Kate of All Trades

Wyoming’s Kate Fox specializes in doing everything, and doing everything well

Published in 2011 Mountain States Super Lawyers — July 2011

Kate Fox was 16 and living with her family in Philadelphia when her parents told her the family would be moving to Wyoming so they could start up a ranch near Dubois. It wasn’t welcome news. “I was very much dragged here against my will,” she says. “I have memories of driving across the country on Interstate 80 with my two sisters—mind you, three teenagers, all unhappy. Can you imagine how my parents didn’t just drown us in the Mississippi?”

It didn’t take long for Fox to change her tune. “When we got to Wyoming, we went out to the ranch, and I stepped out of the car and thought, ‘Oh! This is amazing!’” she says. “I’m very much attached to the physical beauty of the state.”

After graduating from the University of Wyoming with a degree in journalism, Fox briefly worked as the editor of the Dubois Frontier weekly newspaper before settling in as a “ski bum” in Steamboat Springs, Colo. “It’s a great life—for a while,” she says. “I was a waitress, did freelance writing and lived hand to mouth.

“Then I was looking for more meaningful challenges and went to law school.” 

She enrolled—again at Wyoming—with the intention of focusing on water law, so that she “could be intellectually challenged and also ride around out on the range. Which isn’t really true [of the practice],” Fox says with a laugh, “but it’s the notion I had at the time.”

After graduating in 1989, she clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Clarence A. Brimmer, whose mentorship—and snappy quips of wisdom such as, “Brilliance and all that is nice, but here’s what matters: You gotta apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair”—Fox still values. She then joined Davis & Cannon in Cheyenne, where she’s now a partner. Her practice includes employment law, general litigation, natural resources law, the defense of municipalities in civil rights cases, administrative law—and, yes, a bit of water law. “In doing water law, I’m out there talking with ranchers and helping some really regular, salt-of-the-earth folks. And I’ve seen a few irrigated fields,” she deadpans.

Over the course of her more-than-20-year career, though, Fox has found that her legal interests are many. Like her childhood chores on the ranch—everything from putting up fences to cooking, to herding buffalo on horseback with a BB gun—her legal practice spans a wide breadth.

“Environmental law was something I always had an interest in. With employment law, we just started doing a few cases and I thought it was interesting, so we did more and more and it’s become an area of expertise for me,” she says. “I like the variety. Some people I know just do pretty much one area, but I enjoy doing different things. It keeps the challenge going.”

Fox is able to switch gears with ease. “The law is the law, and I feel as though if we understand how the procedure works, we can learn just about anything,” she says. “When you know how to prepare a case and research the law and what the burdens of proof are, [everything else] can be mastered.”

Case in point: At the time of the interview, Fox was preparing to defend her first wrongful death trial. And in February, in another case, the state Supreme Court ruled in her favor in an appeal revolving around restrictive covenants in a homeowner’s association—“yet another area of the law that has nothing to do with anything I do,” she says.

There’s just one rule for whether or not Fox will take a case: “If it’s interesting,” she says. “I won’t just do anything. It’s either that I really like the person and can’t say no to them, or it’s an issue that I think would be fun.” She adds that what attracts her most to the cases she handles is their level of importance, either to the parties or in the development of the law.

So what type of case won’t she take? “Domestic,” Fox says.

She pauses, then says matter-of-factly, “Although I did just take a domestic pro bono case.”

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