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GPSolo Awards

Keithe E. Nelson Memorial Military Law and GPSolo Awards Luncheon

Friday, August 4, 2023 | 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Mountain | Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel | Plaza Ballroom A


Major General John D. Altenburg, Jr. (US Army, Ret.)
Chair, ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Division Military Lawyers Committee

Pledge to Flag

Moment of Silence 

Opening Remarks

Hon. Henry Hamilton III
Chair-Elect, ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division

Seth Cohen
Regional Vice President, ABA Retirement Funds Program

ABA Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law Awards

Presented by Joe Ahlers
Chair, ABA Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law

Keithe E. Nelson Distinguished Service Award (Writing)

This award recognizes authors of exceptional, published, literary efforts which advance and serve interests and understanding of military law or enhance status of lawyers in the Armed Forces. 

Lieutenant Colonel Micah Elggren
US Air Force

Major Brian Shust
US Air Force

Outstanding Military Service Career Judge Advocate Award

This award recognizes excellence in service to the legal profession in the Armed Forces over the nominee’s legal career, as well as service to their community.

Colonel Ian Iverson
US Army

Lieutenant Colonel Andrea Hunwick
US Air Force

Commander Ericka Gehlen
US Navy

Major Todd Gaston
US Marine

Commander Brendan Sullivan
US Coast Guard

Ten Minute Intermission


ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division Awards

Presented by Stephen J. Curley
Chair, ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division Awards Committee

Difference Maker Award

This award honors a deserving individual who is an attorney or non-attorney: (a) who has made a difference in the local community and (b) who lives in the local geographic area where the Division is meeting and where the Difference Makers Awards program is being held.

Scott C. LaBarre
Denver, Colorado

Scott LaBarre, a longtime member of the ABA who advocated for the rights of people with disabilities, died on Dec. 10 [2022] after a short battle with cancer.... "Scott was a top lawyer in the disability law area, but he was so much more," ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross told the ABA Journal. "He was a great leader, inspiring, always cheerful and upbeat and loved by all who had the good fortune to know him. He worked tirelessly on behalf of the ABA, making the association a much better organization. He will truly be missed, but his legacy endures."

Longtime disability rights advocate Scott LaBarre dies at 54
ABA Journal, December 20, 2022

Solo and Small Firm Lifetime Achievement Award

Recognizes solo and small firm attorneys who are widely accepted by their peers as having significant lifetime distinction, exceptional achievement, and distinction in an exemplary way. The winners will be viewed by other solo and small firm practitioners as epitomizing the ideals of the legal profession and of solo and small firm practitioners.

James M. Durant III
Plainfield, Illinois

Mr. Durant leads a legal staff across the United States serving 17 US National Laboratories handling management and operation contracts, acquisitions and grants, patent applications and licensing actions totaling over $8B annually. He is a principle legal advisor to the DOE Office of Science and its Combined Service Center in Oak Ridge Tennessee. His organization is comprised of a General Law Division and a Patent Law Division. Mr. Durant is a Career Senior Executive Service Appointee who began serving DOE in 2013 following a 26-year career with the Air Force where he retired in the grade of Colonel. During his military career, he was appointed as a Judge Advocate, Special Assistant United States Attorney (CA/TX), and an International Commissioner (Bosnia-Herzegovina). A former NATO senior officer, he deployed for OPERATIONS ENDURING FREEDOM and NORTHERN WATCH serving as the LEGAD (NATO lead lawyer). He is credited with leading six urban assault missions in Bosnia. Additionally, he was appointed Staff Judge Advocate 3x times and Deputy Department Head and Professor of Law at the US Air Force Academy. He was also named Strategic Initiatives Officer at the US Department of State, where he authored a Circular 175 for the United States to negotiate with Russia for START II. He was the first military lawyer appointed to serve at the newly established Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Air Force Joint Space Operations Center. In his last military assignment, he was the Legal Director and Acting US Country Representative to Her Majesty’s Royal Government in the UK. While in the UK, he was the Boy Scouts of America District Commissioner over Scouts in the UK, Finland and Norway; he was also the London Liaison to the ABA for the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta. Mr. Durant is the immediate past chair of the Senior Executives Association of the US, the Chair of the Chicago Federal Executive Board and the Vice Chair of Easterseals, Joliet Region. He is well published and has lectured internationally, most recent at the United Nations Palace De Nations in Geneva, Switzerland for a UN publication he co-authored on Responsible Leadership. He is Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and Fellow of the ABA Young Lawyers Division. He is also an ABA Nelson Award recipient, ABA Difference Makers Award recipient, and 3x Outstanding JAG of the Year Award recipient for the US Air Force. Mr. Durant hails from San Bernardino, California, and he graduated from Howard University (BA, JD). He is married to Karen Durant and has two sons, Jonathan Durant and 2LT James Durant IV. 

Solo and Small Firm Project Award 

Rewards bar leaders and associations for their successful implementation of a project or program specifically targeted to solo and small firm lawyers.

Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice
Denver, Colorado
Accepted by J. Ryann Peyton, Executive Director

Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice (LEJ) is a small business incubator for socially conscious lawyers providing affordable legal solutions to low and middle-income people in Colorado. This target market includes those people who fall into the so-called “justice gap”: individuals who make too much money to qualify for free legal services, but not enough to pay traditional market rates and assume the risk and inherent uncertainty of the traditional legal pricing model, the billable hour. LEJ provides the training, mentoring, resources, and support these lawyers need to establish their own law practices. LEJ lawyers are committed to offering predictable pricing and flexible representation options and leveraging technology and innovation from other industries to increase client engagement and efficiency.

LEJ aims to provide a for-profit solution to improving access to legal services that extends beyond typical legal aid and that provides access to affordable, reliable legal services to people with low and moderate incomes. Increasing the availability of affordable, reliable legal services for these individuals will improve access to justice in Colorado. LEJ’s goal is to expand legal services and solutions to low and middle-income legal consumers by developing new, market-based models of legal service to serve them, while being the basis for sustainable and profitable legal practices.

Solo and Small Firm Trainer Award 

Recognizes attorneys who have made significant contributions to educating lawyers or law students regarding the opportunities and challenges of a solo and small firm practice.

Anne-Marie Rábago
Denver, Colorado

Anne-Marie Rábago (she/her) is the founder and principal of Modern Juris, which provides tools, training, and support to help lawyers build financially sustainable businesses designed to serve the latent legal market. By cultivating a collaborative learning community within Modern Juris, she seeks to break down barriers to legal access, build new business models in law, and create systemic change.

Before founding Modern Juris, she directed the Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator (TOJI) at the State Bar of Texas. She led TOJI from its April 2017 launch and quickly scaled the program to become the largest legal incubator in Texas (and possibly the world). For this work, she received a State Bar of Texas Presidential Citation. In 2019, Anne-Marie guided TOJI’s statewide expansion and transition to virtual delivery. Prior to TOJI, she directed the Access to Law Initiative, the California Western School of Law (CWSL) legal incubator.

Anne-Marie has been a frequent CLE speaker and organizer for over a decade. In addition, she taught Federal Income Tax at CWSL, Taxation of the Business Entity at the University of California San Diego Extension, and Introduction to Taxes for the Solo/Small Firm Attorney for Solo Practice University®.

In 2009, Anne-Marie started Rábago Business & Tax Law, APC. Over the following seven years, she advised hundreds of small business owners on tax and legal compliance matters, including other solo and small firm attorneys. For this work, Anne-Marie was named an American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Taxation John S. Nolan Fellow in 2014 and a San Diego Super Lawyers® Rising Star in 2016 and 2017.

In 2022, Fastcase honored Anne-Marie as one of the top 50 courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders spotlighted by the annual Fastcase 50 Award. She is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and an ABA member. She serves as Vice Chair of the Membership Board and Co-Chairs the ABA GPSolo Division Programs Board. In addition, she serves on the Executive Committee of the Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA).

After completing her J.D. at CWSL, Anne-Marie earned an LL.M. in Taxation from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in California and Texas.

Before stepping into the legal industry, Anne-Marie held various professional roles, including fundraising for two regional theatre companies, managing a 1.2 million-dollar store for an international retail chain, recruiting and corporate training for a Fortune 100 financial services company, and international tax consulting for a big-4 public accounting firm. In her spare time, Anne-Marie is an avid craft beer enthusiast who enjoys world travel adventures with her husband.

ABA Young Lawyers Division Awards

Presented by Jo Bahn
Chair, ABA Young Lawyers Division

2023 ABA Young Lawyers Division Outstanding Young Lawyer Award

Major Daane J. Blocksma
US Marine 

Captain Gabrielle R. Lucero
US Army

Major Christopher S. Simmons
US Air Force

2023 ABA Young Lawyers Division and Judge Advocate Outstanding Young Military Lawyers Award

Lieutenant Alexandra Mooney
US Navy 

Commander Karen M. Lee
US Coast Guard

Closing Remarks

Hon. Henry Hamilton III
Chair-Elect, ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division