DU Alumni / Magazine Feature / People

Alumna born to fly — and litigate

It’s probably safe to say there are few people who are at home trying a case in a courtroom and flying through the air waiting for someone to catch them by their ankles.

But flying through the air as a member of the Westminster-based Imperial Flyers trapeze and circus arts club is nothing new for University of Denver Sturm College of Law alumna Lisa Hogan (JD ’84).

She also juggles, holds a radio disc jockey license and dabbles in fire-eating.

Hogan’s path to the trapeze began years ago. After earning a degree in political science at the University of Oregon, she mulled two career paths — one that would send her to Barnum & Bailey Circus School, the other to law school.

Hogan was so serious about performing in the circus, she delayed her entrance into Sturm to await word from Barnum & Bailey, which eventually turned her down. Hogan spent a year in the mountains working as a disc jockey and then started law school.

It turned out to be the right choice. In October, Hogan, 51, was honored through the DU Law Stars program for alumni professionalism.

“I guess I’ve always been up for anything,” Hogan says between practice swings from a platform 23 feet above a field in the Denver suburbs. “I just love this. I mean … just look at it.”

Indeed, the allure of “flying” — as Hogan and teammates refer to the trapeze — seems to lie in the intense concentration and the requirement that participants block out all the distractions in their lives. A plaque at the base of the ladder the flyers take to the platform has one simple instruction: “Don’t think, just fly.”

“It is kind of a release,” she says. “You just get up there and block out everything.”

“Everything” is quite a bit for Hogan. After DU, she began her legal career with the Denver District Attorney’s Office before taking a job with the law firm of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck. After 17 years with the firm, she took a job as vice president of litigation for Level 3 Communications. After helping the firm through a period of tremendous growth, she returned to private practice with Brownstein, seeking a broader range of challenges and more time in the courtroom.

It was during her time with the district attorney’s office that friends lured her into a loose-knit band of trapeze enthusiasts organized through the downtown YMCA. She says it was love at first swing, even when she suffered painful muscle tears in only her second day with the squad. There was no turning back, she says.

Flyer Bruce Lonnecker, a retired electrical engineer with 35 years on the trapeze, has watched Hogan continually improve.

“You kind of have to push your nerve to get out there,” he says. “She’s always been brave. She sticks with it and she’ll try anything.”

Standing on a platform high in the air on a September morning, Hogan was still juggling her passion for flying and her passion for law.

“I have to get to work,” she says to friend and fellow flyer Susan Winker. “I have law to practice.” Winker leaned over and asks, “Did you bring work clothes?”

Summing up her unique ride to the top of her profession, Hogan can look back on the path that took her there.

“It seems like I have always been leaping off of something, hoping to make a catch or not die trying, keeping lots of complex objects up in the air, stumbling and trying to make it look like it was on purpose, getting wrapped up and twisted around and upside down,” she says, “and trying not to let them see me sweat.”

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