Denver Bar Association
July 2005
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NEVER A DULL MOMENT: "Little" Impact on the DBA

by Stacy Chesney


New DBA President Chris Little with his wife, Christy Jordan, and daughters Molly (l) and newborn Kate at the U.S. Open.

"I almost died once," says Chris Little, new DBA president. A "little skinny thing" at age 14, Chris was skiing in and out of trees on the North Star run at Vail and collided with a 200-lb. man, leaving Chris face-down in the snow, slowly suffocating. Lucky for him, two doctors were on the scene to ensure his safe transport to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver. In a coma for a week, Chris suffered a fractured skull, punctured lung, brain contusions, a broken collarbone, cheekbone and ribs. His father, attorney David C. Little, remembers the phone call vividly: "They told me, ‘We’re transporting your son to St. Joe’s and need to know who your neurosurgeon is.’" Says Dave, "It turned out well, though. I think Chris came away from it with a very strong appreciation of life and the present. He maintains an optimistic outlook."

Spend a few minutes talking to Chris and it is impossible to overlook the strong bond he has with his family and friends. With four siblings ("my parents have 11 grandchildren"), and more than 40 first-cousins ("I can name them all"), the family has a monthly get-together to celebrate the plethora of occasions that have transpired in the past weeks. He is still close with Mark Honnen, president of Honnen Equipment Company, a friend since kindergarten, who describes Chris as "a low-key, upstanding, community-oriented guy."

Chris speaks fondly of his 5 ½-year-old daughter, Molly — "she’s the greatest thing in the world" — and lovingly about his wife, Christy Jordan, Marketing Director with the City of Aurora Golf, whom he met at attorney Dan Galloway’s wedding. They danced some, but it was afterward where he really wooed her. As they drove their cars out of the Denver Athletic Club garage, Christy called a "Fire Drill," and jumped out of her car. Chris took the opportunity to jump in hers and drive away ("only around the block"). Unfortunately for Christy, she couldn’t drive his stick-shift and was stuck as the cars piled up behind her. They were married in 1996 at "the first Catholic wedding at a Presbyterian church." Four hundred people attended the event, "since she knows most of East Denver and I’m related to most of East Denver." On June 15, the two welcomed the newest Little, Katherine "Kate" Jordan, into their lives.

Chris’ family tree is a web of lawyers. From his father who was recently awarded the Denver Business Journal’s award for "Best of the Bar — Lifetime Achievement," to his great-great grandfather, who was a circuit court judge in Pennsylvania ("he literally rode a horse from town to town"), to his uncle, former Court of Appeals Judge Leonard Plank, it is little surprise that Chris chose to follow suit.

After receiving his J.D. from the University of Denver College of Law, Chris moved to Washington, D.C., to work as an associate with Alper & Mann who represented the rail unions in the debate over the constitutionality of employee drug testing. Watching Larry Mann argue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court was one of the best learning experiences for Chris. "The barrage of questions you could expect from the Court was amazing. It taught me that there are always two sides to an issue and the other side will try to spin it just as much as you will. Finding the middle ground is most important." Mann, a great mentor to Chris, offered these words of advice after Chris won his first case: "Enjoy today because tomorrow you’re not going to win."

Today, Chris is a shareholder and director with Montgomery Little and McGrew, P.C., where he focuses on lawyers’ professional liability defense and defense of lawyers before the Colorado Supreme Court and its Office of Attorney Regulation. His father, a principal with the firm, describes him as a "damn good" attorney — "I rely on him daily for expert analysis." Chris finds his work rewarding, yet also challenging because his clients are both "wonderful and difficult." Yes, they occasionally try to tell him how to do his job.

Hobbies? "Our life is the Bar Association." He’s been on the DBA: Board of Trustees, Nominating Committee, Budget Committee (chair), co-chair of the Barristers Benefit Ball, DBA Representative to the CBA Board of Governors, and Community Concerns Committee member (now Community Action Network). He’s also a Colorado Legal Aid Foundation trustee, and was chairman of the CBA’s Public Law Education Committee.

Other career highlights: Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and Colorado Bar Foundation, ABA House of Delegates, the 2002 Richard M. Davis Award, 2001 DBA Volunteer of the Year Award, and Denver Business Journal’s "40 Under 40" award.

Chris’ life outside the Bar is heavy on volunteering. He got hooked early in his volunteer career by John Castellano who started a tutoring program at Greenlee Elementary School. He went every week for years, missing only once after a severe car accident. Says wife Christy: "I’m so impressed with his level of dedication. Lawyers are very busy people, but somehow Chris has managed to put volunteering at the top of his priority list." He’s a founding member of the AIR Society of National Jewish Hospital, and an active committee member with the Denver Zoo fundraisers and the University of Denver Law Stars.

If not a lawyer, Chris probably should have been a vet. He once missed an important meeting because of a mama duck and her 10 ducklings. As he drove down the Logan St. ramp to enter I-25, Chris noticed the mother leading her children down toward what would have likely been their swift end. Compelled, he decided to rescue the family. The ordeal included enlisting the help of three burly Public Works employees who were needed to rescue duckling number 10 from the sewer where it fell as Chris gathered the other nine. Eventually, the 11 ducks were safely transported to Washington Park, where Chris, like a doting father, continued to visit.

Chris also enjoys golf (their firm’s foursome won the 2005 DBA golf tournament) and anything daughter Molly likes to do, from sporting events, to swimming, soccer, and monkey bars. He and Christy are probably best known for their annual "Go Buffs" party that kicks off the CU football season each fall. The extravaganza, complete with themes like "2001 Buff Odyssey," has grown into a gathering of 200 to 400 people. It’s a family event (jumping castle for the kids) and music is supplied by his brother’s bluegrass band, "Busted Porch," named when Chris’ wooden deck collapsed during one such party (no one was hurt).

The Little siblings (l to r) : Sharon, Chris, Mick, Greg, Dave, and father David.

In his year as president, Chris hopes promote to networking and interaction between the state and local bar associations, as well as helping the public become more aware of the need for funding for the courts and the importance of judicial independence.

Says Dave Little: "Chris achieves what he sets out to do. He’s going to bring a sense of practicality as president. Stability is probably more important than anything else in this kind of role, and he’ll provide that."

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