Profile of the New DBA President: A New President in Bloom
by Sara Crocker
"The soul of a poet, the eye of an artist, the compassion of Atticus Finch, all wrapped into the Energizer Bunny."
That was the succinct and vivid description Craig Joyce offered about Ilene Lin Bloom, the Denver Bar Association’s incoming president.
Bloom worked with Joyce on a federal case shortly after she moved to Colorado. Bloom had met Joyce’s then-partner Bill Walters at a DBA committee meeting and they struck up a conversation. Walters brought Bloom on the case when he found out she was new to town and looking for work.
"She was a dream come true," Joyce said. "Smart, energetic, good writer. I don’t know how I would have done the case without her."
In the nine short years Bloom has lived in Denver, she has made a distinct impact on the legal community. On July 1, she becomes the DBA’s 122nd president.
After moving to Denver from Chicago in 2002, Bloom immediately began establishing herself at the DBA through her participation in its Access to Justice Committee, then known as the Legal Services Committee.
"I joined that committee and I started to get to know more people around the bar association," she said.
Since then, she’s left her mark in two areas that encourage pro bono work. First, she helped draft the language for a new rule, C.R.C.P. 223, the Pro Bono/Emeritus Attorney Rule, which allows inactive and retired attorneys to provide such services to the indigent. She also was instrumental in drafting the model pro bono policy appended to Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1. This encourages lawyers to engage in pro bono work, with a goal of providing 50 hours annually. Bloom said she’s glad to see that the model policy has been a useful tool for firms.
"I think some firms have used the model pro bono policy for their own workplaces and it has assisted them in signing up for the Colorado [Supreme Court’s] pro bono initiative and in following through on that commitment," she said.
Colorado Legal Services Executive Director Jon Asher says that where there is recognition for or encouragement of performing pro bono work, Bloom has helped—"they all have Ilene’s fingerprints all over them," he said.
For Bloom, pro bono has been ingrained in her practice from the start—her first job out of law school was coordinating pro bono projects for attorneys across the country at the international firm Winston & Strawn. She also carried her own pro bono caseload.
"For me, because I’ve been doing [pro bono] since day one, it just feels like a part of my practice," she said.
Since moving to Denver, she has worked for law firms largely on a contract basis so that she had the flexibility to spend time with her family and to volunteer. When Bloom was awarded the DBA’s 2004 Young Lawyer of the Year, just two years after she relocated to Denver, it was noted in The Docket that she spent about half her time working on pro bono issues.
"I really think we have a professional responsibility to give back to the community, especially because we have a license and no one else can help people with their legal issues," she said.
As Bloom looks toward her term as DBA president, pro bono work will be a part of her message to members.
"I really want to continue to grow and strengthen Metro Volunteer Lawyers and members’ commitment to pro bono," she said.
During her term, she also hopes to highlight issues in the profession, such as diversity, work–life balance, and professionalism, but largely she hopes she can respond to needs of the DBA as issues arise. Given Bloom’s past involvement with the DBA, taking on this role was a logical next step.
"It just seemed like a natural progression to become more involved in that way," Bloom said. "Even five years ago, I did think to myself that I might like to be the president one day."
Leecia Welch, an attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, is thrilled for her longtime friend to take on the presidency.
"She is a natural leader," she said. "She has all the best qualities you would want in bar leadership—intelligence, compassion, and vision."
Welch and Bloom met in law school—as fellows at the Civitas ChildLaw Center at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Bloom was interested in becoming a lawyer because she wanted to work with children, and thought being a lawyer would give her a chance to positively impact children’s lives.
Her mother, Shirley Pasowicz, said she could see Bloom’s passion for the legal profession emerging as a child. "Before Ilene ever expressed a desire to be an attorney, we used to joke that she would make a good one, because she was a great debater, whether it was for discussions on a personal level or outside issues," Pasowicz said. "But her interest really blossomed in her high school years."
At Loyola, Bloom was part of the inaugural class for the child-law program.
"It was the first of its kind," she said. "It was interesting being on the ground floor of the program because it was really developing as we were going through it, but I enjoyed it because it was very specialized and it was interdisciplinary—it was very, very pointed."
Bloom worked as an intern at what is now the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center when she was a second-year law student. "[After that experience] I always thought about coming back to Colorado," she said.
Today, she has her own firm, Ilene Lin Bloom PC, and she largely works with firms on a contractual basis. Bloom also is a regular volunteer at the legal nights at Mi Casa Resource Center and El Centro de San Juan Diego. Until recently, she served on the board of The Conflict Center, and she continues to support the organization.
Balancing her work, volunteering, and time with her family—she and husband JJ Henrikson have two children—can at times be tough.
"It’s difficult, but that’s part of the challenge," Bloom said. "I think I’m wired like that—I need to have a lot of things going on."
When Bloom talks about her children—Hayden is 3 and Harper is 1—she says she’s "in the thick of it" with a big smile.
"I really am having a good time exploring the world with my kids," she said.
That exploration happens whether they are strolling through the Botanic Gardens or heading up to Leadville for the weekend—Bloom loves the outdoors and is an avid traveler. Her family is planning an international trip to celebrate her 40th birthday in November. Though they’re not sure yet, it could be anywhere, including Vietnam, Spain, or South America.
As Bloom looks forward to her term as president, she says she finds inspiration personally and professionally from Walters, who gave Bloom her first job in Colorado and who was DBA president from 2001 to 2002.
"He inspired me to get more involved in the bar and showed me that it is possible to have balance," she said. "I also admire how he can see both the serious and lighthearted elements of an issue all at the same time. I have tremendous respect for Bill and am thankful for his friendship."
Walters said he has always admired Bloom’s strong sense of leadership.
"She has a great way of engaging people," he said.
For Bloom, her time with the DBA has been memorable, and she looks forward to the coming year. "I’ve just really enjoyed being involved with the bar association," she said. "All of the people I’ve met here have been genuinely good people and inspiring to me." D
Photos by Jamie Cotten and provided by Ilene Bloom.