Updated: Jun 9
I have always had a public interest spirit. For as long as I can remember.
I think it started when I was a child and signed up for Girl Scouts and volunteered as a candy striper (do they still have those?) in the local hospital. I really liked the uniforms I got to wear, but in retrospect, I was mostly drawn to making a difference.
I have been blessed in my life to have many opportunities to give back. For more than 20 years, I have had a day job (as Executive Director of the Colorado Lawyers Committee) that allows me to make an important difference—or at least to inspire and assist our 1,000 active volunteers who make a difference. We use our legal skills to work on all kinds of issues that impact people who couldn’t afford to pay for our efforts. It’s a wonderful job--and they pay me to do it!
I have had a lot of jobs I liked. I spent 10 years practicing in two wonderful firms (Holland & Hart and Ireland Stapleton); did a study of ADR in Colorado for the Colorado Judicial Institute; ran the State Court’s ADR office for four years; served as an arbitrator and mediator; taught ADR at DU Law School; and clerked for two years for the first Black district court judge in Arapahoe County. Someone once said to me in a job interview: “you move around a lot”. Guilty (at least until now). I am the poster child for following your passion. I’ve been lucky.
But my greatest satisfaction and joy has come from all the other ways I’ve had a chance to give back. Over the years, there have been many nonprofits and causes that have called to me: access to justice; equity (gender, racial, ethnic); judicial excellence; suicide prevention; creating opportunity; and mentoring.
But the cause that has most touched my heart is Make-A-Wish Colorado. What a wonderful, hopeful organization. More than 5,500 critically-ill children have received life-changing wishes through the Colorado chapter. Some wishes are simple, some are heart-wrenching:
The young boy who wished for a puppy that his family could remember him by (the boy died the day after the puppy was delivered to his hospital room);
The teenager with heart issues who received his wish to meet the pope. Every time I go to a Board meeting, I am moved to tears by the picture (in the Make A Wish office) of Pope Francis standing with his hand on the boy’s heart. The boy is now a healthy young man.
The 14-year-old girl with cancer who loves all things dragon and wished for a pet dragon. It took a year, but Make-A-Wish was able to create an electronic dragon that speaks, moves its tail and wings, and does everything except breathe fire.
For more than six years, I have been honored to be a Wish Granter (to help children identify their “one true wish” and make sure they receive it) and a member of the Board of Directors (I’m currently in my “gap year” but expect to rejoin the Board in August for another six years). I have seen firsthand how a wish transforms the lives of sick children and their families. And there is emerging research that kids who receive their “one true wish” have a greater chance of recovering. As a cancer survivor myself, I know how important it is to have something to look forward to—how even a short escape from a world filled with chemo and doctors can help you believe that you will be OK and that your world will return to normal someday.
For sure, Make A Wish has given me much more than I have given them. But giving back is like that. You get to change things and you never walk away without being changed yourself.
How are you being changed?
Connie Talmage has been the Executive Director of the Colorado Lawyers Committee since 2000. She received her law degree from the University of Denver College of Law in 1978 and practiced for 10 years with the law firms of Holland & Hart and Ireland, Stapleton, Pryor and Pascoe. For four years she served as the Director of the Office of Dispute Resolution, the statewide office of the Colorado Judicial Department responsible for mediation and other types of alternative dispute resolution in the courts. She is a trained mediator and arbitrator.
She has been a Board member of the Center for Legal Inclusiveness since 2006 and is on the Executive Committee of the Our Courts Program. She has served since 2012 on the Alumni Council of the DU Sturm College of Law, is currently the Co-Chair of the Council’s Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee, and taught ADR for seven years as an Adjunct Professor at the school. Connie is a former President and Board member of the Colorado Women's Bar Association Foundation; she was also a member of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Board for five years. For seven years, she served on the Colorado Access to Justice Commission, two years as the Chair. She is currently a member of the Commission’s Pro Se Committee. She was on the Board of the Colorado Judicial Institute from 1992 to 2012 and chaired the CJI Annual Dinner for nine years. She has been a member of the Minoru Yasui Inns of Court since 1999. She has been a volunteer and a member of the Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish Colorado for more than six years and is the Immediate Past Chair. In 2019, she was elected to the Colorado Bar Foundation Board of Trustees. From 2005 to 2012 she was the CBA Judicial Liaison Section's representative to the CBA Board of Governors, having chaired the Section in 2004 and 2005.
Connie was the 2009 recipient of the Colorado Bar Association's Award of Merit, the highest award the organization awards. In 2007 she received the Alumni Professionalism Award from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Edwin P. Wolf Award from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In 2010, Connie was honored as a Women Lawyer Nonprofit Leader by the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Foundation. She was one of the individuals recognized by Colorado Common Cause with the 2009 Craig Barnes Democracy Award, for the establishment of a nonpartisan call center with 100 lawyers on Election Day in 2008.