Lori Potter has always considered herself a nature enthusiast.
From a young age, Potter had a passion for all things outdoors. However, like many people entering college, she wasn’t sure what to major in. Her love for nature was just a hobby; nothing she would consider as a career option.
Little did she know years later, she would be using her passion for nature as an attorney specializing in environmental law.
“I didn’t set out to specialize in a particular area, but my first job out of college helped set the way,” said Potter, who is an attorney and a partner with the Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell law firm in Denver.
Her journey to a law career began as a student at Moraine Valley Community College. Because Potter graduated from Stagg High School early and earned college credit through the College-Level Entrance Examination Program (CLEP), she decided Moraine Valley was the logical step.
“Moraine Valley was in my backyard, and it had a reputation for being a good school,” said Potter. “I took the general education courses from professors who had the ability to engage their students, not just lecture at them.”
Potter recalls a hands-on biology class as one of her favorite classes.
“My biology course was interesting, and it was outside my normal area of study even though I liked nature,” said Potter. “It was possible to learn another discipline from a proactive teacher.”
After earning her associate degree from Moraine Valley in 1973, she transferred to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was there she stumbled upon an opportunity.
“I became aware of the legal services office, which was run by two lawyers, and I was curious,” said Potter. “I asked questions, and I landed a job doing clerical work, but most importantly, I observed a law practice.”
Her experience in the law office continued to pave the way to become an attorney. Potter earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois in 1975 and Master of Arts degree from the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois in 1977. She enrolled into Harvard Law School where she earned juris doctor in 1980.
Potter’s law career began with a legal aid organization, where she represented migrant farmworkers, followed by a one-year clerkship with the first woman justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.
An opportunity brought her to the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, where she spent 13 years protecting public lands and the environment. She then moved to private practice, representing cities, counties, and other units of government with environmental protection goals, for the last 20 years.
In addition to being a successful attorney, Potter is a mentor and has been a college professor. She was a Fulbright Professor of environmental law in India in 1993 and has taught at the University of Denver College of Law.
Potter spends time volunteering, including mentoring law students, young lawyers, and students considering law school. She credits her success in finding a mentor and encourages students to do the same.
“Find someone you can come in contact with who can help you think broadly,” said Potter. “I’ve been fortunate to have people in my life that do that, and I try to do that for others.”
When Potter isn’t working or teaching, she enjoys long-distance cycling. She participates in several events, including a cross-state race, which brings her closer to nature—her first love.