Fay Matsukage’s journey to becoming a lawyer began when she was just nine years old and her father first talked to her about joining the profession. Her father had gone to law school himself, and came back to Honolulu to work for the attorney general’s office for one year before getting into real estate financing. “It was all my dad talked about forever. It was an expectation.”
Matsukage’s undergraduate work was primarily in business, so it was a natural flow for her to focus her legal career in corporate and securities work, a field she has practiced in for more than 40 years, most recently as of counsel with Doida Crow Legal. She enjoys working with entrepreneurs and helping people achieve their dreams. Often, a person may have a dream, but not know how to reach it, and that is where she comes in. Matsukage admits that the current regulatory environment can be difficult and frustrating for the lay person to understand, so she enjoys helping them navigate the system.
Matsukage has had many mentors throughout her career, but there were several that stood out. In law school, she took a third-year Problems in the Legal Profession course from Brooke Wunnicke. It was essentially a “finishing class for 3Ls.” Wunnicke took them through drafting a variety of contracts and making them understandable for the client. For one assignment, the students had to draft a will, and Wunnicke taught them after the documents were executed to walk the client to the door and reassure them that what they were doing was in the best interests of themselves and their family. This was important because clients often had difficulty discussing issues surrounding the end of life. Wunnicke advised the ladies in the class how to dress for court, because “You don’t want them to look at your clothes.” For Matsukage, she “tied everything together.”
Matsukage also learned from those she worked with. One partner was very strict on syntax and grammar and red-penciled what she wrote, which Matsukage credits with dramatically improving her writing. Other colleagues she worked with shared their perspective. The attorneys she worked with at Dill Dill Carr Stonbraker & Hutchings, PC were former prosecutors. One shared with her that the goal is not for a defendant to be found not guilty, but to be sure the person is found guilty of what they committed and justice is served.
Matsukage relates that one of the accomplishments in her career that she is most proud of happened in 2015 when there were amendments to the way small businesses could raise money under Regulation A. She had to get an offering cleared in all 50 states with very little guidance on the new regulations. She is proud that it was one of the first filings, but she got it done.
For new attorneys who might be considering getting into corporate and securities work, Matsukage knows that it can get intimidating. There is a tendency to “think IPOs and high financing, but you don’t see much of that in Colorado. You have to just tell yourself you belong there, even if you’re the only one giving yourself the pep talk. Trust your instincts if something doesn’t sound right.”
Matsukage has been a strong supporter of the CWBA throughout her career, including serving as President of the CWBA Foundation (2007-2009). “The networking opportunities have been incredible. The support members give each other is amazing. They put into practice trying to improve the law and the way law is practiced, with emphasis on family and children.”
Matsukage is also one of the co-founders of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association, one of her proudest achievements. When she first came to Colorado College for undergrad, and at the University of Denver for law school, she was one of only three Asian students. She remembers there was only one Asian restaurant, in the American Legion building in Denver. “It was a bit lonely.” When the founders got together to decide to form APABA, it was very validating for each of them. “It was nice to know there were other Asian attorneys who had similar experiences.” She also learned a variety of leadership skills during the process of forming APABA.
Matsukage has been recognized with numerous awards throughout her career, including the 1999 Trailblazer Award from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the 2006 Minoru Yasui Community Service Award from the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado, the 2006 Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award from the CWBA, and the 2010 Outstanding Alumni Award from DU’s Sturm College of Law. She was also inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018. Matsukage says that while the recognition is nice, she doesn’t do it for recognition. She is just hoping the result she’s intending will materialize. However, she says that the awards do let others know it is worthwhile to put time and effort into similar endeavors.
Most recently, Matsukage is the recipient of the 2023 CBA Award of Merit. The honor will be awarded September 30th at the 2023 Award of Merit and Annual Bar Fellows Dinner at History Colorado. Matsukage says it was overwhelming when she got the call from Judge Harrell. She looked at the names of the previous winners of the award and wondered if they had made a mistake! Matsukage has often been recognized for her philanthropy, which she first became involved with even with her first job. She remembers reading an article saying that those who have the opportunity to go to college are privileged, and those in graduate school even more so, and they should pay it forward. She donated to the Asian Pacific Development Center with her first job and ended up being on numerous boards. “A lot in the legal profession are blessed and should share some of that with those who don’t have it.” Matsukage also enjoys helping the next generation. She analogizes this to camping, where you endeavor to leave a place better than you found it.
Outside of the law, Matsukage loves road trips with her husband. “We pack up the RV and go.” One time, they packed up without any particular destination in mind and decided at dinner where they would go the next day. “It was fun to travel that way.”
Matsukage says that people might assume that she’s pretty reserved, but in actuality she’s more of a risk taker than people would think. She and her husband got certified for scuba diving and followed it by jumping out of a plane! Her husband would say she’s motivated by challenges. She doesn’t like to give up.
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.