From football state champions to champions of justice, attorneys Mark Larson and Vance Larimer are Denver’s defenders of every “David” facing his or her “Goliath.” Intrinsically and irrevocably tied to the local community, they are the founding partners of the preeminent personal injury law firm Larson & Larimer P.C. With similar ideals and philosophies, it’s easy to understand how their longtime friendship developed into a partnership.
It all began more than 30 years ago on the gridiron of Cherry Creek High School. From Hell Week, until the final whistle of the season, the two young athletes were getting an up-close and personal education in determination, grit and team work.
In a sport that is so physically and mentally demanding, game after game the young men dug deep, giving their coach, their school and their team everything they had. Despite broken bones, screaming muscles and utter exhaustion they kept going; leaving their blood, sweat and tears on the field. But at the end of the season they weren’t leaving empty-handed. The 1982-83 season saw the Bruins emerge victorious, bringing home the highly coveted State Football Championship Trophy.
“I think playing football was when we first recognized what we were capable of,” says Larimer. “Looking back, those times definitely had an impact on building habits and developing characteristics that would serve us well for the remainder of our lives. The formula is the same whether in football or business; give it your all, don’t give up and love what you do.”
Just as significant, the same dedication they felt for their coach, team and school extended to their community. And, as they grew into adulthood, this community connection only became stronger.
After high school the two men headed to opposite coasts to continue their education; Larimer earning a Bachelor of Science in economics, graduating cum laude from Colgate University in New York while Larson obtained his Bachelor of Science from San Diego State University.
Colorado has always represented home to these two, and it seems that it was calling the college graduates to return. Larimer and Larson did in fact come home to attend the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. While they traveled different paths, ultimately their reasons for wanting to practice law are virtually identical. They both saw injustice; people feeling helpless to stand up against big business and big government. They wanted to be part of the solution.
As one might presume based on his undergraduate studies, Larimer had planned a career in finance. In fact, he demonstrated a remarkable acumen for business. His innate aptitude together with a very impressive scholastic record led to his being offered a position with a Wall Street investment bank. Given the highly competitive nature of this field, it was quite a coup for a new college graduate. His future in the financial world seemed destined to be lucrative and successful.
However, what others would consider an impressive leg up on the corporate ladder climb, for Larimer this boost only offered a vantage point to view some disappointing realities.
“I thought finance was going to be my thing,” he says. “I hadn’t really considered becoming an attorney until my experience on Wall Street. I suppose up until then I had been a little naïve. But now I wasn’t just studying the principles of finance, I was working in the real world and I have to say it was very discouraging. I was turned off by big business and insurance and taking advantage of the ‘little guy.’ I wanted to find something where I could help those who’d been taken advantage of, and law school was the logical next step.”
Larson, on the other hand, had been planning his future in law since high school. Actually, according to his mother it was even earlier than that.
“After I became a lawyer, my mother provided me with a paper I had written when I was 10 years old,” he says. “The project was to write about what you would be doing in 20 years. I wrote that I would be married, with three children and be a lawyer.” (He wasn’t completely psychic; he and his wife actually have only two sons.)
Despite these early plans for his career, during his last semester at the San Diego State University, Larson worked for a Washington D.C. law firm to “make sure” the law was really what he wanted.
“It was my way of making sure that the law school was the path I wanted to take and that a career in law was a good fit,” he says. “What initially drew me to this career was my interest in the law itself; how and why the government passes laws, changes to laws and how they go about changing or interpreting the existing laws.
“As I learned more about the law, I also learned how helpless the average person is to combat the government and corporate America even when the law is in their favor. It felt important to me then, and still does, to be an advocate for them.”
Rocky Mountain Lawyers
While it’s clear that Larson and Larimer were similarly motivated, when they first began to practice law each took an approach uniquely suited to his own interests and passion. Much like their respective positions on the Cherry Creek football team, each man carried different responsibilities but ultimately, they shared the same goal.
“My first job out of law school was with Jack Mills, an attorney and sports agent in Boulder Colorado,” says Larimer. “He was a solid role model and very ethical attorney. He taught me that it’s far more important to do the right thing versus the most lucrative option.”
Since obtaining his Juris Doctor, Larimer has focused his practice in plaintiff’s personal injury claims, insurance bad faith, civil litigation and professional athlete claims for disability and workers’ compensation.
In the sports arena, he has successfully negotiated in excess of $100 million in Nflplayer contracts for more than 15 years. Although his practice today primarily focuses on high value personal injury cases. Larimer continues to handle professional athlete’s claims for disability benefits. In addition, he manages claims for those impacted by the notorious $765 million NFL concussion settlement.
For those affiliated with professional athletics, Larimer’s name is synonymous with knowledgeable, compassionate representation and excellent settlements or verdicts. In fact, he’s still the first attorney many lawyers connected with the world of professional sports will call when faced with similar cases.
“I get cases referred to me from all around the country,” he says. “Agents that I knew still refer me cases, and then I’ll find local cocounsel to help me in whatever state it happens to be. Athletes will need legal help if they’re injured or have a disability policy that doesn’t pay out.”
Larson’s initial foray into the law was primarily in criminal defense. With strong convictions regarding the inequities of our legal system, he felt a duty to even the playing field.
“In my early years as a law student and a lawyer, I worked a lot in the area of criminal defense,” explains Larson. “The power and unlimited resources of the government to prosecute individuals for crimes that they may or may not have committed tilted the scales of justice so badly that it was virtually impossible for those accused to get a fair trial and equal representation, no matter how good the defense attorney. Unless the accused had the financial resources to fight the battle, the scales were always tilted in favor of the accuser because of their unlimited resources.”
“I also began to see the same inequity with people trying to battle corporate America and particularly with insurance companies. Much like the government, insurance companies had virtually unlimited resources, unlimited funds and used these to take advantage of their customers who were simply trying to recover benefits that they had paid for.”
Looking out for the little guy or those who simply could not compete with the deep pockets of government or big business was a worthy cause that both men took to heart and still champion to this day. Their sense of what is fair and just is deeply offended when they are presented with a case involving what essentially comes down to bullying.
“We both completely believe and have confidence in our justice system,” says Larimer. “However, despite how carefully laws were written, at some point it seems that might beats right. That the guy with the bigger wallet wins regardless of who is right or wrong.”
“We also pride ourselves in having honest and ethical relationships with those on the other side of the cases we handle,” says Larson. “There are many people in this industry that cut corners, aren’t always straight with the facts and information and don’t have the greatest of reputations. We have always strived to be respected due to our hard work, honesty and knowledge of the law. We instill these same things into our employees and attorneys and make sure they all conduct themselves with these same goals in mind.”
Birth of a Firm
Both now firmly settled back in their hometown, Larson and Larimer like most young entrepreneurs were busy building their careers and planting roots for the future. Naturally, during these few years their paths crossed from time to time. Both were involved in various community events and organizations, and not surprisingly were drawn to youth sports.
Coming full-circle, the two decided to once again play on the same team and open their own firm. Larimer describes how the partnership came to be.
“I was doing the sports agent thing and Mark was doing the more traditional legal thing,” Larimer says. “He was interested in the sports law and I was interested in transitioning into more general legal work. Eventually, we decided to join forces and started Larson & Larimer. As we both began having children, we started pulling away from the sports side of our business. There was too much travel involved and besides, we had more than enough work with our personal injury clients.”
“One of the aspects that appealed to me in opening our own firm, was the freedom to choose who we want as clients and what cases we want to take on,” says Larson. “We don’t take every case that calls or walks into our office. Having worked for other firms during and after law school, I also believed that we could do some things better than I had seen in the traditional firms I had worked.”
With a clear vision of what they wanted their new firm to accomplish, the attorneys strive to exceed their clients’ expectations with a personalized, thoughtful approach.
“I think the primary focus was really giving clients access to us and building our practice one client at a time,” Larimer says. “Rather than as with the bigger firms where you’re dealing with a paralegal or case manager, we wanted to control our growth to ensure that our clients always have access with us directly. We want to really know them, know their families and actually understand what they are going through.
“Every client has their own team,” he adds. “They have two attorneys, one of whom will be either Mark or me, and a paralegal. We give our clients our cell phone numbers, and they will always get a response. Even if it’s just a quick return call to say, ‘I’m in trial all this week,’ and arranging a time in the evening to speak, we don’t ignore any call, text or email.”
Larson & Larimer began with just the two of them and a small staff. Over the last 15 years they have steadily grown while remaining cognizant of their pledge to remain small enough to provide this very personalized service. Despite this conservative approach to growth, they have now expanded their services to include the entire Rocky Mountain Region.
“We envisioned growing the firm but keeping it small enough not to lose the personal approach with our clients,” says Larson. “Currently, we have seven attorneys working at the firm and think that is a good size. We are large enough to handle the most complex cases that may come through the door but are not too big to lose the teamwork approach.”
Larimer concurs. “Every client matters. Our goal is to offer a personal approach with professional results.”
Over the years, Larson and Larimer’s community involvement has continued to deepen and expand as evidenced in how they support and contribute to various local organizations and nonprofits.
Larimer for instance is active in a variety of ways and currently sits on the board of two nonprofit organizations, the Chris Rule Foundation and The Fred Tesone Alumni Foundation. His efforts at the CRF primarily support the University of Colorado Depression Center and are for personal reasons.
“Chris was my best friend in highs school,” says Larimer somberly. “He battled depression his whole life and ended up committing suicide. We’ve raised well over a million dollars over the past five years for the center and various research projects.
“The Fred Tesone Alumni Foundation helps the athletic programs at Cherry Creek High School,” he adds.
He also donates his time and expertise coaching various youth sports. One of his greatest pleasures has been coaching at least one of the teams that each of his son’s have played on.
Similarly, Larson is generous with his time and money too. “I am involved in the local legal community as a board member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, board member of Coloradans for Legal Freedom, and volunteer for various charities, including The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, and have been an AYL Youth Coach for the past 24 years.”
Mile High Memories
Obviously, growing up in the Denver area was a positive experience for both Larson and Larimer. So much so, that this is where they chose to raise their own children. Teaching by example, both men feel it’s important to give back to the community that has been their home for so long.
Larimer and his wife, Meredith, live in Lone Tree and have four children ages 12 to 15. His hobbies include golf, skiing, coaching youth sports and his charity work.
Larson and his wife, Jackie, enjoy traveling with their children. They have two sons ages 12 and 14 who, like their father, enjoy sports. Both boys are also headed to Cherry Creek High School no doubt to reprise their father’s glory days. This summer the family will combine both these favorites, traveling to Japan and China with their sons’ baseball teams.
As they continue to grow and expand, both men vow to never give up the fight to protect their clients from big business and insurance companies. In doing so, they have been instrumental in changing ineffective laws and will continue in this vein.
Change is always inevitable, but one thing will remain a constant: Teammates who started out as champions continue to prove that they are winners in every aspect of their lives.