Colorado Supreme Court
Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.
New CAMP director ‘a transformative leader’
The incoming leader of the state's attorney mentoring program has a track record of expanding and improving programs wherever she's gone.
By JAMES CARLSON
When the legal director of The GLBT Community Center of Colorado left in the Spring of 2015, the program was a little out of sorts, and The Center’s board was considering doing away with it altogether.
Instead, they appointed Ryann Peyton.
Peyton had served on the board of The Center, as it is commonly known, for four years and had an impressive legal background.
“We were at a point where the program needed to be rebooted,” said Debra Pollock, Chief Executive Officer of The Center. “Ryann came on staff and rolled up her sleeves.”
Peyton revamped the entire legal program, from the availability of pro bono services to the process the The Center used to handle client intakes, and she turned the legal program into a revenue generator. On top of that, she completed a feasibility study and wrote the business plan for RANGE Consulting, which launched earlier this year and is Colorado’s only training organization dedicated solely to the needs of LGBT employees and their workplaces.
And she did it all in just one year.
“Wherever she goes, she transforms,” said Patricia Jarzobski, President-Elect of the Colorado Bar Association, who has watched Peyton’s career for years.
Peyton now takes her skills to the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP). On March 1, the Colorado Supreme Court approved her selection as the new director of CAMP. She takes over for John Baker, who became the program’s first director in February 2013. She will work with Baker until his retirement on June 30.
She said she’s excited to build on the foundation Baker has laid.
“I want to grow our statewide footprint,” she said. “I want us to be seen across the country as innovators.”
For someone who graduated law school in 2008, Peyton’s list of accomplishments is dizzying.
She has served or currently serves on seven boards of directors. She is the former President of the Colorado Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Bar Association. She was an adjunct professor at Denver University’s Sturm College of Law. She is a graduate of the prestigious Colorado Bar Association Leadership Training program. In 2014, she was named the CBA’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year. Prior to her work with The Center, she developed a non-traditional family law practice at Harris Law Firm where she served as first chair attorney for 150 trials pertaining temporary and permanent orders, protection orders, and parenting time/child support modification.
Peyton always wanted to be a lawyer, for the big-picture reasons and the ground-level reasons. Yes, she is an idealist who wanted to help people. But she also loved the practical aspects of practicing law. A self-described “systems oriented person,” she liked taking a set of facts and finding a solution.
“I can walk into a room with a mess of papers all around and get it in order,” she said.
Peyton earned her bachelor’s degree from DU and then entered the University of Saint Thomas School of Law. There, she got her first taste of mentoring. Saint Thomas was one of the first law schools to implement a mentoring program as part of its externships. As a first-year law student eager to absorb the nuts and bolts of contracts and torts, Peyton was skeptical of the need for mentoring.
“Just two years later, as a 3L, I saw how much it meant to have a trusted resource, someone who could help me navigate the practice and who could be candid with me.”
At Harris Law Firm, Special Counsel John Tatlock watched Peyton build a diverse family law practice. She not only was active with clients in the LGBT community who were trying to protect their economic opportunities, she also did more traditional representation. With an LLM to her name as well, Peyton was able to address the often complicated tax implications for divorcing clients.
“Her ability to abstract, synthesize and deliver a conclusion was among the best I’ve seen in the law,” Tatlock said.
Peyton joined the board of The Center in 2010, where she impressed future CEO Pollock as “a woman of few words, but when she speaks, you listen.” And when the legal program needed help, she jumped in. “It was never a career move,” Peyton explained. “I saw a problem I thought I could solve.
Jarzobski added that Peyton is a big picture visionary.
“Ryann has a proven track record of identifying strategic steps to move programs forward,” she said.
She certainly came to CAMP with a plan.
Those who interviewed her were impressed that she brought in an outline for her first 100 days on the job. She wants to continue building an emphasis on attorney wellness. She recalls what it was like to be a family law litigator where it was easy to bring the stress of work into her home at night. Peyton believes there’s a lot CAMP can do to help attorneys value a work-life balance.
Also near the top of her goals is creating specialized programs for diverse attorneys. Having programs tailored to diverse attorneys can help “when, for instance, you become the token LGBT member on a committee.” No other lawyer mentoring program in the country has tackled the issue in a meaningful way, she said, and Colorado has a chance to design the blueprint for how to appeal to those attorneys.
When asked if there’s anything unusual she brings to the job, she laughed a little. “I don’t really like traditional networking,” she said. “I definitely understand new lawyers who resist small talk and big events as the sole means of networking.”
The outgoing Baker applauds Peyton as the right pick at the right time. He said he told the hiring committee that CAMP didn’t need “a good old boy.” The very things that make Peyton distinct will probably make her effective, he said.
“I know what my experience was like, but the legal profession has changed a lot since I began in the 1970s,” he said. “She’s walked the walk in terms of being a new lawyer.”
James Carlson is the Information Resources Coordinator for the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.