History

At Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell we make history every day.

WTO is an entrepreneurial law firm that dedicates itself to complex civil litigation for Fortune 500 clients and other successful entities that have a strong interest in protecting their brand names, services, people, and customers. The majority of our work is in federal and state courtrooms and administrative venues outside of Colorado.

The firm was established as Wheeler Trigg Kennedy on February 1, 1998 by a core group of experienced attorneys who wanted to practice within a firm that focused all of its resources and skills on civil trials. The founders, who had constituted most of the trial department of another full-service law firm in Denver, included  Mal Wheeler, Jack Trigg, Mike O'Donnell, Paul Hultin, and Mark Kennedy.  The other early partners were Habib Nasrullah and Gwen Young, and others drawn from prominent national and Colorado-based law firms.

"We needed sophisticated, trial-specific tools to support the talented legal teams who were working as national trial counsel to our original core clients," said Mike O'Donnell, WTO Chairman. "The way to make sure we had these tools was to strike out on our own."

Supporting the 19 original attorneys were Director of Administration Howard Jenkins and 33 support staff and paralegals. The new firm occupied one and one-half floors in downtown Denver — with a spectacular view of the world-famous Rocky Mountains.

WTO was successful from day one, thanks in large part to a steady flow of product liability and dealer/distributor relations work for two major companies. The firm continued to deepen and diversify its expertise with associates rising through the ranks and lateral partners joining from other firms. The firm's client-diversification strategy has borne fruit. Today WTO serves numerous clients in dozens of industries in a variety of practice areas.

With its reputation for high-quality trial work and national clients, the firm attracts and retains outstanding associates from the nation's top law schools, many of whom have served judicial clerkships. It is also able to hire and retain top legal support staff thanks to its selection to the Denver Business Journal Best Place to Work list as the number one company in its size category in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Lawyers and staff alike appreciate the informal, yet professionally challenging, environment and the pervasive atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual respect.

By its 10th anniversary, the firm had more than doubled in size. Since its beginning,  Mike O'Donnell has served as the firm's chairman. Hugh Gottschalk, who joined the firm in 2000, served as the managing partner until 2012, when he became president and Carolyn Fairless was selected to serve as managing partner.

On June 1, 2009, after the passing of co-founder Mark Kennedy, the firm became Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell. Having outgrown its former space, WTO moved in June 2012 to new offices in Denver's Republic Plaza.

In 2016, the firm numbers around 100 lawyers and approximately 100 support staff.