Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

Retirement is a Stark contrast to lawyer’s last 44 years

David Stark retires from firm, moving forward with committee and charity work.


If you’ve ever been in one of David Stark’s classes or even worked with him as a young lawyer at his firm, you probably know the slogan that would christen a t-shirt made in his honor: Read the Freakin’ Rule.

It was a practice that Stark has followed ever since picking it up in his early days at the Denver District Attorney’s Office from mentor Dale Tooley, Stark’s first boss and then Denver District Attorney.

“Whenever we talked, he would reach behind him and grab either a statute book or rule book,” Stark said. “I learned that Dale didn’t know everything there was to know but he did know how to find the answer.”

Now in his 44th year of legal practice, Stark offers up the same mentorship he received from Tooley to the hopeful law students he teaches at the University of Colorado School of Law each semester.

It was this same school where Stark kicked off his legal career by earning his J.D. at C.U. in 1973.

Fast-forward to 2018 and Stark is newly-retired from Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP in Denver. He officially retired at the end of 2017 and now works as a retired partner with an office at the firm. But calling Stark just a lawyer would be like calling Steve Wozniak just a programmer.

For more than four decades, Stark has represented lawyers and law firms in professional responsibility and ethics matters.

Heather Perkins, Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP, partner and leader of the firm’s Denver office, said Stark’s “commitment to the
betterment of Colorado’s legal community” and his dedication to improving equality in the profession, and at their firm, are second to none.

“He is a valued advisor, mentor and friend to clients and colleagues at the firm and has positively impacted the lives of countless Colorado children and underserved individuals through pro bono and civic service,” Perkins said.

“In addition, David has been a powerful advocate for the advancement of women within Faegre Baker Daniels and the legal profession generally. There are a number of female attorneys at the firm, including myself, who have benefited greatly from David’s guidance and sponsorship.”

Stark’s trial experience centered on the complex realm of commercial litigation, trying a legion of jury and court trials at the federal and state level with a slew of emphasis areas: professional responsibility, natural resources, products liability, securities fraud, trade secrets, contract disputes, white collar criminal, banking and energy.

Stark has represented numerous clients in the legal profession, energy, high technology, telecommunications, natural resources, securities fraud, and health care industries.

But this description pales in comparison to the real work that Stark has put in. Specifically, his clients have included: a major independent oil and gas exploration company, a large energy utility entity, an operator of a hazardous waste facility, the president of a regional and independent oil company, a Federal Savings bank, an international engineering firm, an AM Law 100 firm, the Chief Financial Officer of Vari-L, Inc., and one of the largest national banks in the United States, to name a few.

And to top it all off, during his five years at the District Attorney’s Office, Stark tried numerous felony jury trials, including 10 murder trials and two death penalty cases.

While only miniscule in comparison to his entire 44-year career, Stark describes his time at the DA’s Office as “the greatest job he’s ever had.”

“People had a lot of faith in me and probably let me do things I probably shouldn’t have,” Stark said, laughing.

This experience set the tone for the rest of his career. He was compelled to develop his skills, and himself, at the same rapid pace the DA was utilizing to propel him up their ranks.

“It was really the time that formed the basis for the rest of my career,” Stark said. “I got to do some amazing things and participate in some amazing cases.”

Just as Tooley before him, Stark became a talented lawyer who started to mentor new lawyers. Mark Fogg, General Counsel attorney for COPIC, said he fondly remembers working with Stark. He and Stark worked together in the Denver District Attorney’s office in the mid-1970s, a time when Stark was a veteran DA, and Fogg, a fresh-faced law student.

“I used to go watch him try cases all the time, including two or three high-profile murder prosecutions,” Fogg said. “I modeled my courtroom demeanor after him because he was the epitome of professionalism.”

Besides sharing time in the office, Fogg and Stark also shared a mentor: Brooke Wunnicke.

Wunnicke, who traveled to Colorado from Wyoming after becoming the first female trial lawyer in the state’s history, served as the Chief Deputy of Appeals in the Denver District Attorney's office for 12 years, from 1973 to 1985.

She passed away in 2014 at the age of 96, but the shared memories and the bond between Wunnicke, Stark, and Fogg transcends nearly half a century. Wunnicke served as a mentor to both long after they had left the DA’s Office.

“To this day, David and I are on a lot of committees together and we share a lot of joint memories. However, our shared love for Brooke is in the top two or three shared memories together,” Fogg said. “It’s a nice memory that he and I share.”

It was this time period at the DA’s Office, and the mentorship of Tooley and Wunnicke, that Stark believes had the monumental impact of forging him into the lawyer he is today.

“Brooke and Dale were the greatest influences on my career and the type of lawyer I became,” Stark said.

He also said he believes it was a ‘lucky break’ when the DA’s Office decided to hire him on as a law clerk while he was still attending law school

Typically, experience as a law clerk could carve an avenue to not only assisting at the DA’s Office but also becoming part of it as a full-time practicing attorney. As fortune would have it, Stark was given that opportunity a few months later.

In 1978, when Stark left the DA’s Office for private practice, it was not only a change in scenery and litigation area, but also a shift from master, back to student.

“It was very difficult. I went from knowing everything there is to know about my job, to knowing nothing,” Stark said. “I didn’t know how to ask for an extension of time. I didn’t even know if there was an extension of time,” Stark said, jokingly.

Besides being a champion attorney, Stark has dedicated much of his time outside of the courtroom to giving back – to the community, to the legal profession, and to Colorado.

His focused efforts to improve the practice of law in the State of Colorado include serving as former chair of the Attorney Regulation Committee, from 1996 to 2001, and current chair of the Colorado Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Attorney Regulation.

Jim Coyle, Attorney Regulation Counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court, has worked alongside Stark for many years, touting him as “one of the most-respected lawyers in the State of Colorado.”

“I have been very fortunate to work with Dave Stark,” Coyle said. “He is a person of great integrity, who is passionate about access to justice issues and improving the legal profession.”

Within the Advisory Committee, Stark, as chair, and Coyle, as Attorney Regulation Counsel, are also part of a subcommittee on the cutting edge of one of the most exciting legal initiatives in the nation: Colorado’s Proactive Management-Based Program.

The subcommittee, formed in May 15, 2015, was charged with investigating the Proactive Management Based Regulation programs used in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canadian jurisdictions.

A little over two years later, and with Stark at the helm, the subcommittee created and launched the nation’s first Lawyer Self-Assessment Program designed to help lawyers’ better serve clients and simplify their professional lives.

Besides his numerous chairing duties, Stark is a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Standing Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct, the CBA/DBA Professionalism Coordinating Council, Colorado Access to Justice Commission, and the Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice's Commission on Professional Development.

Stark has also contributed extensively to the Colorado Lawyers Committee, on projects and in a leadership capacity as a Board of Directors member, Executive Committee member, and advocate of the Children’s Task Force.

He has remained a longstanding supporter of the Committee, providing extensive involvement as chair of the Children’s Task Force for more than 15 years to improve conditions for children in the state of Colorado.

It is this same committee that honored Stark with its highest award, the Outstanding Sustained Contribution Award, on May 5, 2017.

“Dave has been a trailblazer in our legal community—championing the rights of the underserved and advocating tirelessly for access to justice,” said Constance Talmage, Executive Director of the Colorado Lawyers Committee.

“[He] is an extraordinary legal talent and has offered quiet, steady leadership that has benefited the Colorado Lawyers Committee, our community and our courts.”

After 44 years, in a suit and tie with his nose to the grindstone, what’s next for the 2013 Law Week Colorado Lawyer of the Year besides committee and community work?

“The Boston Marathon,” Stark said, which would mark the 19th race he’s completed. “That should keep me occupied.”

Running is a large part of Stark’s life and a hobby he said he thoroughly enjoys. He also plans to spend more time with his three grandchildren.

If there was any question about whether Stark would find a passion after leaving litigation, it seems he’s already found it: “There’s no better job than being a grandpa.”