intersection of clinical and professional concerns in the legal profession. She has over 20 years of experience treating and consulting with organizations, professionals and their families on a variety of behavioral health topics.


The 1891: What does this award mean to you?


Sarah Myers: I am honored and humbled to be included with the other phenomenal recipients of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Foundation’s Raising the Bar award. The topics of behavioral health and well-being haven’t historically been priorities for the legal profession, and at worst have been stigmatized. This award demonstrates to me that these concepts are making headway in both the zeitgeist and in how we approach our work and our lives.


The 1891: What accomplishment relating to fostering well-being in the legal profession are you most proud of?


Sarah Myers: I have dedicated myself to the well-being of the Colorado legal community for over a decade at the Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP). I’m most proud of how COLAP has grown and developed, first under the leadership of my predecessor, Barbara Ezyk, and then carefully nurtured and expanded to serve a wide range of professional and personal behavioral health needs of our community. I couldn’t be prouder that our lawyer assistance program has become a sought-after statewide presence and national resource for the legal profession. None of that would have been possible without our stakeholders, leadership, and supporters in the community, our volunteers, and the commitment of COLAP’s expert and professional staff.


The 1891: Who has been most influential for you in doing this work?


Sarah Myers: My partner, William, has inspired me the most; his patience, encouragement, and unwavering support have kept me grounded in work that, while rewarding, can also be surprisingly political, misunderstood, and emotionally taxing. William reminds me to take care of

myself, to focus on what’s important, and to strive for balance.


The 1891: How do you hope to continue your work in fostering well-being in the legal profession

in the future?


Sarah Myers: My hope is that COLAP’s professional and expert assistance will continue to

positively impact the Colorado legal community and their families for generations to come.


 

These three will be among distinguished company as they join previous award winners (visit https://cwbafoundation.org/RTBHonorees to learn more about prior honorees).


Stay tuned for Part 2 of Getting to Know the Raise the Bar Honorees coming soon, highlighting the accomplishments of Alexi Freeman, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Director of Externships and Social Justice Initiatives at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, Kyriaki (Kiki) Council, Legal Counsel for Pro Bono Initiatives at The Lawyer Project, and Lisa Hogan, Shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP.


For more information or to register, please visit, https://cwbafoundation.org/Raising-the-Bar or scan the QR code:



We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Kate Noble is a CWBA Publications Committee member and a legal editor with Colorado Bar Association CLE, the nonprofit educational arm of the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations.

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