A True Advocate, Offering Zealous Representation for Her Clients. Meet Denver Attorney Lyndsey O’Connell
Lyndsey has a construction background in both residential and commercial renovation and restoration. After beginning her career in fix and flips, Lyndsey started a career in real estate sales, which she loved. As a million dollar producer in her first year and multi-million dollar producer in her second, love turned to success.
Because that wasn't enough, Lyndsey decided to quit her job, move to San Antonio, Texas and attend law school at St. Mary's University School of Law. Graduating at the top of her class, Lyndsey also focused on founding the Real Estate and Construction Law Association, while working full time as a litigation clerk at Watts Guerra, LLP and Oliva, Saks, Garcia & Curiel. It was through this experience that her love for litigation was found. After graduation, Lyndsey heard the mountains calling, and she answered.
Q: Why did you decide to attend law school?
LOC: Because my mother told me not to! My mother was also an attorney and warned me of the pains of being a young female in the industry and difficulty of trying to balance that with her dream of starting our family. I heeded her advice for a while after graduating college and pursued a successful career as a real estate broker.
But, after a while I wanted to be in a more complex role in the real estate industry. She passed away before she could see me fully rebel against that advice. On the seventeenth anniversary of her death, I drank a large glass of wine, cooked her favorite meal and broke open the LSAT book. It was almost my homage to her. I never looked back.
Q: What expectations did you have after graduating and receiving your law degree?
LOC: As a law student, I was top of my class and working full time at one of the best firms in Texas (and the country, in my opinion). I thought that because of my experience, work ethic and confidence that I was going to move to Colorado, would be employed the summer before by bar results came out and would be living the secret life of the rich and famous by Christmas. Boy, was I wrong.
I did move to Colorado; I did get employed the summer before my bar results came out and I did pass the bar. But compliance with my plan stopped there. The reality of student loans set in, my inexperience in Colorado law became a hurdle to overcome and I couldn’t spell “rich and famous”! I had no idea what went into being an attorney on a day to day basis, nor the stress that came with it.
After finding my feet, I applied what I knew best, hard work. With a stable ground beneath me, I was able to readjust my expectations to be more suited to the realities of life as a young lawyer. From there, satisfying those expectations became much easier. I still can’t spell “rich and famous,” but I can spell “comfortable and satisfied.”
Q: What types of cases do you handle?
LOC: We handle real estate, construction, and business cases. This ranges from transactions, to disputes, to negotiations and litigation. One of the main rules in our firm is that to win the game, you have to know all of the rules. Meaning, we handle cases for contractors, homeowners, brokers, brokerages, buyers and sellers, plaintiffs and defendants. Having been on both sides of the v. in cases allows us to better anticipate, negotiate and litigate on behalf of any client type.
As far as the cases or issues we see the most, I would say it tends to be nondisclosure claims, breaches of construction contracts, mechanic’s lien issues, business breakups, and most recently a ton of faulty and negligent construction claims. On top of the disputes we litigate, we do a ton of real estate tenancy agreements, contract reviews, manual drafts for brokerages and other types of transactional matters.
Q: What is it about you being an Attorney that most excites you?
LOC: There are probably two main things that truly excite me about being an attorney.
- I absolutely LOVE writing motions to the Court. We get to take black and white laws and findings and turn them grey with facts. I love getting to sit down and create arguments and showings to the court in such an analytical way. I also enjoy such a tangible showing of my hard work.
- Eliciting testimony from an adverse party in trial. As a law student, I never wanted to be in a courtroom. Until a class I was taking required us to prepare for and conduct mock hearings with other students in the class. I wanted to throw up. When my turn came to question the witness, something came over me. I was able to order my questions and tone in a way where the witness gave me everything I wanted, without knowing they were doing it. It was a power I had never felt. To this day, I still feel something come over me when I stand up to ask my first question!
Q: Were there moments in your career that were pivotal to getting where you are today?
LOC: The entire legal industry has become adversarial in nature. People suing people, fighting over rights or duties, arguing with attorneys about positions and theories. Just always arguing. We all watch enough television shows that have created a world where a “bulldog” attorney is expected. I wanted my clients to feel advocated for and to feel like I was a strong presence. I also wanted to remain myself, who tries to make a friend everywhere I go. It was a very confusing part of my career.
However, after the close of a very heated litigation, I got a wakeup call. Opposing counsel from that matter referred me a huge case. He said that he referred the case to me because he saw that I was able to diligently defend my client’s position, while respectfully dealing with the opposition. It was pivotal in my attitude and career moving forward.
It has since changed the way I treat all opposing counsel and parties. I am arguing against their position, not them. It has definitely paid off. I now get a ton of referrals from adverse counsel. I have even had adverse parties call and ask for representation in unrelated matters.
Q: If we interviewed all your past clients … what is “one” common word that comes up when they describe working with your law firm?
LOC: Very literally, it would probably be “southern.” Caroline and I are both southern raised women and it can be heard as soon as we speak and very much seen in the way we conduct ourselves. However, outside of the literal realm, I would think it would be “professional.” I think our clients know that we conduct ourselves in a professional manner with them and with opposing counsel and parties. It takes a lot of trust to give someone the power to speak or negotiate on your behalf. Knowing we are doing so with professionalism is something we strive for with every client.
Q: What was your first job? And how did it shape or impact you?
LOC: My first real job was as a second-grade teacher. My undergraduate degree is in elementary education. It was a doozy. I have truly never had more respect for a group of people as I have for teachers. It is exhausting, emotional and a test of every grain of patience that a person has in their body. From my brief career in teaching, I learned that control is not always easily kept (over a classroom or over one’s self). I learned that patience is a developed quality. I learned that adaptive learning and teaching is a must in a room of 30 different children from 30 different walks of life. Most importantly though, I learned to listen. You would be surprised by what kids tell you. They lay out for you what they need and how they want to receive it. If you listen to them, you can shape the classroom setting to them in ways that allow for more meaningful learning.
All of these lessons are directly seen in my practice today. I have to work every day to (attempt) to keep control of clients, costs, emotions, time and whatever else I lose control over often. I am still working on my patience, but it has certainly gotten better over the years! I have had to learn to adapt my strategies and positions after listening and assessing situations. Being an attorney may seem very far from teaching a room of second graders, but the theories cross over more than you would think.
Q: How do you achieve work life balance?
LOC: This is truly one of the biggest goals I set for myself when I started a career in law. Having been a real estate broker prior to law school, I knew that I did not want to have calls interrupting a date with my husband or to be constantly checking my phone to see what latest emails had come in. I work so that I can live the life I want, not the other way around. To effectuate this, I follow the wise words of Dolly Pardon. I work 9-5, just trying to make a dollar. Granted, there are nights that I burn the midnight oil and there are weekends where I am in the office preparing for trial.
In the legal industry, there is an unspoken assumption that the person with the most billables is the most successful. Or that as a young associate, you have to earn your place in the industry at the cost of your personal time. That is a trap. Well managed time during the day is just as profitable for me as working endless hours for someone else. Boundaries are what a work-life balance requires.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career as an Attorney?
LOC: For starters, you will not be rich and famous your first year out of law school. Seriously though, I would say sit down and find your point Z. When you retire, what type of career do you want to have had. Once you see that end game, work your way back from that and set a plan for how you intend to get there. Your career won’t always go according to that plan. But if you have no plan at all, it certainly won’t get there.
Without a plan, it is a lot easier to mold yourself around other’s plans or expectations. Check on your plan often to see if you are still on track to achieve your career goals. Set annual or 5-year goals and check yourself on achieving them. I would also tell them to not try to do it alone. There are so many supportive people in this industry that will help you fulfil your goals and hold you accountable for the goals you set for yourself. Take advantage of them
Five Things About Lyndsey O’Connell
1. What celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?
Bonnie Raitt. She is an absolute legend and I would just die to share a table and some stories with her!
2. What is one thing you will never do again?
Attempt to install wallpaper.
3. If you could join any past or current music group which would you want to join?
Tedeschi Trucks Band (It would be Whitney Houston, but for some reason I can only hit those notes in the shower!)
4. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?
I would have taken the opportunity to study abroad in college.
5. Favorite dessert?
I don’t eat sweets often, but a bowl of vanilla ice cream gets me every time.