Small Law Lifestyle: Roger Sagal

October 19, 2011

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND.

I completed both Undergraduate and Law School at Tulane University in New Orleans.  In 1995, I graduated with Honors and started working for a firm in Baton Rouge, but wanted to move on.  I left the firm and traveled around Europe for a while before moving to Colorado.  I passed the bar and started working for a firm in Denver.

In 2001, I left Denver and moved to the Western Slope of Colorado.  I started practicing at the Tisdel Law Firm, which has operated in Ouray for many years.  I’ve been a partner here since 2003.   We currently have three lawyers, me and my partners Mike Hockersmith and Andy Mueller.  Our practice areas are varied including water law, natural resources, business law, commercial litigation, real estate, land use, and criminal defense.  We are a small firm, but we have experience handling lots of different matters and complex cases.  Just last summer, we litigated a large multi-million dollar commercial fraud case where we defended a small Colorado mining company against fraud charges.

WHAT ABOUT THIS MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR CASE?

It was a “salting” case.  Our clients operated a gold mine and they mined high grade gold ore.  They shipped their ore to a processing plant and were accused of adding man-made gold in order to bump up the value of the ore.  The plaintiff’s theory was that our client took scrap jewelry and precipitated the pure gold out of it, then took the pure gold and placed it into the samples.  The plaintiff’s expert thought the gold was man-made based on how it looked when viewed with high powered microscopes. Our expert was able to show that the gold really formed from natural geological processes and came from the mine.  The jury weighed the evidence and ruled in our favor.  It was challenging to learn about the science and explain it to the jury.  We had to become really knowledgeable about all things gold: how it forms in nature, the different ways it crystallizes, how it bonds to other elements or naturally forms as “native”, or pure gold, and especially how it is processed into gold bars after it is mined.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR MOUNTAIN BIKING.

We have beautiful mountains here in Ouray County.  It’s a great place to live and really convenient to get out and ride.  I can pedal ten minutes from my house to do challenging single tracks, or just get on a county road and tour.  There are lots of hills and climbs here…you have a climb pretty much in any direction.  It’s nice to live in a place where you can get out in the country so easily.  I like to ride the county roads that wind through the valleys and mountains and into the forests.  I also ride single-track trails around Ridgway, CO, where I live. 

There are dedicated people in Ridgway who formed RAT (Ridgway Area Trails) and who have built a great trail system here.  Professional mountain bikers and skiers come to live here, people who are way more accomplished at biking than me.   One of our prior associates is a professional bike racer and she would laugh if she heard me giving an interview about biking.  I have never competed on a bike.  It’s purely recreational for me.  I usually go out with a friend or I will go out on my own.

HOW DO YOU USE WESTLAW NEXT?

My firm has used WestlawNext for a few months now and we’ve been impressed. I use [WestlawNext] for a lot of different research projects.  The new search engine definitely saves time, especially when I have a specific legal issue to search.  The search results on the first attempt seem more on point. I also like the feature where you can modify your searches to find phrases within the search results to further narrow what you are looking for.  That helps find cases with similar fact patterns. 

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Look for related articles on gold mining law and more details about the salting case coming soon to the Small Law Firms blog.

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