Dan Baldwin 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Mark Hutchison Hutchison & Steffen Sometimes It Takes 24 Hours to Get the Job Done Mark Hutchison, founding partner of Hutchison & Steffen, says, “One of the things that I tell lawyers at the end of the day when we still have more work to do to be prepared for court the next day is that there are 24 hours in a day and sometimes it takes 24 hours to get the job done.” That philosophy has helped Hutchison and his partners build one of Nevada’s largest and most successful law practices. The firm now employs more than 90 people, including 43 attorneys in three offices located in Las Vegas, Reno and Salt Lake City. Hutchison notes, “As law students, we were warned that the law is a jealous mistress. And she is.” His advice to young attorneys reflects his and his firm’s commitment to a work ethic that the law demands in representing clients. He observes, “You’ll hear a lot of naysayers about the legal profession right now because it can be difficult to find a job. But there is always room for smart lawyers who are willing to work their guts out to prevail on behalf of clients.” He notes that some of the firm’s best lawyers were raised on a farm or a ranch or in a blue-collar family where they weren’t handed anything. They had to make their own way. “And they became great lawyers because they were great workers. They’re smart enough to know they can’t rely on intelligence alone. They know they have to pay the price to get what they want.” Hutchison says that the firm’s work ethic produces practical benefits for clients. “I’ve been in trial with other law firms in town, and I’ll leave the office at two or three in the morning on my way home. I’ll pass their offices and see that all the lights are off. In my mind I’m thinking, ‘I’m just going to outwork you.’ Even if I’m not the smartest guy in the room, I know I can outwork anyone in the room. And that’s how we win for clients.” A Full-Service Law Firm The firm has many practice areas: administrative law, alternative dispute resolution, appellate litigation, asset protection & business planning, banking, bankruptcy & creditor’s rights, business & commercial litigation, constitutional law, construction law, corporate & commercial law, election law & government ethics, employment law, family law, healthcare professionals advocacy, insurance defense, landlord/tenant, personal injury, professional liability defense, real estate law, and trust & probate litigation. However, four practice areas currently occupy much of the attorneys’ time within the firm. Business law and commercial litigation covers such diverse areas as corporate formation and counseling, contract drafting, intellectual property protection, employee relations, shareholder and partnership disputes, expedited injunctive relief, complex tort, and product liability. The firm also provides counsel to cli-ents on preventative measures to avoid unnecessary litigation. Trust and probate litigation attorneys represent private individuals, trustees, banks, and investment professionals engaged in estate and trust disputes. The types of disputes cover will contests, asset distribution, disinheritance, interpretation of testamentary instruments and the application of relevant law, undue influence, allocation of estate tax burden accounting, and trust modifications. The firm’s family law division represents clients in all aspects of family and domestic law, including separation, divorce, community property, adoptions, guardianships, child custody, visitation and support, child abuse, termination of parental rights, spousal support, and domestic violence. Hutchison & Steffen represents healthcare professionals (including physicians, chiropractors, dentists, and nurses) and healthcare business entities and organizations in such areas as physician contracting, litigation, medical-malpractice defense, physician licensing, credentialing, mergers of medical practices, managed-care contracting, hospital contracts, and the purchase and sale of professional practices. Attorneys regularly represent clients before the Board of Medical Examiners, Chiropractic Physician’s Board, Board of Dental Examiners, and the Office of Attorney General. “Regardless of the practice area, our overall guiding principle is to provide top quality legal services in an ethical and efficient manner,” says Hutchison. A Policy of Organic Growth, Diversity, and Quality Hutchison & Steffen made the fundamental decision to grow the firm organically rather than by acquisition or merger. Individual attorneys, paralegals, and staff personnel were hired based on their qualifications and ability to grow with the firm. For example, the firm’s first hire was Janet Tolleson in April 1996, as firm administrator, who continues in that capacity today. Hutchison & Steffen is committed to maintaining a diverse work environment reflecting the varied socioeconomic, ethnic, and personal backgrounds of its employees. “The rich backgrounds of our attorneys and staff enables Hutchison & Steffen to bring a broad perspective to the challenges faced by our clients and thereby enhancing the quality of our work,” Hutchison says. Hutchison observes, “About five years ago, several large regional law firms decided to move into the Las Vegas market. There were numerous opportunities to merge with those types of firms. We just didn’t feel comfortable doing that and thought it was best to control our own destiny and hire the people who best fit the firm for us. The partners felt that we could continue to attract high-quality clients with high-end legal work without having to merge with or acquire another firm.” From the beginning Hutchison & Steffen wanted to build a firm capable of handling the larger and more sophisticated legal work, particularly litigation. For example, the firm served as lead counsel for a decade in the Hyatt vs. The California Franchise Tax Board case, which culminated in a four-month trial before a jury. The case resulted in a verdict of $388.1 million — one of the largest jury awards to a single plaintiff in the nation’s history. Another example is the Harmon Towers case where the MGM Grand Hotel has sued the general contractor who built the Harmon Towers. The case is complex litigation to say the least, involving massive discovery, expert witnesses, and extensive motion practice thus far. Hutchison says, “You just have to have the resources and the lawyers to support that long-term, hard-fought litigation. A small two-man or four-man shop would find it difficult to do that. The firm must have the lawyers and paralegals for research projects, brief writing, witness preparation, expert work and presentation, in-court hearings, and out-of-court investigations. So much legal work must be accomplished in a relatively short period of time in major litigation. And at the same time, there are dozens and dozens of depositions going on and a firm just has to have the lawyers and resources to handle a big piece of litigation.” Many say that practicing law is like politics in that “all politics is local.” Long-term local experience gives Hutchison & Steffen a decided “edge” in representing their clients. “In a firm like Hutchison & Steffen, you have native Nevadans who have not only spent their entire careers here, but have spent their entire lives here. They know and understand the judges and the nuances of practicing before each of them as well as administrative agencies and other local government bodies. And you often lose that local understanding, that local experience and flavor with some of these bigger regional firms that come to town,” observes Hutchison. The biggest challenge to growing a firm organically is finding people who are willing to embrace the firm’s philosophy of working as hard and as long as necessary with honor and ethics, Hutchison notes. He adds, “You have to find people who have that work ethic and mindset. There have been a few who have worked at the firm and had a ‘banker’s mentality.’ They thought they could show up at eight and leave at five. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t work — it’s driven primarily by the clients’ needs and goals. But if that’s someone’s basic mentality, they won’t thrive in this firm. We think we’ve done a good job over the years finding the right people. We have a great group of lawyers, paralegals, secretaries, and other staff who have embraced our philosophy.” The firm plans to grow consistently and organically. Hutchison says, “We want to be one of the top law firms in the state in the number of attorneys and employees and the quality of clients and their legal matters.” Employees are encouraged to embrace the firm’s commitment to give back to the community through pro bono and volunteer legal aid work, an area managed by partner Patty Lee. For example, Hutchison & Steffen has adopted an entire pro bono practice area at the request of Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. The firm provides legal services for abused women to help them escape from their abusive environment and start a new life. The partners wanted to embrace a meaningful pro bono practice area and one that has been underserved. The firm is recognized as a rising star in pro bono and volunteer legal aid in Nevada. Hutchison comments, “One of the most satisfying things you can do as a lawyer is to provide high quality, meaningful legal services to someone who can’t pay you. You know that the client can’t pay your fees going in and you say, ‘That’s fine with me. I’m going to represent you anyway because I have the professional skills to help you, and you deserve my help.’” Hard Work and National Recognition “Our work is a vocation to which we have been called from the beginning of time. When we work we are partaking in and joining with God’s ongoing creation of the world.” Peggy Noonan That quote from one of Hutchison’s favorite authors sums up, to a large extent, his philosophy of life as a lawyer. As the firm’s most experienced trial lawyer, he has achieved national recognition for his work, experience, and legal skills. For example, in 2010 Hutchison was appointed by the governor of the state of Nevada as special lead counsel in the constitutional challenge to the President’s healthcare law. Nevada joined with 25 other states to challenge the constitutionality of that law, a case that recently concluded with a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. “I handled that case on a pro bono basis and was happy to do so. It was one of the greatest honors of my professional career,” Hutchison says. Two governors appointed him to serve as a member of the Nevada Commission on Ethics. He served there for six years, two of them as chairman. He has appeared before Nevada and California state courts, as well as the U.S. District Courts for Nevada, California, Arizona, and Wyoming, and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Recognition for his commitment to his profession includes Recipient of Top Verdicts in the United States; Mountain States Super Lawyer; Legal Elite, Nevada Business Magazine; and Best of the Bar, Las Vegas Business Press. Hutchison is an AV-rated lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell. He has appeared dozens of times on national and local television and radio, including interviews on NBC, ABC, CBS, and “Fox News.” Hutchison’s professional and civic activities include: president of the Federal Bar Association, Nevada Chapter; Nevada Supreme Court Bench-Bar Committee; special counsel (ombudsman) for Clark County Coroner Inquest; executive commitee litigation section of the State Bar of Nevada; executive board, Las Vegas Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America; and general counsel, Silent Heroes of the Cold War Memorial Committee. Trying Cases and Persuading People Hutchison received his B.S. from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (high distinction) and his J.D. from Brigham Young University Law School (magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, and lead-articles editor of the Law Review). Following law school, Hutchison served as a law clerk to Judge Kenneth F. Ripple, U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. He defines a “good day” at work as, “when I’m in a hearing or in trial. I love to be in the courtroom.” A “bad day” consists of “arguing and fighting over meaningless issues related to discovery or in a deposition – the kinds of issues that don’t move the case along,” he contends. “Sometimes these issues surface in a case because lawyers get their backs up against a wall or want to flex muscles rather than making real progress in developing the facts of the case. That’s why I’d rather be in court. I try to avoid those types of issues. I try to get past them as quickly as I can. If a case can’t be resolved, my attitude is let’s just get to trial and get it done.” When asked what he enjoys most about the law, Hutchison muses, “I enjoy the opportunity to persuade. Those opportunities come in the form of persuading clients, opposing counsel, judges and juries. One of the most rewarding aspects of practicing law is presenting a position and having it accepted by a decision maker.” Family and Fun Although he is a busy man, he is also a devoted family man. He and his wife, Cary, have six children and two grandchildren. “We have a very close-knit, religious family. We believe that God ordained families and that they are not only the backbone of society, but the most important unit or organization on Earth. We can’t do enough to promote family,” he says. His hobbies and interests include collecting leather books and vintage fountain pens, running, and politics. He is also an avid hiker. “When I can get away, I go to southern Utah and hike. It’s a great way for me to decompress and relax. I also love going to the beaches of Southern California.” He enjoys reading The Wall Street Journal and the Weekend edition of The New York Times, as well as the local paper. Hutchison states, “I love to read those newspapers. They give me a great perspective from both sides of a story. I suppose it’s from my legal training. Learning and understanding both sides of an argument is vital in the law. If you can make your opponent’s argument better than he or she can, you are in a much better position to defeat the argument.” Hutchison’s favorite political author is Peggy Noonan. He reads her newspaper commentaries, articles, and every book she’s ever written. “I love her writing because she is a communicator.” His schedule doesn’t leave much time for watching television, but he does enjoy watching his Dallas Cowboys try to make the playoffs every year. He also enjoys watching Charlie Rose interview his many and varied guests. He will admit to a “guilty pleasure” of enjoying a Las Vegas-based cable program – “Pawn Stars.” “I enjoy the interplay of personalities on the show and, as a history buff, I find the variety of historical artifacts on the show fascinating,” he says. Hutchison has a fascination with America’s space program following President Kennedy’s bold goal announced in 1961 of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth again before the end of the decade. It’s no surprise, then, that Hutchison’s favorite movie is “Apollo 13,” starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard. Hutchison states, “The movie depicts the best traditions of America: bold leadership, focused commitment, overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles, and doing what no other nation could do.” In addition to Tom Hanks, Hutchison names Denzel Washington and Harrison Ford as favorite actors. “Those three actors have entertained me and a lot of other people for many, many years in so many great movies.” Hutchison has been described by one reporter as a “high-stakes litigator,” and so he is. But litigating and trying high-stakes cases is the end product of a fundamental professional philosophy. For Hutchison, it is perhaps best described as written by Noonan, “Work is a vocation to which we have been called.” Mark Hutchison has not only heard the call, he has answered and made a commitment. That underlies every facet of his professional life and is the basis for the continuing success of Hutchison & Steffen – “We can outwork just about anybody.”
Published by Target Market Media . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/article/ATTORNEY+of+the+MONTH/1204709/129845/article.html.