We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristina Bergsten and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristina, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk makes up part of my DNA. The willingness to risk everything on the unknown was how I started my business. I went to law school at The Ohio State University. I graduated in 2012, when the economy had still not fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008. I was married at the time and my then-husband wanted to move to Philadelphia for his job. Most law students go to law school in the state where they want to practice law, because law is not an easily transferable career across state lines. But my ex wasn’t exactly a supportive human being, so we moved for his career and I had to take the bar in a completely different state than what I prepared for. But I took the risk and successfully passed the PA and NJ bar exams. After living and working for a few years in the Philadelphia area, my ex wanted to move to California for his job, again. Our marriage didn’t work out and so I left. Jobless and homeless, I returned to my hometown in Ohio and lived with my sister and her husband for 6 months. While I gathered the pieces of my life back together, I decided to move to Colorado because I had always wanted to live here. I scrimped and saved and applied to every job I could. Eventually, landed a job with a tax-resolution company (you know, “we’ll settle your debt with the IRS for pennies on the dollar!”). After I packed up my Toyota Corolla with all my possessions, and my dog and my cat, we took the risk and moved to Colorado to start over. I arrived in January 2017 and started my job the same month. By April 2017, the company was a sinking ship and the Colorado Supreme Court was threatening to initiate “unauthorized practice of law” investigations against the attorneys working at the company. The only option I saw was to either stop calling myself an attorney, or risk an investigation into my pending Colorado law license. I wasn’t willing to risk either of those options, so I reached out to an old contact of mine who agreed to rent me office space on 17th Avenue to start my own law practice. I was stunned. Did he not hear me? I had no job, no money, no contacts, no connections, not even my Colorado law license (at the time). After a lot of thought and sleepless nights, I decided, I would rather try and fail than spend the rest of my life wondering, “what if?” I worked relentlessly to get my practice off the ground. I networked my butt off. I advertised with as much money as I could at any given moment. It was hard. I struggled. There were definitely days when I wondered if it was worth it. But something was watching out for me. Since those humble beginnings, my business grew and I have helped hundreds of humans and animals with an animal-welfare-centric approach to the law. Everyday, I wake up to fight for the underdog because I am an underdog, too. I know what it feels like to be the last person anyone expects to turn it all around and win the day. That’s why I fight for the underdog: because the risk is always worth it.
What should our readers know about your business?
What sets me apart from other attorneys is that I am a 100% animal-focused law firm. We handle criminal defense for dog bites, pet custody, veterinary malpractice, service animal and emotional support animal access representation, breeder and pet store breach of contract cases, cases where police shoot dogs, exotic animal and urban farm animal permitting, animal shelter and rescue representation, and anything else that relates to animals. If you have a legal issue that involves an animal, we handle it!
What sets me apart from other animal law firms is that I’m dedicated to animal advocacy in all areas of my life, personally and professionally: I’m vegan and I volunteer with a variety of animal-related organizations. I also operate my practice with complete honesty and integrity. I always say, I’d rather starve on my integrity than get fat off my lies. But I use out-of-the-box thinking to develop creative arguments to persuade judges to make changes in the law that focus on animal welfare, rather than the typical, “animals are property” paradigm that we have been operating in since the dawn of law in feudal England.
How I got where I am today was through pure perseverance. I worked really hard. I never let set backs define me. I got up, dusted myself off, and got back in the ring. I offer a service that is really needed in Colorado. The work I do is not easy, but get great results for clients who felt like the rest of the world had given up on them.
The lesson I’ve learned along the way is: you get what you give. Whatever you put out into the universe, good or bad, comes back to you. Thankfully, because I’ve always conducted myself from a place of integrity and led from my heart, I’ve had a lot of positive returns.
I want the world to know that I will always fight for the underdog; I never give up. I always bring 100% of my passion and compassion to every case that I work on because I know that when your pet is in trouble, your world has stopped and you can’t breathe. A lot of attorneys won’t touch these cases because they’re so emotional and no one wants to defend a dog accused of “being bad.” But I know the reality is that good dogs can end up in bad situations because of bad laws, and my advocacy for the underdog can help save a life.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I always show people the Holy Cross Wilderness or the Indian Peaks Wilderness because those are beautiful locations and are dog-friendly – of course! In Denver you can find me at any given vegan haunt like City O City and Make Believe Bakery for dessert. In Aurora, where I live, I am a sucker for Ethiopian and Moroccan cuisine, so my restaurants of choice are Abyssinia for Ethiopian food (where they have vegan and vegetarian options) and Paprika Cafe (also vegan and vegetarian options). I also love following around my favorite local brass band/social activists: the Brothers of Brass. They can be found busking all over Denver, but they have regular gigs, too. I would highly recommend following them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/denverbrassband/ I’m also a huge jazz fan and can frequently be found at Nocturne Jazz Club because the talent is exceptional and the 20s-style decor is spot on and classy. It’s also one of the few places you can find people dressed up in Denver. Coming from Philly, the “Colorado casual” style was a bit of a shock to me, and I miss putting on a nice dress and heels once in a while. At Nocturne, everyone looks their best. The best kept dog park secret is in Broomfield. I’d tell you, but then it wouldn’t be a secret any more, would it?
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My sister, Ashley, and her husband, Daniel. Without the love, support, and complete selflessness in opening up their brand new home to me, I would not be where I am today. There’s no question about that. My husband, Yassine Fadel, also deserves a lot of credit because he has put up with a lot of ups and downs and craziness as I work like a dog (pun intended) to advocate for animals. And sometimes that has come at the expense of our time together. But he has taken it all in stride and has been an unwavering pillar of support in my life, especially during these crazy COVID times.
Britton Murrey at Unbound Photographic