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The Many Hats of CBA YLD Chair Spencer Rubin

August / September 2020

Spencer Rubin has the laid-back Denver vibe down. An avid hiker, he recounts the time he was tackling a 14er when a favorite hat was taken by the wind, right off his head. “I was determined to get it, so I did. Had to scramble down a scree field,” he says. To the uninitiated, a 14er is a mountain peak 14,000 feet or higher—you know, high enough that altitude sickness becomes an issue. And a scree field? That is a not-altogether stable slope of loose, broken rock piled at the base of a cliff. When he says that his most exciting 14er moment of last summer was whether he would have enough breath to make it to the top, one gets a sense that, to the guy who takes on scree fields for fun, this might be understatement.

Shaking Things Up

In addition to hiking, Spencer enjoys nature photography, spending time with his “doggo” Yahtzee, and astrophotography, or the capture of celestial bodies or events in the night sky. As exciting as Spencer’s hikes can get, this hobby sees him in a more grounded, focused mode. To make his images, he will take a drive to the closest yet darkest spot where it is still possible to make it home around midnight. Then he sets up his equipment and settles in. “There are lots of different types of astrophotography depending on what kind of celestial body you are trying to capture—and the farther away it is, or the smaller, the more technical equipment you need, which can get costly.” For his kind of photography, Spencer takes wide-angle images of the night sky on nights without moon interferences to get images of the milky way. “Making the images is a time investment and post-production is technical. I have to watch a 45-minute video on photo editing in Photoshop so I can remember all the steps. The final product is arguably art.”

The two sides, the daring hiker and the thoughtful photographer, should make for an exciting year ahead as Spencer takes over as chair of the CBA Young Lawyers Division. It’s a role he was encouraged to pursue by Joi Kush, CBA president-elect, and Danaé Woody, outgoing chair of the CBA YLD. “They were the individuals who recognized that I might have leadership potential and worked tirelessly to get me further involved in leadership roles. I think I knew that I was capable of shaking things up for the better at the CBA when we sold out in three days for our inaugural rafting event. We’ve done it three times now—it was supposed to be four this summer, but COVID.”

Career Trajectory

Like many lawyers, Spencer had his sights set on the legal profession as a kid. At age 11 or 12, “I made a pact with my best friend that we’d both become lawyers.” And they did just that. His friend went into bankruptcy law and practices in New York City, while Spencer has taken on technology and intellectual property transactions in Denver.

“I got sidetracked along the way, thinking I might make a career out of acting. I loved doing it, but at the end of the day, I wanted to make a decent living. I thought that I could be an entertainment lawyer or work in an adjacent area of law. It was hard to make a different career path, but it was definitely worth it not to be out of work right now.” Although he stopped acting after college, Spencer finds value in the training. “Trying to understand people in order to portray a character makes you a better communicator, and that skill has helped me as a lawyer.”

A Denver native, Spencer headed to Massachusetts to study drama and environmental studies at Tufts University and returned home for law school at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In his first year of law school, Spencer took an internship at Starz Network and interned for the telecommunications company Charter Communications/Spectrum in his second year. “In both of these roles, I helped the deals teams on their TV programming contracts. A lot of tech is involved in those, so that work naturally brought me to practice law in technology transactions.” It’s a dynamic field in which change, or the lack of it, on any given day can affect a deal. “When statutes, regulations, or case law is slow to catch up with deals, it can be a good thing in that it helps your client not forestall the closing of a deal over a compliance issue. A lot of times, when there is no applicable law governing a transaction in the technology space, lawyers have to use business terms to make sure that their clients are adequately protected.”

Since he started practicing, two of the biggest changes he’s seen have been in personal data: the General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act were both enacted to regulate the processing of personal data in transactions. “It has made parties much more cognizant of how they must respect people’s personal data that they use.”

Following law school, Spencer worked for Justice Richard Gabriel through a fellowship grant at the Colorado Supreme Court before joining Sherman & Howard, LLC, first as a staff attorney and then as an associate in the business and real estate department. Spencer spent three years at Sherman & Howard, where he cut his teeth on various technology deals, including software and cloud transactions, and data licensing agreements. He also helped his colleagues get more involved with the CBA YLD and, like the cool kid he is, started a Friday afternoon club called Studio 32. In 2019 Spencer joined his new firm, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP, working on technology and intellectual property transactions. Spencer says the transition from student to practicing lawyer was a fairly easy adjustment. “I think law school prepares you to have the work ethic necessary to work in any law firm—deadlines just become more ‘firm’”—pun intended.

Adding Value to the YLD

Spencer has been forging his own career path for the most part, but he credits the CBA with helping him gain his footing as a new lawyer. “It provided me with new colleagues and a new network to grow into.” His involvement in CBA leadership with the YLD was in some ways a happy accident. “I hadn’t gone to a ton of CBA YLD events before getting involved. I just got the email to submit applications, and I decided that being on the executive council could be a good way to make friends and network.” His firm also had a networking requirement, which provided the additional push.

To other young lawyers curious about the CBA YLD but on the fence about it, Spencer suggests giving it a try. Attend a minor event. “It’s low pressure, and if the CBA YLD isn’t bringing you a value-add, then we aren’t doing our job right.” He sees it as a collaborative process with members. “Tell us what we aren’t doing right and come back to a future event and see how we’ve improved or changed things up. The CBA YLD is always adaptable and nimble about its programming, and that’s what I like about it.”

During his term as chair of the CBA YLD, Spencer wants to focus on this idea of providing experiences of real worth. He knows time is precious and lives are busy. “I want to focus on programming that is a value-add to members’ lives. If you want social networking, we will provide you with events that don’t feel like obligations. If you want CLEs, we will provide you with content that thinks outside of the box and is interactive. If you want social justice and community service opportunities, we will leverage the lawyer community to get you opportunities that might not otherwise be accessible.”

The rafting event is a perfect example of that idea of value beyond what is expected, providing members a chance to make necessary professional connections while also taking on a stretch of exciting, continuous rapids in the company of fellow adventurous spirits. No wonder it sold out—and no doubt one can expect more engaging events in the year to come.

The two sides, the daring hiker and the thoughtful photographer, should make for an exciting year ahead as Spencer takes over as chair of the CBA Young Lawyers Division.

Three sorcerers
Three sorcerers.