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Carolyn J. Fairless

Co-Managing Partner

P. 303.244.1852 | F. 303.244.1879
"She misses no details and seems almost always to be available to address concerns. She is the ultimate client pleaser."
—Client comment to Chambers USA


The co-managing partner of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell, Carolyn Fairless represents sophisticated clients in complex commercial litigation and professional liability defense. Carolyn is ranked in Band 1 in Chambers USA for General Commercial Litigation in Colorado and is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Carolyn represents clients in matters including breach of contract, business torts, intellectual property, personal injury, insurance coverage and bad faith, and professional liability. She has been called "a lawyer's lawyer" and has successfully defended some of the nation's leading law firms and lawyers in high-stakes legal malpractice matters throughout the country. Carolyn also defends insurance, finance, and real estate firms and professionals.

There is a common misperception that jurors dislike the types of clients Carolyn represents. Her record of trial success proves otherwise. Carolyn humanizes her clients and presents their cases in fresh and creative ways for judges and juries. Especially when the underlying claims may be complex and potentially confusing, Carolyn develops clear case themes and trial strategies that engage jurors and help make critical information meaningful and memorable.

Chambers USA, the leading rankings directory in the legal industry, ranks Carolyn in Band 1 for General Commercial Litigation in Colorado, a distinction that places her among the top six commercial litigators in the state. In 2018, the directory wrote "She is noted by a source as 'talented and experienced beyond her years,' adding: 'She misses no details and seems almost always to be available to address concerns. She is the ultimate client pleaser.'"

In 2017, Best Lawyers recognized Carolyn as the Denver Lawyer of the Year for Professional Malpractice Law - Defendants. Benchmark Litigation has ranked Carolyn in its nationwide Top 250 Women in Litigation for five years in a row. Colorado Super Lawyers ranks Carolyn in the Top 100 Lawyers and Top 50 Women, as voted by her colleagues and peers. Carolyn is also Martindale-Hubbell AV peer-review rated.


Publications & Speaking Engagements


  • "Ripped From the Headlines: Real World Cautionary Tales in Attorney Ethics," presented at the Colorado Law Homecoming & Reunion Weekend, (October 27, 2018).
  • "A Primer on Lawyers' Professional Liability Insurance," presented at the Colorado Bar Association CLE, (January 27, 2017).
  • "Pretrial Discovery and Depositions," presented at the Colorado Bar Association CLE, (November 2, 2016).
  • "Insurance Coverage Issues in Estate, Trust and Fiduciary Litigation," presented at the 36th Annual Estate Planning Retreat, (June 9-11, 2016).
  • "Baker v. Wood Ris & Hames: Privity Prevails," presented at the Trust & Estate section CLE luncheon series, (March 1, 2016).
  • "Location, Location, Location: The Decisions Involved in Venue Selection," presented at ABA Fall 2015 National Legal Malpractice Conference, (September 17, 2015).
  • "A Primer on Lawyers' Professional Liability Insurance," presented at Colorado Bar Association CLE's Hanging Your Shingle: Hardware. Software. Anywhere You Want to Go, (August 20-22, 2015).
  • "Policy Exclusions, Conditions, Endorsements, and Coverage Gaps," presented at the Colorado Bar Association's Understanding Your Professional Malpractice Insurance Policy, (December 11, 2014).
  • "Legal Malpractice: Preventing Claims and Grievances," presented at CLE International's The Ethics CLE annual conference, (December 8, 2014).
  • "Lessons Learned: Protecting In-House Counsel From Malpractice Claims," presented at the Association of Corporate Counsel's Eighth Annual Ethics Day For In-House Counsel, (December 3, 2014).
  • "The Defense Perspective: How Loss Prevention and Firm Management Practices Can Impact Malpractice Claims," presented at an Ethics CLE at Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell, (November 19, 2014).
  • "Attorney Liability to the ‘Near Client' and Non-Client: It's not just your clients you have to worry about!," presented at the Pilot Legis Annual Member Conference, (November 7, 2014).
  • "Hazards in Co-Counsel, Local Counsel and Referral Relationships," presented at the AON Law Firm Symposium, (October 15, 2014).
  • "Malpractice Insurance - Hanging Your Shingle: Your Future Begins Now," presented at the Colorado Bar Association CLE, (August 15, 2014).
  • "Protecting Yourself and Your Firm: What are the Questions to Ask About Insurance Coverage?," Tail Coverage, Lateral Hires and Moves, Changing or Renewing Policies, Retirement, and Much More! , (January 30, 2014).
  • "Avoiding Missteps in Handling Litigation and Other Disputes," presented to the Association of Corporate Counsel Colorado Chapter, (December 5, 2012).
  • "Ethics: Be Careful What You Ask For: Pitfalls in Settlement Negotiations," presented at the Network Trial Law Firms' Litigation Management in a New York Minute seminar, (August 10, 2012).
  • "Policy Exclusions, Conditions, Endorsement, and Coverage Gaps: Malpractice Insurance Coverage - What's Your Policy?," presented at the CLE accredited seminar, Denver, Colorado, (April 15, 2011).
  • "Human Resource Management and Oversight," presented at a legal malpractice prevention CLE, (January 27, 2011).
  • "Deposition Strategy 101," Colorado Defense Lawyers Association CLE Seminar, (December 4, 2009).
  • "Preventing Legal Malpractice, Potential Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them," Colorado Bar Association Continuing Legal Education Seminar, (2009-2013).
  • "Alternative Dispute Resolutions/Mediation Settlement Strategies," presented at CNA continuing education program, (March 13, 2008).
  • "Preventing Legal Malpractice," presenter and panel member, Colorado Bar Association CLE, (January 17, 2003 and January 31, 2008).
  • "Interviews With Former Employees: Strategies and Pitfalls," The Prac. Litigator, at 47, (March 2005).
  • "Non-Liability to Non-Participants: A Manufacturer's Duty Should End at the Playing Field, and Not Extend to Criminal Acts," Mealey's Prod. Liab. & Risk, (August 29, 2002).



Other Experience

IBM Corporation
    Computer Analyst

Legal Memberships, Activities, and Honors

American College of Trial Lawyers, Fellow
    Vice-Chair, Legal Ethics and Professionalism Committee, 2020-2021
    Member, Boot Camp Trial Training Programs Committee, 2020-2021
Chambers USA
    Commercial Litigation - Colorado, 2013-2022
American Bar Association
    Standing Committee on Lawyers' Professional Liability, 2020-2023
The Best Lawyers in America
    Professional Malpractice Defense Lawyer of the Year - Denver, 2017, 2020-2021
    Legal Malpractice Law - Defense Lawyer of the Year - Denver, 2023
    Commercial Litigation, 2013-2023
    Legal Malpractice Defense Law, 2012-2023
    Professional Malpractice Defense Law, 2012-2023
    Intellectual Property Litigation, 2017-2023
Benchmark Litigation
    Local Litigation Star, 2020-2023
    Top 250 Women in Litigation 2014-2018
    Commercial Litigation - Colorado, 2014-2018
    Future Star - Colorado, 2013
Colorado Super Lawyers
    Super LawyersProfessional Liability: Defense, 2009-2022
    Rising Stars, Professional Liability: Defense 2009
    Top 10, 2022
    Top 100, 2012-2021
    Top 50 Women, 2012-2022
    Top 50, 2011
    Top 25 Women, 2011 
Colorado Women's Bar Association Foundation
    2015 Raising the Bar Dinner Honoree,
    "Women to Watch: Five Female Attorneys Who Will Make an Impact
    Over the Next 10 Years"
Minority Corporate Counsel Association
    Rainmakers Who Always Shine, 2017
Colorado Law Distinguished Alumni in Private Practice Award, 2021
Law Week Colorado
    "Barrister's Best" Civil Litigator: 2018, 2015
    "Barrister's Best" Insurance Law for Defendants, 2021
    Top Litigator, 2018
    "People's Choice" Best Civil Litigator, 2017
    Lawyer of the Year, 2014
    Top Women Lawyers, 2010
Denver Business Journal
    Power Book Award Winner - 2016
5280 Magazine 
    Top Lawyer 
          Civil Litigation, 2016-2018, 2021, 2023
          Commercial Litigation, 2021, 2023
Colorado Corporate Counsel Black Book
    Business Litigation, 2007
The Legal 500 United States
    Litigation, 2007
Martindale-Hubbell AV® Peer Review Rated
Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America, The Trial Lawyer Honorary Society
Colorado Bar Association
    Ethics Committee
Defense Research Institute
    Professional Liability Committee
Judicial Nominating Committee

Community Memberships, Activities, and Honors

Animal Assistance Foundation, Board of Directors
President, Foothills Animal Foundation, 2009-2012

Teaching Positions

National Institute for Trial Advocacy

Personal Interests

Her dogs

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