Q: In more ways than one.
A: Yeah. I talk to law students a lot, and I say
I’m glad you’re specializing in this particular
thing and that’s what you want to do, but
make no mistake: When you get out and
practice, you will practice what your clients
bring to you. I was a general practitioner. I
did divorces, I did probate, I did litigation, I
did injury cases. I did everything for nearly 10
years before one day I was able to tell myself,
“Yeah, now I’m a real estate lawyer. … No
Q: You went away to college and law
school: Princeton and then Harvard. Why
did you return to Colorado to practice?
A: Well, as I said, I was a member of
the bar before I went into the Navy, and
Colorado was where I could practice. In
the Navy, I was stationed in Pearl Harbor
for three years and I loved Hawaii. I
actually thought, you know, maybe I’d
like to stay there. But getting admitted to
the Hawaii Bar—this was before Hawaii
was a state—you had to, as I remember
it, go to California to take some kind of
a preparatory course, which had fishing
rights and things that I didn’t know
anything about, and it was just too easy to
go back to Colorado. My law firm held a
job for me, so when I came back to Denver,
I had a job.
Q: When you began practicing, how did it
differ from what you had anticipated? Or
did you know what it would be like since
your father was a lawyer?
A: I didn’t know what it was going to be like
but I thought I’d follow my father’s advice. He
said, “Go to law school, it’s the best training
for whatever you want to do.” But I disliked
law school very much. I hated every minute of
it, frankly. And I thought, “Well, I’m not going
to be a lawyer.” Then after I got my degree,
I thought, “Well, you ought to at least try to
pass the bar,” and once I passed the bar, I said,
In 1996, 890 acres of the Carpenter ranch were sold to the Nature Conservancy, which brings in schoolchildren and demonstrates how it should be
managed. “The family still goes over for a reunion once a year,” says Carpenter, here with his grandchildren in 2003. “So it’s almost like having the ranch
but not having to operate it.”
“Well, you ought to practice and see whether
you like it or not,” and within one month I knew
that that’s what I wanted to be. I loved it. I’ve
never considered anything after that.
Q: What was it that you loved about the
practice of law that wasn’t in law school?
A: Real people, real problems and a real
chance to help somebody—to apply your
knowledge successfully and help somebody.
I don’t know that there’s any bigger reward
in life than that. Whether you’re a doctor or
a nurse or an accountant, if you can do what
you do best and help someone with that
knowledge, that’s a terrific reward. That’s
what the law was for me. It was not names
on a piece of paper on a case I’m reading in
law school. These are people sitting in my
office saying, “I’ve got this problem. Can you
This interview has been condensed.