Mark Alexander has worked at Seattle Divorce Services since 2006, but has been practicing law since 1979. When he is not practicing law, Mark enjoys photography, music, kayaking, and watching college football and basketball. Every year he tries to get the rest of the office to follow the March Madness basketball tournament with him. While that has not had great success, he has done better getting many of us downtown for the Great Figgy Pudding Christmas caroling competition in December. I love the story he told about himself – on a recent trip to Hawaii he started to feel guilty staying inside watching March Madness while in paradise.
So he found a TV outside.
Mark is originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas (home of the Razorbacks, he made a point of emphasizing). His early memories are of listening to football games on the radio. His father was a pharmacist, and as a young teenager Mark worked in his father’s drugstore at the soda fountain. He still remembers the recipe for an old fashioned soda – ice cream, soda water, and syrup. His favorite part of working there, however, was that he got to read ALL of the comic books.
What Mark really learned from his parents was the value of hard work. Though never one to sling mud, Mark has never shied away from getting his hands dirty. During college summers he drove a diesel bean harvester. When it was harvest time, he worked on the harvester from sunup to sundown, 7 days a week. If he was not driving the harvester, he was maintaining it, up to his elbows in grease. Because of that background, Mark feels that he has always had a good understanding of other people who work hard for their living.
High School also exposed Mark to the wider world. As a member of the debate team (state debate champion senior year), he got to travel quite a bit to tournaments. Applying himself to school the same way he did to his other work, Mark was an exceptional student. When most of his friends were going off to college at the University of Arkansas, Mark felt that he should push for something bigger.
He applied to Harvard, Yale, and several other Ivy League schools, and was accepted at all of them. One of the things that helped him decide to attend Harvard, was the Yale interviewer who told him that Harvard was actually less snobbish than the others – including Yale.
Arriving at Harvard by bus after 48 hours (and two accidents), Mark immediately set to work applying himself the same way he had in high school. He majored in English and worked at the Harvard radio station as a news and sports announcer. The exposure to the station’s jazz and classical music programs was another education for the boy from Arkansas. At the end of his Junior year, with the excuse of working on a thesis topic, he took a year off to partner with his brother on a debate team in Missouri.
After Harvard, Mark had not yet tired of college life so he enrolled in the law school at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. Unlike undergraduate work, law school was less fun. Some professors followed the approach described in the movie Paper Chase – of intimidating and belittling students. Mark refused to play that game. This made him popular with the other students, who repeatedly elected him to the Board of Governors.
With his background in English and debate, in his third year Mark taught in the legal writing and oral advocacy program. He focused on making sure his comments on student papers were constructive, not just vague criticism. His teaching was so well received that students from other legal writing classes sat in on his class.
He also worked during law school as a proofreader, which comes naturally; even today, Mark is the office proofreader. I often spot him coming down the hall to point out some mistake I have made on our website, or in some document we use in the office. Mark’s passions for accuracy and clarity are also seen in his work on several committees dealing with local court rules and plain language forms.
As a new attorney fresh out of law school, Mark took a position with Nebraska Legal Aid, working with the rural poor to help with various legal needs like divorce law, bankruptcy, and disability law. From there he followed romance to Buffalo, New York where he worked as general counsel for a non-profit, the Buffalo Neighborhood Revitalization Corp. Buffalo was also where he discovered cross-country skiing, a sport not generally followed in Arkansas.
After Buffalo, Mark spent two years in New Jersey, where he worked at a criminal defense firm. Mark’s biggest lessons at that firm were in how NOT to practice law (attorneys yelling on the phone, ignoring clients, etc.). Mark and his wife wanted to find a friendlier place to live, so they began looking around the country assembling a short list of cities they would enjoy. His wife had gone to school in Seattle and suggested they fly out and take a look. Mark fell in love with Seattle and soon after they moved out here.
Mark’s first job in the Seattle area was doing Family Law at the Federal Way branch of a Tacoma law firm. During this time his daughter was born and he did some acting with the Burien Little Theatre. However, when one of the partners in that branch was elected to a judgeship, the firm closed down that office. Not wanting to work in the Tacoma office, Mark decided instead to go out on his own. Therefore, from 1993 to 2006, Mark worked in his own private practice in Bellevue.
In 2006 Mark decided to join Seattle Divorce Services in Ballard, where he has been an important addition. Mark is known around the office for his soothing demeanor with clients, for his focused analytical skills, and of course March Madness. While here he has expanded his practice into Family Law mediation, and met his current wife Joan (the wedding was the event of the year for the office). In his spare time, encouraged by Joan, Mark has developed a whole new series of interests, joining her in kayaking, photography expeditions, and squash.