Meet Our Board Members
Welcome new Board Members: Sam Walker, Franz Hardy, and Erica Gartenberg!
Sam Walker has spent his career working in business, law, and labor and education policy. Most recently, he led Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment and was a member of Governor John Hickenlooper’s cabinet. He also chaired the Workforce and Education cabinet, driving innovation and business leadership at the intersection of work-based learning and skills-based hiring. He currently serves on Colorado’s Business Experiential Learning and Access to Justice Commissions.
Sam returned to public service after retiring as the longest-serving chief-level officer in the history of Molson Coors Brewing Company, a NYSE-listed business headquartered in Denver, with operations in more than 70 countries. Sam was the company’s general counsel for 15 years, designing the mergers and acquisitions that transformed MCBC into a global industry powerhouse. He built a legal team recognized for diversity and excellence, including: the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association’s Outstanding Corporate Commitment Award (2018); and the American Lawyer global grand prize for the global M&A deal of the year (shared with the legal departments of Anheuser Busch InBev and SABMiller plc) (2016). In addition to his legal role, Sam held numerous business roles at MCBC, including: managing director for MillerCoors, the second-largest beer company in the U.S. (2008-2012); global chief people (HR) officer (2012-2016); and global corporate affairs officer (leading external and internal communications, government affairs, and corporate social responsibility) (2016-2018). He championed diversity, working to create a highly diverse enterprise leadership team.
Before joining the Company in 2002, Sam was a partner for 10 years at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Wiley Rein & Fielding, LLP, handling trial and non-trial matters.
Sam has held several federal posts. From 1989 through 1992, he was an appointee in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. He ran the largest agency in the U.S. Department of Labor, the Employment Standards Administration, and held a policy appointment at the U.S. Department of Education. He also served as a clearance counsel during the 2000 transition of President George W. Bush.
Sam is a graduate of Duke University and Harvard Law School.
Franz Hardy serves as the co-managing partner of the Denver office at Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP. He is a trial attorney with a focus on business and insurance litigation, including commercial disputes, directors and officers liability, coverage, and employee benefits. Mr. Hardy is also recognized as an accomplished professional liability practitioner representing attorneys and law firms. He maintains an active state and federal court practice, including handling numerous appeals.
Mr. Hardy enjoys helping new generations of law students and lawyers have successful and rewarding legal careers. He regularly meets with students and new lawyers in formal and informal settings to assist in their career development. He also participates in a variety of speaking engagements and mentoring programs in this area. Mr. Hardy has also worked with officials in Colorado’s law schools, leaders of local bar associations, and prominent area lawyers to address diversity and inclusion efforts in the legal profession.
Erica Gartenberg is the Director of Legal Talent Acquisition at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, where she focuses on the recruitment of talented attorneys who embody Brownstein’s core values to join the firm’s various offices and practice groups. Erica practiced civil and white-collar litigation for seven years in Manhattan at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson and BakerHostetler before transitioning to legal recruiting and consulting. She worked at a legal recruiting and consulting boutique in Manhattan and founded her own firm, Rocky Mountain Legal Search, when she moved to Denver in 2017. In her career as a recruiter, she placed attorneys in roles ranging from law firm associates to general counsels, and worked with law firms, corporations and startups in a variety of industries from financial services to publishing. She has spoken at Harvard Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School and has been a frequent contributor to Vault.com's Law Blog.
Erica received her J.D. from The University of Pennsylvania Law School and her B.A. from the University of Florida.
Jennifer H. Weddle
Jennifer H. Weddle, obtained her law degree from Harvard Law School and her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. She is a partner with the firm of Greenberg Traurig where she is the Co-Chair of the firm's national American Indian Law Practice and has wide-ranging experience in complex regulatory and jurisdictional issues, with a focus in Indian law, handling a variety of matters for tribal and non-tribal clients. Jennifer has broad trial and appellate litigation experience, including tribal court and U.S. Supreme Court experience, and frequently litigates jurisdictional issues. She is also experienced in sovereign models for consumer lending and energy development. Jennifer assists tribes, banks and non-bank entities with financing and regulatory matters with Indian law components. Jennifer is very active in the community. She currently serves as President of the National Native American Bar Association, and is past Chair of the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section, past president of the Colorado Indian Bar Association, and also past Chair of the board for the Center for Legal Inclusiveness. She is a board member of the Law360 Native American Editorial Advisory Board and the Secretary for Colorado Open Lands. She also serves on the American Bar Association Advisory Commission to the Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress. She has also served in leadership roles for both the Colorado Bar Association and the Denver Bar Association.
Lorenzo Trujillo is a former professor and dean at the University of Colorado Law School, Dr. Trujillo brings to Law School...Sí Se Puede more than thirty years of experience in the legal and education professions. His depth of expertise in these fields is matched by his breadth of experience in high-level management positions throughout the course of his remarkable professional career. Dr. Trujillo has led numerous statewide taskforces at the request of Colorado’s legislature and the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, served as General Counsel for the Hispanic National Bar Association, and led the National Association of Council for Children as its Deputy Director.
Upon accepting, Trujillo stated, “It is truly an honor for me to be able to assume the Presidency of LAW SCHOOL...Sí Se Puede. Our youth represent our hope and investment in the future of America. The mentoring that current attorneys provide to aspiring future legal professionals is critical to establishing a more representative and equitable American legal system. Access to justice to promote fairness and equity for every person is my passion. LAW SCHOOL...Sí Se Puede will open the doors of possibility for traditionally under-represented youth to enter into the portals of the legal system for the benefit of all Americans.”
Jason A. Márquez
Jason A. Márquez has been practicing law since 2008, almost exclusively in family law and is the Owner of Márquez Law in Denver. However, he has and continues to work in criminal defense. Mr. Márquez brings a fresh perspective to Law School…Yes We Can, with an extensive background in the corporate world where he provided operational, technical, management, finance, and legal support to several corporations.
Mr. Márquez is a Colorado native who grew up in a single parent home. He has a great appreciation for the plight of his clients who separate and go on to be single parents. He advocates for and stands by his clients no matter what, but remains steadfast and conscientious of the issues in his cases. Mr. Márquez is extraordinarily efficient and mindful of his clients’ goals and resources at all times.
Mr. Márquez acquired a BA from Westmont College where he double majored in Economics & Business and Physics. He went on to acquire an MBA from the University of Colorado at Denver with an emphasis in change management. He acquired his Juris Doctorate from the Denver University Sturm College of Law in 2007 where he was awarded the Outstanding Student Attorney Award and the Student Leadership Award.
Admissions and Outreach Committees
Neal McConomy is Senior Corporate Counsel for CenturyLink in Denver, Colorado. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Neal taught at the high school and college levels. After teaching at his alma mater Springfield Southeast High School in Springfield, Illinois, Neal moved to Colorado and taught writing and rhetoric courses at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Front Range Community College’s Longmont campus. As a Law School . . . Yes We Can mentor and a member of the Admission and Outreach Committees, Neal uses his experience as an educator to help students and the public generally understand the importance of Law School . . . Yes We Can’s mission and the invaluable connections it provides to those students ready to contribute to the legal community.
In addition to his work with Law School . . . Yes We Can, Neal is a member of the pro bono committee for Snell & Wilmer L.L.P.’s Denver office, a member of the Colorado Bar Association’s Professionalism Coordinating Council, and on the executive committee for the Minoru Yasui Inn of Court.
Mark W. Yonkman
Mark W. Yonkman was most recently Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of National Bank Holdings Corporation and NBH Bank, N.A., where he helped transition the bank to a public company and built out the legal, physical security, bank secrecy and fraud departments. He moved to Denver from New York to serve for two years as Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of CoBank, a Denver based co-operative bank. Prior to moving to Colorado, Mark was Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary M&T Bank, one of the 20 largest US banks and a Fortune 500 company, with over $90 billion in total assets headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y. Mark began his career in banking at Comerica Bank, also a top 20 US bank, where he was Senior Vice President, General Counsel-Corporate Finance and Secretary. He is currently taking a sabbatical to transition his two daughters from high school to college.
Mark graduated from Wayne State University Law School, cum laude and Order of the Coif, where he was a member of Law Review. He obtained in Bachelor of Arts from Kalamazoo College, where he spent his junior year studying in Strasbourg, France. In high school, Mark spent his junior year abroad in Uberlandia, Brazil.
Mark lives in Denver and lives with his two children, Andrea (18) and Michaela (16). He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Denver based Center for Legal Inclusiveness. Mark is a private pilot and avid skier, and lives part-time in British Columbia, Canada.
Treasurer and Brand Development Director
Paula Black is one of the leading business development coaches for lawyers; an award winning and bestselling author of The Little Black Book series including A Lawyer’s Guide to Creating a Life, Not Just A Living: Ordinary lawyers doing extraordinary things. And her sixth newly released collaboration with Jack Canfield, A Recipe for Success: The World’s Leading Entrepreneurs and Professionals Reveal Their Secret Ingredients for Health, Wealth and Success Today. Ms. Black is also a frequent keynote speaker, seminar leader and media guest, as well as a branding expert. She regularly shows her clients and readers how to attract more clients and grow their practice while still having the personal life they really want. She was voted one of the Top Legal Business Development Coaches by the Daily Business Review and is on Forbes Coaching Council.
Aria S. Vaughan
Program Development Director
Aria S. Vaughan currently serves as law clerk to the Honorable Christine M. Arguello of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Aria sees education as vital to her own and others’ socioeconomic mobility and has long-dedicated her time to improving educational opportunities for all students. Aria’s commitment to LAW SCHOOL…Sí Se Puede stems from her belief that the legal profession should include people from various backgrounds to shape and inform the law. However, many talented students from historically-underrepresented backgrounds are precluded from the legal profession simply because they lack access to information. By guiding students through the law school application process, LAW SCHOOL…Sí Se Puede helps level the playing field.
Aria has spent years as a teacher, tutor, mentor, and coach. Prior to law school, Aria taught math and science in Miami, first in a day program for juvenile offenders, then in an elementary school. She also assisted with the start-up of a nonprofit that provides education, healthcare, and intervention services to at-risk children in Kolkata, India. During law school, Aria pursued opportunities to enforce civil rights in educational and non-educational settings as an intern with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Aria graduated from Fordham Law School where, as a Stein Scholar, she participated in a selective three-year program that trained students in public interest law. She earned numerous awards for academic achievement, public service, oral advocacy, and clinical work. Following graduation, Aria clerked for the Honorable Nancy J. Lichtenstein of the Colorado Court of Appeals. Aria was also a fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she litigated cases that focused on dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, expanding educational opportunities for students of color, and desegregating schools that remain under federal consent decrees.
Aria coaches the Arrupe Jesuit High School Mock Trial team, and previously coached East High School’s We the People Constitutional Law team as well as multiple moot court teams. Aria is a Denver native and a graduate of East High School.
Dermot Lynch is an attorney at Zuckerman Spaeder, LLP, in Washington, D.C. He previously served as a Skadden Fellow at Towards Justice, a Denver-based impact litigation firm that represents low-wage workers. He also clerked for Judge Arguello and at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, and immigrated with his family to the United States when he was three. Dermot has called Denver his home for most of his life. Between college at Loyola University and law school at Yale, Dermot spent three years living in the town of Tacna, in Southern Peru, where he taught high school English and helped run an after-school program.
Dermot is a founding board member of LAW SCHOOL…Yes We Can. His personal history animates his work for this important cause. At Loyola, Dermot stumbled upon an Irish history professor who ended up supervising his thesis about an Irish patriot friendly with Dermot's great uncle. He was motivated by another happenstance encounter with a mentor to work in Peru for three years after his undergraduate studies. Those two relationships—and the experiences they facilitated—marked Dermot, allowed him to more fully develop his intellectual passions, and, even though he did not know it at the time, made him a much stronger candidate for law school. At the same time, Dermot knows that potential future lawyers from groups underrepresented in the law have less of a shot of encountering the mentors and experiences that can accord them the same advantages Dermot had as an undergraduate and law school applicant. His work with LAW SCHOOL…Yes We Can is aimed at helping to counteract this deficit.
Public Relations & Community Outreach Director
Roberto Ramírez is a state District Court Judge in the 17th Judicial District. He is also a Federal Military Appellate Judge on the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals. Roberto also teaches as an adjunct professor of law at both CU and DU law school.
Roberto obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas, San Antonio, and his law degree from the South Texas College of Law in Houston, but has also studied at Air University (Air Command and Staff College), as well as the Army JAG School at the University of Virginia School of Law (The 62nd Military Judge’s Course).
Roberto has worked as a civilian attorney, Air Force federal prosecutor, criminal defense counsel, trial consultant, or instructor in Japan, South Korea, Africa, Guam, Singapore, Australia, Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean), Colombia, Mexico City, Greenland, Hawaii, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. Roberto has taught in the areas of criminal procedure, trial advocacy, and civil rights in Tokyo, Japan; Barranquilla and Bogota, Colombia; Mexico City, Washington, DC; Vail, Colorado; and at CU Boulder.
Roberto is the former chair of the Education Committee for the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association (CHBA), the former chair of the Pro Bono and volunteering Committee for the CHBA, the former chair of the Spanish Speaking Lawyers Committee for the Colorado Bar Association, and member of the Court Interpreter Oversight Committee of the Colorado Supreme Court.
Roberto is also a Marshall Fellow. The fellowship is the German Marshall Fund’s flagship leadership development program. Created to introduce a new generation of European leaders to the United States, it now prepares leaders from both sides of the Atlantic for transatlantic relations. The program relies on 6 months of distance learning and 24 days of first-hand experience to facilitate knowledge and network development for effective transatlantic engagement. Roberto started his program in Washington DC, then traveled to Brussels, Belgium; Freiburg, Germany; Athens, Greece; Sarajevo, Bosnia; and Berlin, Germany.
Interim Secretary Fundraising and Branding Committees
Melissa Cizmorris obtained her law degree from Brooklyn Law School and her undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas. She is an associate with Akerman LLP's Denver office where she focuses on consumer finance litigation. She has extensive experience nationwide at both the trial and appellate levels, with a focus on appellate litigation in the Ninth and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeal. She is admitted to practice in Colorado, New York, and New Jersey.
Melissa was raised in San Antonio, Texas and was the first in her immediate family to attend college. She was drawn toward Law School … Yes We Can as a way to help first-generation college students navigate the complex and difficult transition from high school to adulthood. Melissa lives in Denver with her husband and young son. She enjoys hiking, skiing, gardening, and baking. She also volunteers her time with Denver CASA and judging CBA High School Mock Trial Competition.
LaLonnie is an experienced employment attorney at Fisher Phillips. She has represented clients throughout the litigation process in single-plaintiff lawsuits and class/collective actions. LaLonnie has defended claims brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Equal Pay Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, Title IX, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Colorado Wage Act, and Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. She routinely defends employers against employment-related claims and charges before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Colorado Civil Rights Division.
Prior to joining private practice, LaLonnie served as the judicial law clerk to Hon. Christine M. Arguello of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. LaLonnie earned her law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law where she served on the executive board of the Denver University Law Review.
Eliseo R. Puig
Admissions, Program, and Branding Committees
Eliseo R. Puig is a litigation associate in the Denver office of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP. Eliseo received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, where he served as President of La Alianza, the Latino student affinity organization. Before entering private practice, Eliseo clerked for the Honorable Christine M. Arguello on the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.
Eliseo has a strong commitment to public service and believes that mentorship, especially for young people from underrepresented communities, is the gateway to personal and professional success. Law School… Yes We Can delivers high-impact interventions to talented young people reaching for higher education, and Eliseo is delighted to be a part of an organization that will change the face of our legal profession.
“Sí, Se Puede” is a phrase born of farmworkers, who, under the leadership of the UFW, César Chávez, and Dolores Huerta, fought valiantly for equal protection under the law. As a result of the efforts of the UFW, “Sí, Se Puede” has become well known as a call that engenders hope and inspiration in those who face similar battles. We thank the UFW, whom we acknowledge to be the sole and exclusive owner of the Trademark SI SE PUEDE, for granting us a limited license to use“Sí, Se Puede” in connection with our efforts to recruit, in Colorado, students of Hispanic or Latino descent for our law school pipeline program. For more information about the programs offered by the UFW, please see UFW’s webpage (www.ufw.org); UFW Foundation’s webpage (www.ufwfoundation.org); and UFWF’s immigration services webpage (www.sisepuede.org)