Her goal is to Provide Her Clients With a Balance of Advocacy & Sound Practical Advice. Meet Denver Attorney, Kristi Anderson Wells.
Wells Family Law focuses on the things that matter: preserving your assets, ensuring the well-being of you and your children, and assisting you through the difficult life transitions that accompany divorce, legal separation, and child custody disputes. Our firm provides discreet family law services to high net worth individuals. While these life transitions can be profound, often accompanied by emotional issues that can exacerbate conflict, we provide compassionate counsel to our clients with insight into the entirety of their circumstances. It is our core values and skills that inform our approach to domestic issues.
Q: Can you share with our audience, the types of law you specialize in?
KAW: I have both a J.D. as well as an LL.M. in Taxation. I began my career working in benefits with a focus on executive compensation. That practice was extremely technical as the nonqualified arrangements I was drafting were meant primarily to provide executives with performance incentives and to defer taxation, both of which are subject to detailed rules under Internal Revenue Code or the Department of Labor statutes and regulations. During the last big downturn, when the executive compensation work slowed down, I recreated myself as a divorce attorney. My firm provides general domestic relations services to families throughout Colorado. However, due to my prior incarnation as an executive compensation attorney, I tend get a lot of technical cases involving stock rights, deferred compensation, issues related to prenuptial agreements, closely held businesses and tax issues. Tackling complex issues and reaching solutions that make sense is the core of my practice.
Q: What types of cases do you handle?
KAW: I handle all domestic relations cases. My sweet spot is technical cases involving stock rights, deferred compensation, issues related to prenuptial agreements, closely held businesses and tax issues.
Q: What is your approach or philosophy to winning or representing a case?
KAW: My philosophy in domestic relations cases is “first do no harm.” Families are fragile things. It is a divorce attorney’s job to zealously represent clients, but that does not preclude an attorney from advising clients about the long-term negative consequences to children of ongoing conflict. Litigating may be fun and lucrative for attorneys, but it can be devastating for families. So, if there is a way to settle the case within the range of potential outcomes that a court could order, and that settlement meets my client’s needs, I always advise my clients to consider reasonable offers of settlement and outline for them the risks of going to court.
Q: Can you share with our audience the type of pro-bono work you do?
KAW: I volunteer through Metro Volunteer Lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to clients who could not otherwise afford my services as a divorce attorney. I urge my associates to do the same. Usually, my paralegal and I are able to run only one pro bono case at a time because such cases often deal with issues such as substance abuse or domestic violence and can be very demanding to run.
Q: If we interviewed all your past clients … what is “one” common word that comes up when they describe working with your law firm?
Q: What was the most challenging part of law school for you?
KAW: My daughter was born during my third year of law school just as I was interviewing for post-law school jobs. The on-campus interviews weren’t bad. I would leave my daughter with a classmate in the Law Review offices while I rushed to my interviews and would breast feed in between meeting firm representatives. Off campus interviews were fairly difficult, especially those where you had to meet with four to six different individuals in a firm over several hours. I remember my mother driving my daughter and I from Seattle down to Portland, Oregon, to interview with a firm I was very interested in about two weeks after the baby was born. My mother drove around for hours with the baby in the car to keep her asleep while I was upstairs doing my best impression of a normal law student on the interview trail.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career as an Attorney?
KAW: Don’t put off having children if having them is important to you. There will never be a perfect solution to managing your career and your family. There will be times when you aren’t the most attentive mother in the world because you have a brief due. There will be times when you aren’t a perfect attorney because you were up all night with a sick child. That said, you can still be a great mother and a great attorney.
Q: What is it about your job that most excites you?
KAW: I love when I run into a former client on the street, and they have bounced back strong after their divorce. Often, they will update me on all the great things they and their children are up to. In those moments, being a divorce attorney is very special.
Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
KAW: Stage fright. I’m always a little nervous before a hearing -- which isn’t a bad thing. It helps me to prepare well.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
KAW: Trust your gut. If are meeting with a client for the first time and you get a feeling of unease in your stomach, it probably isn’t a good lawyer-client fit. There are plenty of good lawyers out there and there is enough work to keep everyone busy, so you don’t have to take every case. Have a list of referrals to competent counsel handy so that you can say no to a case that won’t be a good case for you.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
KAW: My daughter inspires me. A few years ago, she dropped out of college and told me she wanted to move to L.A. to pursue her music and acting. I was understandably skeptical but offered to have her come work at my office as a legal assistant to save money for a car and for the move. I expected it to be difficult working with my child, but she was spectacular. She took direction well, worked hard and excelled at the job. At the same time, she also worked a second job as a hostess in a local restaurant to maximize her earnings. Despite this, she was never late to work. At the end of the summer, I was convinced that if things didn’t work out for her as an actress or musician, she could always make a living as a paralegal. Off she went and never looked back. Four years later, she is still following her dream, and succeeding even in the depths of the pandemic shutdown.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
KAW: I would give the same advice I would give to a man: always be 15 minutes early, be prepared, and give it your best shot. You don’t have control over the facts of your case, but if you do those three things, you will rest easy at night.
Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you?
KAW: I went off to college the first time as an art major, which is a long way from being an attorney with a master’s degree in Taxation. I left college after a year and spent the next five years travelling and working in Italy, France, England, Japan, and New York. When I went back to college later, I was focused more on having a career where I would be challenged and support myself than on being a starving artist. And, as it turns out, being an attorney doesn’t mean you have to stop making art.
Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
KAW: I don’t think there is such a thing as work-life balance, or at least I’ve never found it. For me it’s more like a work-life rollercoaster. Sometimes things are quiet, and you get to read books at night and have uninterrupted vacation time with your family. Sometimes things are busy, and you have to read briefs at night and work during your vacation. I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries over the years so that I can enjoy most of my weekends. However, I’m still trying to find the balance that everyone talks about.
14 Things About Kristi Anderson Wells
1. What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Tinkering with my latest art project.
2. Among your friends, what are you best known for?
3. Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever been?
I love tourist attractions. When my husband and I visited New Zealand, I convinced him to go to the glow worm caves. You travel down into a cave quite a way on the path before reaching an overhang. The guide turns out the light and the tourists all duck down to see the glow worms. There are quite a few of them and I would have been pretty happy with my visit had it ended at that point. However, the tour continued down to the bottom of the cave where we were all loaded into boats on an underground river. The guide paddled us out into a large cavern that was pitch dark except for the millions of glow worms hanging from the ceiling above us. I leaned my head back and covered my mouth for fear of having one drop from the ceiling. It was truly as if the ceiling of the cavern were the night sky on the darkest night you could imagine.
4. What’s your favorite international food?
The Indonesian rice dish, Nasi Goreng, is my all-time favorite food. I was introduced to it by my husband who is Dutch. The people of the Netherlands learned to cook this delicious dish from the Indonesians during the colonial era. I think the Dutch are obsessed by it both because of the fragrant spices (the Dutch monopolized the spice trade in the 17th century), as well as the fact that the dish is traditionally made using leftover rice, thus appealing to the notorious Dutch fiscal prudence. In any event, my husband won me over when he first made me this dish and continues to secure my undying adoration each time he makes it.
5. Who is your favorite author?
Maria Doria Russell.
6. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
7. What would your perfect vacation look like?
My perfect vacation would include chartering a sailboat in Croatia in July, preferably with a cook and some good friends aboard. I am so looking forward to travel again in the post-pandemic world.
8. Favorite Dessert?
Chocolate mousse or blackberry pie.
9. Favorite City?
Christchurch, New Zealand.
10. Tell me about the best vacation you’ve ever taken.
Recently, my husband and I chartered a boat in the Netherlands and explored the cities and canals off the Markermeer and the Ijsselmeer.
11. What is your favorite game or sport to watch and play?
I am a sailor. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, sailing Lasers and C-Larks in sailing classes, as well as sailing with my family on larger boats. As an adult, I raced on large boats until moving to Denver where the access to sailing is limited. It seems counterintuitive, but I find sailboat racing a fascinating sport. The new America’s Cup designs, where the yachts can travel over 40 knots (approximately 45 MPH) on foils which lift the boats above the water, have brought excitement to what was previously a fairly boring sport to watch.
12. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest?
13. What was your favorite subject in school?
14. Cake or pie?
Pie. I grew up in Seattle where blackberries grew on virtually every street corner outside of the downtown core. One of my favorite activities in the summer was braving the thorns to gather blackberries for pie. The berries are somewhat tart in early summer and almost sickly sweet by the end of summer. Either way, a blackberry pie is a thing of beauty.