When Mark Frazier says he’s in it for the long haul, he means it.
That applies to the more than four decades he’s known his wife, Geri, and raising their three sons; lawyering up since 1982 with local powerhouse Rutan & Tucker LLP—where March 1 he was named managing partner—and becoming an attorney at all.
He credits his parents for instilling that type of dedication, and providing a precision that lends well to the legal profession.
“They taught us to be intentional.”
When Mark misbehaved, he’d say—as children and clients of attorneys do—he “didn’t mean to” do it.
“My parents would say, ‘Next time, mean to do what you do.’”
The message stuck.
“They were the adventurers,” he said. “Mom and dad were from Cincinnati … they came west.”
Frazier was born in Long Beach in 1956; his dad was training as a physician at Long Beach Memorial hospital—a medical center now, and part of Fountain Valley-based MemorialCare. The family lived in Point Loma and during surgical residency in San Diego his father, who’d also been to business school, saw there were too many urologists in hospital heavy SoCal—but none in 1960 in growth cities just east of Phoenix.
So they ventured.
Mark and Geri met in law school at USC, married after. He gives the lion’s share of credit to Geri for, “raising great kids.” One son is an attorney, one in private equity, one a physician.
Frazier says that Rutan has functioned as a family in some ways as well.
A.W. Rutan founded it in Santa Ana in 1906; the firm “cut out the middle names” to become Rutan & Tucker in the 1950s.
Now, the largest full-service firm based here (see article and list, beginning page 34), its earliest iterations had helped create, “a lot of the infrastructure in OC, with a strong public law and real estate focus,” and with clients drawn of water districts, redevelopment agencies universities, and several cities including Irvine, which Rutan helped guide to incorporation in 1971.
“We have a very valued relationship with the city, a current client,” Frazier says of Irvine.
Frazier started in 1982, a year after Rutan consolidated Santa Ana and Newport Center locations at offices on Anton Boulevard in Costa Mesa.
“The firm had just moved into the space,” he recalls. “The performing arts center wasn’t built; there were bean fields across the street. It was a brand-new building, state-of-the-art.”
Rutan & Tucker had two and a half floors and Frazier “had a magnificent day of interviews.”
It didn’t go like a typical job application.
“I interviewed them,” he said. “I was being thoughtful. People who want to be in charge of their future set themselves up for success.”
Frazier and the firm have been together since. Until recently, Rutan & Tucker had grown to occupy more than five floors—and now its readying a June move to another state-of-the-art development, The Boardwalk in Irvine.
The firm has the entire ninth floor, crowning two towers, connected by a walkway, and half of the eighth, just below. Most attorneys will be on the same floor.
The new location’s layout serves a purpose.
“We work very interconnected,” he said. “I’m a trial lawyer; I go to my corporate colleagues” to discuss elements of cases. Lawyers on five floors made for lots of travel time, he said.
At Boardwalk, “I walk down the hallway, maybe turn left, and there they are.”
Rutan has also been digitizing its massive cache of paper files, and law firms generally need less space than in years past.
U.S. law firms have cut their office footprint an average of 20% since 2014, a recent report from commercial real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank said. The Business Journal reported in January that law firm Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth APC now has 40,000 square feet at Irvine Co.’s 660 Newport Center, down from 60,000, in a deal negotiated by tenant rep Savills. Rutan’s lease was negotiated by an in-house real estate team and Cushman & Wakefield.
Frazier looks to such efficiencies to help enhance “the energy I saw when I interviewed” Rutan. The space in a new building is costlier but they don’t need as much. “We can do more with less, without spending more money.”
His first task as managing partner is “protecting the good work other people have done in the past.”
Frazier succeeds Bill Meehan who served four years as managing partner; Meehan is “younger than I am and really can focus on his practice and community involvement now.”
Frazier is part of an executive committee at the firm that includes Kim Thompson and Bill Ihrke.
The firm is based here and has offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco. Frazier wants to boost professional development for younger lawyers at the firm. He said land use, employment and labor, and cybersecurity and privacy are hot right now, and the firm has hired recently among those practices.
“Every section is hiring,” he said. “We’re in growth mode.”
Life inside Rutan reflects what drew Frazier to the law: diplomacy and dispute resolution—part of his undergraduate work at Occidental College—and how people can coalesce around good outcomes to tough situations.
Frazier said he became a lawyer because, “I thought I’d be good at problem-solving. Trial law seemed to be a place where competition connected well to the end-result: solutions that benefit someone for whom you were advocating.”
It connects of course to his early family life—one doesn’t often solve problems without intention, without meaning, and working, to do so. But it’s not quite what he thought about as a kid, but it’s not too far off.
“I liked working with my hands,” he said (see story, this page). “Wood, old cars. I wanted to be an architect.”
It was about “building stuff” and he figures litigating a case can be somewhat akin: “you build it in such a way that it’s a successful project.”
Rutan & Tucker Managing Partner Mark Frazier On …
Favorite Things: He played JV tennis in high school but never made varsity— “I have terrible eyesight”—and enjoys movies including “Saving Private Ryan” and “Remember the Titans.” He recommends Richard Weaver’s 1948 character tome, “Ideas Have Consequences”; “It’s become one of my favorite books.”
Another favorite is unpublished; he wrote it: it’s a legal thriller with the working title, The Birthright, and involves a presidential election and, again, character.
Where to Find Him: His favorite place in OC, outside the home, is The Cannery restaurant in Newport Beach. “It’s where we celebrate.” Most Saturday mornings he’s at the gym. He and wife, Geri, love the theater and have held season tickets for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ Broadway series since the venue opened. Rutan is general counsel for OCPAC.
Past Times: Frazier meets up with friends from high school “every year or two” to rekindle relationship. He works with wood and on cars: a ’68 Pontiac Firebird—his first car was a 1967 model; a ’72 Chevy Blazer—the final year of its first body style: “you can take the roof off”; and an ’02 Ford F-150—a Harley Davidson supercharged model given to him by a client. He drives a 1995 BMW 540 and “I work on that one, too.”
Community Vision: Frazier is on the board of the Center for Law and Military Policy in Huntington Beach, a think tank “working with legislators and developing information pieces” to change antiquated laws related to veteran and active duty armed forces personnel. His vision in just a few words: “Treat others as you want to be treated.” Sounds hokey, he knows, but “a lot of things in the world would be better if people did that.”