SNOWMASS VILLAGE - It is rare for an attorney still in his 20s to start his own law practice; usually they toil for years under the tutelage of a more established firm.
Trent Palmer is not your usual attorney. He takes pride in offering sound legal advice in the areas of commercial and civil litigation; real estate; land use and development; and creating business entities and trusts. He also takes pride in snaking his way up that long conga line on the ridge of Highland Bowl and bombing down run after run.
Maybe Palmer's "uncommon" legal service shouldn't be too much of a surprise given his family background. He grew up in East Texas near the Louisiana border in an area covered by gorgeous and unusual cypress swamps. His grandfather had a house on Caddo Lake, a nationally protected wetland that features the world's largest cypress forest. Growing up, Palmer met Dwight Shellman, a former Pitkin County commissioner, who lived next door to his grandfather's house, and he met one of Shellman's partners in protecting the environment, former Eagles frontman Don Henley.
After undergraduate degrees in economics and philosophy, Palmer got his law degree from Santa Clara University in Northern California. Growing up skiing, and continuing that passion during law school, Palmer decided on Colorado as a place to practice law as well as ski.
Palmer's cousin is a retired Paralympic ski racer who lives in Winter Park, but Palmer decided to fix his sights on working in the Roaring Fork Valley. Ski towns with money seemed to be the best prospect. But coming out of law school in 2008 meant that Palmer hit the worst of the recession just as he was starting his career.
He worked on projects for a couple of local law firms and then opened his own practice in Snowmass in the middle of 2012.
"I definitely see opportunities to be excited about now in Snowmass," Palmer said.
Typically, Palmer does not do criminal law (such as DUIs) or family law (such as divorces or child-custody cases). His chosen niche is developing long-term relationships with businesses or individuals who might need advice on a civil or commercial matter or might need to set up a trust or other business entity. His special interest is in real estate matters.
According to his website, Palmer "advise(s) buyers, sellers and developers of mountain real estate on all aspects of deals - from pre-contract negotiations and financing through closing. Development projects require intricate analysis of many interrelated components, such as: federal disclosure statutes, state condominium statutes, land use codes, public records, design review standards and environmental conditions."
Most every legal project Palmer works on has some nexus to real estate.
"A typical client may be someone involved in a single transaction, such as buying or selling real estate," Palmer said. "Or they may be a long-term client who has multiple (legal) issues over a two- or three-year period."
What does he think are some of the biggest misconceptions about lawyers?
"I think a big one is that many people think that lawyers don't really generate anything productive to the economy," Palmer said. "I don't think that's true. Lawyers streamline and set relationships for how business works. We really help business be better and more efficient. And we help (individuals) make good decisions with sound legal advice."
Palmer does not see himself in the "Law and Order" mold of criminal defense attorneys.
"That is very exciting," Palmer said. "But for me, it's more about the intellectual side of things. Writing and creating (legal opinions) is better for me rather than being in a courtroom every day."
In summer, Palmer is often mountain biking behind the Snowmass Center or on one of the new runs on Elk Camp.
"Colorado is what I like," Palmer said. "I like all of the small mountain ski towns, like Silverton (where he once worked boot-packing). I go to Ouray, Crestone, Telluride."
And then he comes home and gets back to work for another legal client, offering his own brand of "uncommon legal service."
Steve Alldredge is the former associate editor/reporter for the Snowmass Sun. He now runs a local communications company whose clients include Related Colorado. He can be reached at