Gammage & Burnham: The Next Generation of Leaders
Written by Katherine Bishop
Photography by Andrew Paul
In 1983, Grady Gammage Jr. and Richard B. Burnham sat down at Clyde’s Bar in Washington D.C. and toasted to their future law firm. Now, almost four decades later Gammage & Burnham has built deep roots in the Arizona legal community with more than 30 attorneys and a cross-section of practice areas.
While its heritage as a locally grown firm may not be unique in the Arizona legal community, its innovation to continue into the next generation sets it apart.
“I think the fact the first four members of the firm are still present and practicing is a testament to the firm they created,” Jefferson Hayden says. “They are proud of what they built and who they have trained and mentored through the years behind them.”
“Our founding partners have been supportive of the next generation of lawyers taking the reins while they continue to provide their insight and wisdom,” says Heather Boysel.
To that end, the firm has recently restructured to expand from a managing partner to a managing member and a management committee.
“I’m personally appreciative and relieved to have additional support as we continue to plan for the future,” says Heather Boysel, the firm’s managing member. “It’s also exciting that our management committee is comprised of younger partners who are both energized about making Gammage & Burnham the best place to work and supported by our founding generation of partners.”
As the attorneys begin forging ahead to shape the firm for the generations to come, I had the pleasure of sitting down with some of its members to discuss their careers and their outlook on the future of the firm.
Our founding partners have been supportive of the next generation of lawyers taking the reins while they continue to provide their insight and wisdom.
Named managing partner in June 2019 and now serving the firm as the managing member on the management committee, Heather Boysel is a dedicated commercial litigator with a focus on health care.
“I had originally thought I wanted to go to medical school,” Boysel says. “My father and older sister were both physicians and they talked me out of it, in part due to the difficulties they faced in getting paid for their work.”
Boysel began pursuing her legal career, but worked in her father’s emergency room billing office throughout high school and college.
“I helped write letters to insurance companies that had failed to pay for their services appropriately,” she says. “It prepared me well for my practice in health care law with a focus on reimbursement issues.”
After earning her Juris Doctor from Arizona State University, Boysel decided to accept a position at Gammage & Burnham. She’s practiced with the firm her entire career.
“I was drawn to Gammage & Burnham because they had a great reputation in health care law. I also wanted to practice somewhere where I would be able to know everyone at the firm and not simply be a ‘line item on a spreadsheet.’ For me, Gammage & Burham exists in a sweet spot for a law firm. It’s large enough to have attorneys with a wide range of skill sets to cover most business needs, but small enough to maintain a family-like culture.”
Additionally, Boysel was able to work with local clients she was able to get to know on a direct, personal basis.
Elected to equity membership in 2017, Camila Alarcon has been a member of the firm’s administrative law and government relations teams since 2014. She has found her niche in the alcohol and hospitality industries, lobbying on behalf of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild since 2013.
“The law came to me in a series of decisions I took one step at a time,” Alarcon says. “There was no epiphanic moment for me. As for my focus on alcohol regulation, it’s nothing I could’ve predicted. It just goes to show you how many options the law provides.”
When Alarcon joined the firm, she had a direction for her practice in mind. One of the senior attorneys advised her differently.
“Of course, he was right,” she says. “It was that collaboration that first drew me to the firm. We work together here. We care about the future of the firm together. Most importantly, we like each other. It’s not an easy dynamic to create.”
She attributes a lot of the culture at the firm to the heritage established by the founding members. “There’s 40 years of history in this firm,” she says. “I was in first grade when Grady, Dick and Mike decided that they could do on their own better. Being able to ask them questions, or hear stories from the years past – or, even better, listening to others talk about them – is special.”
In recent years, the firm has expanded on that strong foundation. “We have become more collaborative, more technologically advanced and more creative in how we use timekeepers,” Alarcon says. “I’m excited for the changes ahead. I know the law is going to evolve in ways I cannot predict. I just know we can stay ahead of those changes quite well.”
In the more immediate future, Alarcon is looking forward to refilling her calendar with client events and meetings as COVID begins to ease.
Jefferson R. Hayden
Chair of the firm’s litigation team since 2021 and a member of the firm since 2018, Jefferson R. Hayden has experience in a broad range of areas.
Hayden’s engineering experience and post-graduate studies in economics ultimately led him to the practice of law.
“My engineering work, though fulfilling, was somewhat isolating,” Hayden says. “When taking a law and economics course for my post-graduate degree, law seemed to a be a great blend of solving problems for people and businesses instead of machines. As it turns out that may be a dramatic oversimplification of what a legal career consists of, but the general principles are still there.”
Hayden came to focus his practice on litigation as it combined his interests in the law with the kind of competitive environment in which he thrived through sports. “That and the fact that many of the great relationships I forged early in my career were with litigators. Sometimes it’s who you work with that matters a bit more than what work you do.”
When looking where to practice, Hayden found the best of both worlds in Gammage & Burnham. “The firm marries its ability to take on complex legal matters, typically reserved for much larger firms, with its culture of a tightknit firm. The ability to thread that needle is what makes it such a special place to work.”
Over the years, Hayden has benefited from the mentorship of many. “I find it most rewarding to have the opportunity to return that favor to those around me,” he says.
While he has learned a lot from his fellow lawyers, his best lessons – patience, cooperation, improvisation, and an understanding that you can’t control everything –came from his son and wife. “Those are just a few of the skills I’ve learned as a husband and new father. It has made me a better lawyer and person. Beyond my wife and son, my parents have taught me the most in my life and I will always be grateful.”
Looking ahead, Hayden is excited to continue the trajectory of growth he has built on in his role as the leader of the litigation team.
“I hope to make a difference where I can,” he says. “Whether to our clients, my colleagues, our young attorneys, our staff, friends, or family, I hope I am able to help them accomplish their goals in some way.
Nicole Ricker was born into a real estate family. Discussions about market conditions were typical dinner table talk. After learning the development side of real estate, Ricker found that she had a knack for legal work – working with clients to achieve their goals, identify risk and find practical solutions.
Ricker compares her work in real estate law to the role of a caddy in golf. “On our best days, we’re trusted caddies – we want our golfer to win,” Ricker says. “It feels good to choose the right equipment, give a good read, finish with a pep talk, and let the magic happen.”
And the magic happens.
Ricker has worked on some of the biggest marquis projects in Phoenix – from master plan communities to mixed-used condominiums. Her practice is at the intersection of land use and transactions. With vast experience and a healthy dose of creativity, Ricker creates new value and opportunity for clients.
Part of Ricker’s success she attributes to the organic collaboration at Gammage & Burnham. “Through collaboration and with a healthy obsession with our craft, we deliver big law quality work from a local, mid-size shop.”
That is in part why Ricker decided to join the firm. “I came and stay for the people,” she says. “Practicing law is better with friends. Isn’t everything?”
A Gammage & Burnham attorney since 2003, Manjula Vaz is the chair of the firm’s zoning and land use team and a member of the firm’s real estate team.
She is very active in her practice and also serves as outside counsel to the Maricopa County Stadium District and teaches land use law in the Master of Real Estate Program at her alma mater, Arizona State University.
An Arizona native, Vaz found her niche in land use because of her interest in helping the development of her community. This passion is something she found in Gammage & Burnham.
“All the lawyers here care about the growth of the State of Arizona. Most of us have deep local roots,” Vaz says. “We care about what we do and how we can contribute to moving Arizona forward.”
Currently, Vaz lives in Tempe, and spends quite a bit of her time representing clients in Tempe. “Every day, l drive around and can see the impact I have made on my community. I take great pride in that.”
As the chair of the zoning group, Vaz has been instrumental in the growth of that team over the last six years. “We spend a lot of time bouncing ideas off each other and updating the team on the progress in each city. We’re like family.”
Looking to the future, Vaz has plans to continue to drive the entrepreneurial spirit of the firm. “I want to continue to involve younger people in the practice and the bring more diversity to the firm.”
Looking to the Future
This year, Gammage & Burnham will celebrate a landmark – 40 years of practice. While the firm has evolved and adapted since its founding, the lawyers recognize that in recent years that has accelerated to embrace technology and innovation so it can stay current with the demands of the legal industry.
“Since I came to the firm almost 20 years ago, the firm has adopted a more entrepreneurial spirit and embraced more practice areas,” Vaz says. “The firm is certainly changing with technology.”
While the firm sees a need to embrace technology to stay ahead of the curve, they are keeping their roots firmly planted in the values that have served them well.
“I think the firm will continue to build on the strong foundation the founders and senior members of the firm created,” Hayden says. “It will continue to add new talented members of the team which will not only maintain but grow the firm’s great reputation.”