Dedication, perseverance and exceptional judgment are qualities that spring to mind when considering what makes a first-rate lawyer.
Those qualities may not have been at the forefront of Chris Humphrey's mind in his adolescent days, but with guidance and a new start at Laramie County Community College, he was able to excel. Now Christopher G. Humphrey, P.C. is written across the front door of his own law firm in downtown Cheyenne.
"People laughed at me," he recalls. "They said, you've got to be a good student, you've got to be connected and be willing to stick to something, can you do that?'"
Chris remembered hearing things like that from some people close to him. By his own admission, those words weren't necessarily unwarranted given the rough go he had in high school, where he plummeted from a 3.5 GPA to a 2.0 in his sophomore year. Chris even dropped out and considered working fast food for the rest of his life.
With homeschooling, he got back on track and even re-enrolled in public school, graduating from Central High in 1999.
"I wasn't the best student. I was more of a 'too cool for school' guy at that point," Chris said with a grin.
He became interested in becoming a lawyer after getting acquainted with the courtroom atmosphere (professionally, that is). His mother translated for the federal courts, and he would tag along with her.
"I was meeting lawyers," he said. "And I thought, gosh, I'd look pretty good in a suit."
Fresh out of high school, Chris began volunteering and helping out in the federal public defender's office in Cheyenne, working for Larry Van Court and Jim Barrett. The duties were entry-level, but during that time, Chris said he got to see Van Court and Barrett in action. The main takeaway from that opportunity was witnessing the compassion and empathy that they showed for their clients and how important that was to the job.
With affirmation that the legal profession was the career Chris wanted to pursue, he knew a long path of schooling was ahead. He said that LCCC was the clear choice to start, with a lower tuition rate than other schools, the benefit of living at home, and the ability to arrange his class schedule so that he could continue to work.
"LCCC was huge, if not the biggest thing that helped me," Chris said. "Instructors seem genuinely interested in your success. It's a caring environment that fosters academic and personal growth."
He decided to study English since that was the path his mentors had taken. He fondly remembered several instructors, but one that really stood out was Leif Swanson.
"Chris' enthusiasm for learning makes him one of the most memorable students that I've had the privilege to teach at LCCC," Leif said. "The essays he wrote were exceptional, and his comments were always insightful. Without a doubt, he's one of the best students to have graduated from our English program."
Chris credits his experience at LCCC for turning around his habits and giving him the tools that carried him through the remainder of his higher education days.
"I remember more about LCCC than I do about my undergrad at UW," he said. "I just fell in love with the small classes and the ability to meet with your instructors."
Graduating in 2001 with his associate degree, he transferred seamlessly to University of Wyoming getting a bachelor's degree in English. Chris was accepted to UW's College of Law, completing his juris doctorate in 2006. He returned to Cheyenne and landed his first gig right away.
"l was 26 and got a job as a public defender. I had to grow this beard just so my clients would listen to me," he said with a chuckle.
"It was a strange feeling, you come right back into your town, and you're practicing with or against someone that you went to school with or someone much older than you and maybe saw you grow up."
The strangeness passed, and he said that being a lawyer where he grew up is right where he wants to be. In addition to serving on area boards, he is even part of the team that oversees the LCCC paralegal program.
"I like to be involved. This is my community," he commented.
The law office of Christopher G. Humphrey, P.C., came to be in 2014 and has been on the rise ever since.
"The phones ring like crazy," Chris said. "We're a small firm, but I think it can only get better."
From high school dropout to being named a Top 10 Under 40 by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys for the past two years and a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers, the qualities of dedication, perseverance and exceptional judgment are now spot on when describing Chris.
People even told him that he wouldn't go anywhere at LCCC. But he strongly disagrees with that fallacy. "You make out of life what you put in. LCCC helped me."