Today we are highlighting Jake Felderman, Head of Legal Operations and Partner in Tyson & Mendes’ Denver office. His successful career as a litigator spans many practice areas such as general negligence, professional liability, business disputes, premises liability, product liability, personal injury, and commercial and general civil litigation. He also serves as an advocate for all Tyson & Mendes’ attorneys, supervising nationwide office operations, overseeing case assignments and trial staffing and more. Learn about Jake and his expedition to find the tomb of Genghis Khan below!
T&M: What has changed most about Tyson & Mendes since you joined in 2011?
JF: My first day with Tyson & Mendes was Halloween. Most of the office was in costume. After almost 11 years, I still picture everyone as their Halloween character. Kristi Blackwell (now the San Diego Managing Partner) will always be Batwoman to me!
We still have Halloween parties, but there are a lot more costumes. There were 12 attorneys in one office when I started. Now we are over 165 lawyers in 16 offices across 12 states. We still use the same defense techniques and client service approach we did when we were all in one room, but instead of informal training, we now have formalized programs like Tyson & Mendes University, Team Leader in Training and Tyson & Mendes Trial Academy. I have never been to a firm with as much educational resources.
T&M: What drew you to the firm initially?
JF: I came to Tyson & Mendes because a friend and colleague, Mina Miserlis (now Complex Trial Team Partner), told me Bob Tyson and Pat Mendes were genuinely good guys to work for. I stayed because she was right.
Some litigators have a habit of managing people the same way they would act in a courtroom – they can become adversarial with folks who work for them. The leadership at Tyson & Mendes is not that way. We make sure those in charge care about their direct reports and treat them fairly. We want the people at the top to practice empathy.
T&M: What do you enjoy most about your role as Head of Legal Operations?
JF: I get to work with people from all parts of the firm. I spend time with lawyers, but also with the accounting team, IT team and administrative team. I would estimate I have at least five Zoom conversations a day. We have great teams and I get to know them all!
T&M: What has been your most significant or challenging case to date?
JF: I had a case where a CFO embezzled millions of dollars from her employer. She fooled her employer and all the accounting firms who audited the company’s books. I was defending one of the outside accountancy firms. We had to depose the imprisoned CFO over multiple days. A prison guard lost her keys during one of the deposition sessions, so the guards had to lock down the prison – which meant locking in all the lawyers on the case. When I went to law school, I never would have guessed I would eventually be in a women’s prison lockdown.
T&M: You were involved with a National Geographic expedition to find the tomb of Genghis Khan – what was your role?
JF: I was an expedition member and the expedition’s lawyer. We had to get a lot of sophisticated equipment, including ground-penetrating radars, into Mongolia. We had to navigate a few international treaties to get permission.
Once the equipment was in Mongolia, I got to be an expedition member. I spent weeks hiking through Mongolia’s sacred Burkhan Khaldun mountain looking for evidence of Genghis Khan’s tomb. I rode horses across the steppe searching for Bronze Age burial sites identified through a crowdsourcing satellite imagery program.
T&M: What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers?
JF: There are a lot of different kinds of lawyers. If you are interested in the profession, go to your nearest law library, and talk to a librarian. They can point you to the local professional associations where you can meet practitioners and find out what they do on a day-to-day basis. Find out what excites you and start making connections right away.
T&M: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
JF: A philosophy professor. You get to spend your career considering the most important questions in life. Spoiler alert: no one has it figured out yet!
T&M: If you could have dinner with any historical legal figure, who would it be and why?
JF: Mohandas Gandhi was a lawyer for 20 years before he became an activist. I would love to hear his approach to life.
T&M: Where can we find you on the weekends?
JF: Rock climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, skiing at one of Colorado’s front-rage resorts or hiking with my wife and two boys. It’s no coincidence that I can walk to the front range from my home office.