Natalie Hanlon Leh, who served as CWBA President from 1996 to 1997, has the distinction of being the CWBA’s youngest President. During her tenure, one of her many lasting contributions was to help develop the CWBA’s first, and current, website. She says she also “grew up” with the CWBA and made life-long friends, leading her to be a strong supporter of the CWBA.
This past January, Natalie became Chief Deputy at the Attorney General’s Office. She had known
Attorney General Phil Weiser from her teaching work at the University of Colorado and involvement with CU Law’s Silicon Flat Irons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship. However, the position was still an unexpected opportunity when Attorney General Weiser was elected, and one which she feels her career led her to.
Her position as Chief Deputy follows a career with varied experience that includes a clerkship, work with the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Denver, and practicing intellectual property litigation with Faegre Baker Daniels and WilmerHale. She notes that her experience suing the government while with Legal Aid, pro bono work with prisoners, and broad range of cases as a litigator prepared her well for her current position. She finds that this diverse experience is an advantage as she helps to oversee the state’s largest law firm, with 300 lawyers and 500 total staff, and acknowledges that her career is unique in that many attorneys today specialize early and do not have as much opportunity to gain experience in a variety of practice areas.
Since beginning at the Attorney General’s Office, she has been working with others in leadership to define the office’s values. This included a focus group in which everyone in the office had an opportunity to participate. Her goal is to help set the tone for the office and to help the staff do their best work. Diversity and inclusiveness are also extremely important to the office. This summer, they are hosting a variety of interns — including high school, college, and law school students — in a “pipeline” program. They also share resume pools to identify diverse candidates.
In addition to her professional work, Natalie has been involved in many activities in the community throughout her career, including serving as chair of the Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado, teaching as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado School of Law, and acting as managing editor for Discovery in Colorado.
She offers the advice that while you can do everything, you can’t do it all at once.
In her own career, she has been involved with many community projects, but has focused on doing one thing at a time and doing it well.
Earlier in her career, it was unusual to have women in patent litigation, and Natalie felt it could be difficult to be taken seriously in the IP field. In fact, she began teaching in an effort to increase her credibility in the field. She was fortunate to have senior partners who gave her the opportunity to be the lead on cases and gain experience. In contrast, she feels that the legal profession is more diverse now and that the Attorney General’s Office is generally balanced.
For Natalie, people and relationships are the key to success, and she suggests that newer attorneys emphasize developing these relationships, whether they be mentors, sponsors, or friends. She firmly believes these relationships and the different perspectives that they offer make for a richer career. She recommends investing in people with integrity who you respect.
Recognizing that she is where she is now because of the work she put in over her 30-year career, she cautions that business development and community success don’t happen overnight. These are things you have to work on throughout your career.
Finally, as she tells her children, you have to be brave and do the work. There’s no substitute for showing up and being prepared.
Congratulations to CWBA Past President and Chief Deputy Attorney General Natalie Hanlon Leh!