Mark Rockwell / Louis Goodman Podcast


Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer. Where we will talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers, and what their experiences have been.



Mark Rockwell

Well, good afternoon. Thank you. I’m glad to be here.



Louis Goodman

You have a very interesting history. And we’re going to get into that. But right now, where are you located?



Mark Rockwell

I live in a small community on the south east edge of Portland, Oregon called Lake Oswego.



Louis Goodman

And what type of business do you have now? How would you describe your current business?



Mark Rockwell

Well, I spend a lot of my time Louis working with law firms that really are frustrated, have l for lack of a better term have hit their head on the ceiling. They want to grow, they want to scale, but they’re frustrated because they don’t have the processes and procedures in place, and they feel as though they’re spinning their wheels. And I help them get organized and break through that barrier.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?



Mark Rockwell

I grew up in a little cow town over in Central Washington called Sunnyside over the Yakima Valley. My dad was a dentist.



Louis Goodman

Is that where youwent to high school?



Mark Rockwell

No, actually, I went to a boarding school up near Spokane called Upper Columbia Academy. It was a private school of about 300 400 students. And it was a hoot. I was so happy to be, I mean, gosh, I wouldn’t send my kids off to boarding school at 13 years of age. But I look back on that as being just a tremendous time.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from the boarding school, did you go to college?





Mark Rockwell

Yes, I went to a small private college in Walla Walla. Can you believe this? I still this is so silly. I remember on the side of the trucks in the City of Walla Walla. The logo said the town they love so much. They named it twice. Now that’s got to be real Northwest humor. But yes, it was a small college of around 1800 students Walla Walla College, and I majored in History and Business.



Louis Goodman

And when you graduated from Walla Walla, did you go directly to law school or did you take some time off?



Mark Rockwell

Well, actually, I went straight to law school. And in retrospect, I wish I had taken some time off. I mean, one of the things that kids do now is a gap year where they actually go do some fun things like travel in Europe and just have some fun and really expand their knowledge.



Louis Goodman:

And what law school did you go to again?



Mark Rockwell:

Willamette. Willamette is really, I think the oldest law school west of the Mississippi. It’s in Salem, Oregon. beautiful little town. It’s the state capitol for the state of Oregon. And it was, I can remember with fondness. Our law school was about a block away from the state capitol. And there was a cafeteria in the basement of the Capitol building where we could go over and get very affordable meals. And I can remember the governor, Governor Tom McCall coming in great big tall guy, I think he was probably six foot five or six, would come down and sit at the table and eat lunch with the rest of us. And it was just it was a delightful time.



Louis Goodman

It sounds like that part of it was really good. What did you think of law school in general?



Mark Rockwell

I really enjoyed it. And we had some really, really good professors. I have no regrets at all about law school other than the fact that I didn’t do nearly as well the first years.



Louis Goodman

When did you first start thinking I want to be a lawyer?



Mark Rockwell

You know, I was pretty young. I had visions of being Perry Mason. And I don’t think I was probably more than 12 or 13 when I started having ideas about being a liar. I can’t say that with absolute certainty. But by the time I was in undergraduate college, I was absolutely certain I wanted to be an attorney. And yeah, I never really ever considered not going to law school.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from law school, what kind of job did you get?



Mark Rockwell

Well, you know, it’s interesting that when I was going through law school, I actually got the entrepreneurial bug and started a business on the side. And I had eight trucks, believe it or not, oh, gosh, I think back now, why couldn’t I have just focused all my attention on law school?



Louis Goodman

Have you ever actually practiced law? Have you always been in the business world?



Mark Rockwell

You know, I have done a lot of legal work. But it’s always been for one of the corporations that I owned. So I have never hung out a shingle as a private practitioner. But I’ve spent many years up to my armpits in legal matters.



Louis Goodman

For a while you worked right here in Alameda County where I produce this podcast.



Mark Rockwell

Well, actually, I lived in Fremont. And I was with Peterbilt Motors Company, our headquarters at the time were in Newark, we not only had our division headquarters, but we had a large plant there. And so I handled a variety of things. I handled all the franchising for a period of time, our dealer network throughout the United States. I also handle all the customer service and field engineering. So I had a variety of positions.



Louis Goodman

You describe yourself as a coach, what exactly do you mean by a coach? And why do you see yourself as a coach?



Mark Rockwell

I guess the term coach, as opposed to consultant is really, it’s not my role to come in and actually fix the problem, but more to observe, and encourage and counsel and brainstorm with the attorneys and their firms and walk through a protocol that will help the individuals within the firm, develop the management muscle and the processes and procedures that will allow them to really become fully capable and fully functional.



Louis Goodman

What prompted you to start thinking about, you know, doing that kind of work.



Mark Rockwell

I have coined the phrase, embrace wisdom wherever you find it. And what I mean by that is, interestingly enough, I was exposed to this whole coaching, operational concept from a young man that I had been mentoring for about 10 years. And one day, he came to breakfast, and he brought this book called Traction by Gino Wickman. And he said, you know, here’s a book, I think you’d find enjoyable. They cracked it open and read through it right away. I called him up and said, Gosh, that’s a great book. And he said, Well, would you like to talk to the fellow that’s helping us implement all that in our company and we found it made a profound difference in the way we ran our company. I wish somebody had introduced me to 10 years before, as our business improved. And then I eventually sold that company, I realized I had no interest whatsoever in retiring. And realize I would like to go and help other entrepreneurial firms benefit as well. And then I started getting calls from attorneys and because they knew I was doing this kind of work, and many law firms, if they’re candid, will tell you that they don’t feel as though they operate internally all that smoothly. And so I started working with a number of law firms and then recognized, you know, I probably should just focus on law firms. And so that’s the majority of my practice now.



Louis Goodman

What is it that you like about working with lawyers?



Mark Rockwell

I like the fact that they’re disciplined, that they are motivated, that they’re smart, that when they make a commitment to turn things around or improve, I like the way attorneys think is very similar to the way I think it which is organized and disciplined.



Louis Goodman

What’s the most important piece of advice that you have for other business owners or other attorneys?



Mark Rockwell

Gosh, that’s a good question, Louis. You know, you could, and I’m really speaking to myself when I do this, it’s slow down and focus. Because if we will focus, whatever it is the task, the job, the client, the problem, the opportunity, our likelihood of success, is exponentially better.



Louis Goodman

Now you’ve written a pamphlet that is titled Five Mistakes That Lawyers Make, and you talked about five key mistakes. What are those mistakes? What do they represent? And what order of importance should a business owner implement corrections?



Mark Rockwell

Well, there are five mistakes that I think not only do attorneys make, but most of us in business are professionals of any kind make, it’s a lack of personal organization. And I would start by saying, for instance, in the case of attorneys, taking unscheduled client phone calls just being too available. Now, I know that flies in the face of being a caring, thoughtful, responsive attorney. But legal matters, in particular, that attorneys are working on require focus and concentration. And if you’re taking a phone call, or taking phone calls on a regular basis, and allowing your thought process to be interrupted, what a person could get done and should get done in an hour can be strung out over multiple hours because the reboot time, you can’t be unresponsive, but you can’t be constantly interrupted.



Louis Goodman

Okay, so unscheduled phone calls. What’s the second one?



Mark Rockwell

Well, another interruption would be allowing unscheduled client meetings, not unlike a phone call it can just willy nilly interrupt you. If clients just pop into your office and say, I’m here to see Louis, same thing, same net effect, it interrupts your day, it interrupts your workflow, it interrupts your thought process. You’re constantly rebooting. And those are very manageable. That is just a matter of organization and discipline.



Louis Goodman

What about colleague interruptions? Let’s call that number three.



Mark Rockwell

Yes, that probably is perhaps even a bigger issue. And I encourage all of the attorneys I work with to have very candid conversations with their colleagues. I won’t interrupt you, please don’t interrupt me. And if you have, you know, you can do a number of things. One can go so far as to say, you know, I closed my door, when my doors closed, please do not interrupt me, I need that time to work.



Louis Goodman

What about looking at one cell phone for texts, voicemails? Can we call that number four?



Mark Rockwell

I would say cell phones and email, those are four and five, are very manageable. I mean, that is such a huge temptation to be constantly looking at your phone. And I would encourage people to do a couple of things. Number one, if this is what it takes, turn your phone off and leave it in another room. Don’t leave it on your desk on where every time it dings, you’re tempted to turn it over? Oh, yeah, I know. It takes it’s I know, it’s discipline, and it’s a new habit. It’s a habit that many of us have to create, and we have to think about it. But I’m guilty myself. I mean, I’m not trying to sound like someone who’s mastered all these things. But I can tell you from experience, that if my phone is sitting there looking at me, I’m looking back at it, and it interrupts my schedule, for sure.



Louis Goodman

Now, I’m going to link to all of this in the show notes. So anyone who’s listening will be able to look at the show notes and find what I’m referring to here. But you also have a checklist where you very specifically go through 25 points having to do with law firms and personnel management. And I’m wondering how you develop that list? And what is the aim of implementing that checklist?



Mark Rockwell

A good question, Louis. The reason for the checklist is really to allow you to facilitate self assessment.



Louis Goodman

Mark, let me just interrupt you just so that people know what we’re talking about here. I’m not going to go through all 25 questions but just give you an idea just to give people an idea of the kinds of things that are on your list.



Mark Rockwell

Like our firm’s top line revenue, gross margin and profitability are growing at a pace we’re satisfied with our firm has a clear vision and writing that has been properly communicated and shared by everyone in the organization. Our 10 year target is clear and communicated regularly and shared by all. Everyone is engaged in a regular weekly meeting with a standardized agenda.



Louis Goodman

So these kinds of things and there’s 25 of those questions and as you say, going through them is really kind of a mind opening opportunity.



Mark Rockwell

Well, you know, and quite a confession. When I took a similar test a number of years ago, for my firm, we had a failing score. It was really an abysmally low score. And so I always say, you know, the bad news is when you get a score of say, 55, or even 35, that’s the bad news. The good news is, look at how much opportunity there is for improvement. And when you go through the 25 questions, you can recognize fairly quickly an example you read one of the first ones about, you know, our vision and our goals and all are shared by all and we’ve published them, etc. That’s an easy thing to correct. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy thing to necessarily instill in all of your colleagues. But it does mean that here is sort of a trail of things that if you work on them, and you focus on them, within a couple years, if your score is 35, today, within a couple years, you can be at 80, or 85. So the bad news is you start out with a bad score. The good news is there’s a path to double or triple your performance.



Louis Goodman

And what can you expect, if you do double or triple your performance?



Mark Rockwell

Well, several great things are gonna happen. First of all, you’re going to have a lot less chaos in the firm. There’s going to be clarity as to what your vision and goals are, which means it’s going to make it easier for you to hire and retain good staff. You’re going to have processes and procedures in place that are going to allow you to have be more efficient, more effective, more consistent output, you’re going to have greater accountability. And at the end of the day, you’re going to wind up with more satisfied clients and your bottom line is going to improve.



Louis Goodman

Are these things that one should try and apply to one’s personal life as well?



Mark Rockwell

Well, certainly the same concepts apply there. Absolutely. The whole idea of being predictable and consistent and thoughtful in your own personal life is going to transition or carry over into your professional life. There is a great parallel there. Yes.



Louis Goodman

How is actually working with lawyers, different or met your expectations about it from when you got started in this coaching business?



Mark Rockwell

At the risk of being, sounding melodramatic, I think there’s more pain and dysfunction in the legal profession than I had realized. There is more an appearance of being calm, cool and collected. But when you start to get, you know, when you lift the hood, and you start to look inside. What is a bit surprising to me is that I would say it’s not at all uncommon for law firms to have a lot more internal frustration, and difficulties holding people accountable and getting money to flow to the bottom line than I had ever realized.



Louis Goodman

What kinds of things keep you calm and keep you grounded?



Mark Rockwell

Well, I’m a spiritual person, for one thing. So I have a great faith. I recognize that everything I have, including the air I breathe is a gift from God. And so I feel a high level of obligation to use my time on this earth in a way that is productive. And I’ve been very blessed. And I now see these next, hopefully 10/20 years as a period when I can really give back.



Louis Goodman

You’ve observed the legal system from a number of different vantage points. Do you think that it’s fair?



Mark Rockwell

Well, I think there are aspects of it that are fair in the sense that I think in business world where you’re doing transactions, negotiating contracts, and all I think that’s fair. When it gets into areas of real complexity, whether it is legal defense work, Criminal Defense work, I mean, thank God, I’ve never been a criminal defendant, but I have known people who were and it’s just a nightmare. It is just like you have been sucked into a black hole that you don’t feel like you can ever get out of.



Louis Goodman

What’s your family life been like?



Mark Rockwell

Well, I have a great family life. I have a wonderful wife, of gosh, I better count accurately, I think it’s almost 39 years. I have two wonderful sons who are in and out of college now. So I’m no longer paying tuition, which is a wonderful thing. That’s a huge pay increase. I have two beautiful Bulldogs, who I am just crazy about. And so I have a kind of a simple life, but a great life very balanced lots of personal time, as well as professional time.



Louis Goodman

How about recreational pursuits, anything that you enjoy doing kind of clear your head on occasion?



Mark Rockwell

I am a real regular walker. One of my partners gave me a Fitbit about 10 years ago and I have to tell you, it’s had a profound impact on my life in a positive way. I walk about 3000 miles a year, which is not a lot on a per day basis. It’s just a matter of being consistent. So love to walk, I’m out every day, rain or shine. I decided years ago that living here in the Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t cut myself slack by saying well, I’ll only walk four days a week. Because if I did that, and the weather was crummy, I would quickly say, Oh, well, it’s coming today, I don’t think I’ll walk I’ll take one of those three days off. But then tomorrow is gonna be just as crummy. And before you know it, I wouldn’t be walking at all. So I have this rule of thumb, I have to go out every day. And despite how cold or windy or rainy it is, I can come back in 10 minutes. It’s really, really awful. Well, I’ve never used that get out of jail card. But it’s a good mental trick to get me going.



Louis Goodman

I’ve heard in the Pacific Northwest, they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.



Mark Rockwell

That’s kind of the way you have to look at it. You know, we’re a bunch of whiners up here in the Northwest. And the reason being is we actually have delightful weather, you just have to look at winter rain as an investment in next summer’s beauty.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say that you came into some real money, you know, $3/$4 billion? What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?



Mark Rockwell

Well, first of all, I would hope that it wouldn’t go to my head. And I would hope that my lifestyle as far as my home and my car and my dogs and my family wouldn’t change. So that would be my first concern that, it wouldn’t go to my head. There are any number of wonderful charitable events that I would love to participate in. I would probably focus on what is a need that I have a passion for, that I could organize a foundation that would have a profound impact.





Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a magic wand, there was one thing in the world that you could change, what would that be if you could wave the magic wand over that?



Mark Rockwell

There are multiple things in life that really up and our society, but if they’re two things that you could put your finger on alcohol and drugs. So decimate such a large percentage of our society. And if I could magically remove or change, I would say that the Genie, let’s get rid of the damage from alcohol and drugs that in itself would reduce crime, and it would restore a lot of people to a happy lifestyle.



Louis Goodman

Mark,is there anything else that you want to talk about or mentioned that we haven’t discussed?



Mark Rockwell

No. I mean, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. And you’re a good host. I appreciate you inviting me on your podcast. I enjoy listening to your podcast. You’ve had any number of great guests. And I’m just flattered that you invited me.



Louis Goodman

Mark Rockwell, thank you so much for joining me this afternoon on Love Thy Lawyer podcast.



Mark Rockwell

It’s been a pleasure talking to you. It’s been fun visiting with you. Thank you so much.



Louis Goodman

That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and subscribe to the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. I promise I’ll respond. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs, and information. Thanks as always to my guests who share their wisdom. And to Joel Katz for music, Ryan Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Mark Rockwell

So, I took a crash course Bay Area Bar Review, and much to my amazement, I sat for the Washington State Bar and passed it the first go through. I was not overly confident I was going to pass.




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