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Description

Mark Lanier is a man of dedication. He’s dedicated to his family, his church, and his job – in that order. He’s such an intensely passionate person that others sometimes mistake him for a workaholic.

Some know Mark for his big verdicts and creative trial strategies. And reasonably so as over the course of his career, Mark has won approximately 20 billion dollars in verdicts.

Growing up, Mark moved around a lot, learning how to make new friends and adapt to different places. This instilled a love for traveling, particularly if he can get around by train.

In this episode, Mark talks to Luke about how being a B+ lawyer is perfectly okay, why he wouldn’t want to box a kangaroo, and why taking care of one another should be a top priority for everyone.

Transcription

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Mark Lanier:

I had a boss one time who called me into his office. I’d been practicing for about five, five and a half years. And he called me into his office and he said, “Lanier, I got a problem with you.” And I said, “What’s that?” He said, “You put your faith and your family before the practice of law.” And he said, “You need to put law first. So right now, at best you’re a B-.” He says, “But if you don’t change your ways, you’ll never be better than a B+ or an A- lawyer.”

Luke W Russell:

Welcome to Lawful Good, a show about lawyers and the trials they face inside and outside the courtroom. I’m your host, Luke W Russell. I’m not a journalist. I’m not an attorney. I am trained as a coach. I love human connection. And that’s what you’re about to hear.

Luke W Russell:

Today I’m talking with Mark Lanier. Mark is a man of dedication. He’s dedicated to his family, his church, and his job, in that order. He’s such an intensely passionate person that others sometimes mistake him for a workaholic. Some know Mark for his big verdicts and creative trial strategies, and reasonably so as over the course of his career Mark has won approximately $20 billion in verdicts. Growing up, Mark moved around a lot, learning how to make new friends and adapt to different places. This instilled a love for traveling, particularly when he can get around by train.

Luke W Russell:

In today’s episode, Mark talks to us about how being a B+ lawyer is perfectly okay, why he wouldn’t want to box a kangaroo, and why taking care of one another should be a top priority for everyone. Mark, are you a Texan at heart?

Mark Lanier:

I would say I’m a Texan at heart. I was born in Dallas. But I, as a child, lived in a lot of different places. And so I have a love for travel and I have a love for a lot of different parts of the country. So while I’m a Texan in a sense, I was born in Dallas, lived in Fort Worth. From there though, I moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. Then New Orleans, Louisiana. Then I moved back to Abilene, Texas. But then I moved to Memphis, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Rochester, New York. Back to Lubbock, Texas. And only then have I hit middle school.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Mark Lanier:

But I graduated from high school in Texas and, heavens, I’ve worked here for 40 years, and law school here. So I’m a Texan.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Moving around a lot and living in different neighborhoods, how did that help shape you?

Mark Lanier:

In a lot of different ways the moving effects you, especially when you’re young. There have been some studies that indicate if you move prior to puberty, you’re able to learn a new language without an accent.

Luke W Russell:

Interesting.

Mark Lanier:

If you move after puberty, you almost always keep an accent. And that’s true for Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, whatever the language may be. Now I did a lot of moving at an early enough age to where I figured and had to learn how to talk differently in Pittsburgh than in Abilene, Texas. You talk differently in Rochester, New York than you do in New Orleans. And some of my first sentences were in a thick Cajun drawl. And then the Texas y’all, and all of that comes very natural as well.

Mark Lanier:

But from living at an early age in those other places, I’ll quickly lapse into not so much a Texas accent if I’m in a different place, barring some mental thought. It just automatically seems to happen. It also affects the way you make friends, because when you grow up in one place and you’ve got those same friends each year, year after year, summer after summer, that’s who you play ball with, that’s who you … whatever, then life is just that normative beat. But when you’re moving all the time, then all of a sudden you’ve got to learn how to make new friends. You’ve got to learn how different people in different cultures think, how they dress, how they eat different foods, how they have different names.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

All of that is different. And I think growing up with that multitude of exposures certainly affected my ability to talk to different juries and try cases all around the country.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Can you remember the different neighborhoods of where you lived growing up?

Mark Lanier:

Sure. Absolutely. In fact, we lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but we only lived there for under a year. And it was in the winter of 1967, into the summer of 1968. I finished second grade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then had the summer after second grade. About 10 or 15 years ago I went back to Pittsburgh with my mom and sister, older sister. And I was able to find our house that we lived in. And this would’ve been 45 years later and I’m finding this house that I haven’t been to since I was seven years old.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Mark Lanier:

So I remember the neighborhoods. I remember the houses. I remember the streets. I went back and found our house from where we lived when I started kindergarten in Memphis, Tennessee. I went back 30 years later and found the house because I could remember how to get there from another point that I could look up.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. How long did your dad work for the railroad?

Mark Lanier:

So dad grew up in an East Texas town that was on the railroad line for the Texas and Pacific Railroad. And he always knew about that railroad. And when he was in high school, I think had some summer jobs at the railroad. Went off to the Navy. Finished his tour in the Navy and then came back and went to college. When he graduated from college he took a job with the railroad again, but he was in the sales end of the railroad. And over time … by that I mean he would talk you into shipping your stuff on a railroad instead of trucks or things like that.

Mark Lanier:

And over time the Texas and Pacific Railroad became the Missouri Pacific, which became the Union Pacific. And so dad worked for the railroad from about the time he graduated college until he retired. So all of my life he was at the railroad.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Did you ever get to ride in trains or maybe pull the horns?

Mark Lanier:

Oh yeah. Oh look, when I was preschool … But I remember it. I lived in Abilene, Texas and my dad’s brother died from cancer, my uncle Charles. And so we had to get back to Palestine, Texas, which is in East Texas. And the drive from Abilene would’ve taken probably about seven hours. But instead, we took the train because dad, as a railroad employee, had free train passes or whatever. And I can still remember as a four year old kid getting on that train and falling asleep and waking up in Palestine, Texas. But I loved riding the train, loved it, and always have.

Luke W Russell:

Growing up, did you ever get to toot the horn of the train?

Mark Lanier:

I have a train in my backyard.

Luke W Russell:

I remember that now.

Mark Lanier:

Yeah. We live on about 40 acres. And we have a train that’s 1/2 scale. We’ll pull about 125 people on the train, adults. And so I get to blow that horn all day long, every time I ride the train.

Luke W Russell:

Talk to me about your siblings. Where were you in the birth order?

Mark Lanier:

I’m a middle child and I have middle child syndrome.

Luke W Russell:

How bad?

Mark Lanier:

I grew up trying to out achieve my older sister. And then we have a baby sister who we basically babied and took care of. Both my sisters have just done incredibly well in this life. It’s been a great joy to be a part. I’m still close to both of them. So I was middle child. I got middle child syndrome.

Luke W Russell:

What do they think of your train?

Mark Lanier:

They love it because dad, before he passed away, helped me design it and put it together to build. So we painted the engine 32, which was the year of his birth. He had had a stroke and was in the hospital when the locomotive got delivered. You can’t just buy those off the shelf. We had to have it built. And I was able to take pictures to him to show him in the hospital, though he never got to ride on it. But we painted it with the scheme of his railroad, and none of us can get on that railroad without telling dad jokes and thinking about our dad. So we are all very bonded to the train.

Luke W Russell:

Were your parents pretty strict?

Mark Lanier:

You know, so I grew up in a family with a very devout Christian faith. Both of my parents were very devout in their faith. But it’s interesting, because I don’t view them as very strict. I don’t drink alcohol, but both of my parents were social drinkers. So it wasn’t anything I was taught against, I just decided it wasn’t going to be part of my life.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

I can remember my mom one time, I told my mom, it was about third or fourth grade. I said, “I’m sick. I don’t think I should go to school today.” And she said, “Are you really sick or do you not want to go to school?” And I said, “What do you mean?” She says, “Well if you’re really sick, you’re going to stay home and go to bed. If you just don’t want to go to school, your grades are good enough and that’s fine if you’ll be honest enough to tell me that’s what it is. And then you and I can go out and play and have some fun today.” I looked at her and I smiled and I said, “I don’t want to go to school today.” She’s like, “Well let’s go have fun.”

Mark Lanier:

So I look back and would my parents give me corporal punishment? I grew up in that era, that generation where it was acceptable. But I can probably count on one hand the number of spankings I got. And I had to have done something incredibly disrespectful to my mom, which got it from my dad. Or a blatant disobedient lie or something like that to my mom, which would get it from her, maybe. But their view was always punish with the least necessary punishment to get the message across. So if punishments are on a scale of 1-10, don’t go straight to the 10. If a one will do it, do the one. Save the 10 for when you need the 10.

Luke W Russell:

Do you feel like you carried that into your own parenting?

Mark Lanier:

Yeah, I think very much so. I think that’s good, sound, solid parenting. And we’re at the stage now where we have grandchildren. I think even our children understand that with our grandchildren. And every child is different. So some children, you can give them a stern look and the world has crumbled around them. Other children are more defiant and a stern look is laughed off like, “Ha. Ha. Ha.” So it tailors to each child. But the idea is the same.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. You mentioned you decided at some point just to not drink alcohol. I’m curious, would you say your life is better without alcohol?

Mark Lanier:

Oh mine is, without a doubt.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

Mine is because I do everything to excess. If I drank alcohol I would be a lush. You’d be picking me up off the floor. Do I think there’s anything wrong with social drinking that’s done responsibly? No. Of course not. I think that’s a fine thing to do. It’s just something I’ve never done. I’m 60, I’ve never had a drop. And it fits me well. I can tell you drinking to excess is not a good thing in the practice of law. It’s a trap. And it’s a consuming … I don’t know.

Mark Lanier:

I can say this. I’ve probably made a lot of money off people who have too much to drink and so they don’t work as hard or they don’t work as efficient. Or, one of my favorite times to talk to lawyers on the other side is when they’re drinking, because they start talking and they get so loose lipped. And I have learned so much stuff they never would’ve told me otherwise. And I’m just sitting there sober as church without anything other than my brain memorizing everything they’re saying when they wish they weren’t so forthcoming.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

So yeah. I don’t know. Those are my thoughts.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Have you always had a sense, a feeling, an internal sense of purpose or mission?

Mark Lanier:

Yeah, without a doubt. So I told you I grew up in a family of faith.

Luke W Russell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

And my mom told me at a very young age, younger than I can remember, I’ve known this growing up, that she had originally … before my older sister she had been pregnant with a son and had miscarried the baby well into the pregnancy. And it had left a huge scar on her. Mom had grown up in a family of girls and then she had my older sister. And she said, “I prayed to God. And I said, ‘God if you will give me a son I will give him back to you.'” And so from the earliest age I had been told by my mom, “I gave you to God. He gave you to me for me to give him back to you. You belong to him. So he’s got purpose in your life and purpose for your life. And your job is to figure out what that is and to make sure you do it.”

Mark Lanier:

And so I grew up with this sense that I’m not an accident. This wasn’t just the sperm happened to invade an ova and voila here comes out Mark. I’m here in this time and in this place to do special and specific things. I’ve since grown in my own personal views, based on my faith, that that’s not a unique Mark thing, that God has something for everybody to do, that we’re all called to something greater than just being a consumer of goods on planet earth, to satisfy our own desires. There’s got to be a meaning and purpose.

Mark Lanier:

I believe that there is meaning and purpose for everyone. And I think most people at some point or another in their life have this gnawing feeling like there’s got to be more to life, I’ve got to be made for more. Surely there’s something out there before they jump of the nihilistic bridge of life is useless and why am I even here.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. What’s your own calling, when you get right down to it?

Mark Lanier:

Well I’m always trying to figure that out. I took an aptitude test when I was in ninth grade. At school, they required it. The results came back and they said the three areas where I showed my peak aptitude were being a trial lawyer, being a preacher, or being a politician. And I was very devout in my faith even then and I thought, boy that preacher sounds pretty good. And I could also maybe be a lawyer and do both at the same time. And if I do that, especially as a lawyer, if I ever want to get into politics or think that’s where I belong, then that’s an easy, natural next step.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

So I went to school. My undergraduate degree is in the Biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew, but also with a preaching degree. And so I had the ability to preach right after school, but opted instead to go to law school, with the goal of still teaching in church or preaching in church, but doing it for non-economic reasons. So being a lawyer, originally for me was just an easy way to pay the bills, and a job that I thought I might enjoy. I never really looked at it as a calling. It was going to fund my calling.

Mark Lanier:

But lo and behold, it turns out that, from my perspective, God cares immensely about justice. He cares immensely for the poor and the downtrodden. He cares for the widows and the orphans. And he calls people to try and go out there and to be their defender, to take up their cause and to fight the worthy fight of justice. To fight for the have-nots against the haves is a very Biblical calling. And so what I thought was just a fun occupation to fund my calling, turns out is a calling unto itself.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. When did you experience that shift, being a lawyer as the facilitator of your calling versus viewing it as your calling?

Mark Lanier:

It was a subtle shift. It wasn’t an overnight 180.

Luke W Russell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mark Lanier:

I think it started, I was defending the railroad in a case. And I had gone to try the case. And looking back, I think we were at fault.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

I think that we had, in essence, ruined this man’s life because of his injuries. And yet I did not settle the case. I went and tried the case because I thought that through my legal skills I was going to be able to win anyway. I thought I could out lawyer the other side. And it was my first loss. It was before the era of cell phones. This was in the 1980s. And I remember driving back. I was at a huge defense firm. I’m talking 800, 900 lawyers back then. 3,000 now. They’re massive still.

Mark Lanier:

But I remember driving back and thinking to myself poor me, poor Mark Lanier. I’m driving home and I’m going to have to tell everybody I lost, when that fella gets to go home and tell his wife he won. And then I started doing the logical conclusions, he won, they wouldn’t have to go on food stamps, his children would have clothes to wear at school. And I started thinking, oh my heavens, justice happened. What if I had used my skills to bring about in injustice and I’m going home slapping myself on the back for my big trial win because I won something through legal skills? He’s going home to explain to his wife we’ve got to go on food stamps, our children are going to have to go on whatever. And that was the start of the turn that I most readily identify.

Mark Lanier:

It wasn’t fully that it was a calling, but it was a recognition that I needed to go out on my own and I needed to start handling cases that I believed in. And then as I started doing that, some cases started coming in that changed the lives of my clients, changed the world. I’m still ecstatic that Johnson & Johnson quit selling baby powder with talc in it, because that talc had asbestos contaminants and it caused countless people to die. I’m convinced.

Mark Lanier:

So I look at those victories and feel like there’s a great calling. But it’s a great calling if you’re taking care of one person whose had an injustice who needs help. So it was a gradual comeuppance for me, but I finally came up to it and understood the calling of the profession itself.

Luke W Russell:

Have you ever considered quitting as a lawyer? Have there been moments where you maybe wake up in the middle of the night and you just think, I have it all wrong?

Mark Lanier:

You know, I can remember twice where I really thought long and hard about the practice of law. The first time was the very first case I tried, where I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. I didn’t feel like I was prepared, from an education perspective, the way I needed to be. The first thing I said was objected to by the other side, and sustained by the judge. And I didn’t even understand the objection. And I thought, man I don’t belong here. I had gotten the best job out of my law school class, at this huge firm. I went to Texas Tech Law School. I’m up against all these Harvard guys in the firm and everything, and Yale. And I thought, I don’t belong. I can’t do this. And so I gave a serious thought through that. And I won the case. By the end of the case I was like, “Okay, maybe I can do this a little bit.”

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

And then there was another time where I had switched over the the plaintiff side. And I lost two cases in a row. And I thought, on both of those cases, I was going to win. And I thought, how could I think I’m winning and I’ve lost? And one of them was devastating in the loss. I had left $2 million on the table and it was total loss. And I had a widow with eight kids. It was just a horrible, horrible loss. And I remember then thinking I guess I don’t get it. I did so well in high school debate and college debate. I won nationals in moot court. I’m supposed to be this guy. And I’ve tried all these cases, but I just don’t get it and I’m losing. Not once, but I’m losing again.

Mark Lanier:

And I think over that period of a few years I lost four cases. And I’d never really lost many before that. And I was just devastated. And I thought I clearly don’t know what I’m doing. So I had a real decision to make. Either I’m going to learn and figure out how to do this stuff, or I’m going to figure out how to be a law professor or something like that, or just go be a preacher or something. But you go through those period and you’ve got a choice. You either kick your game up some notches. Its one reason I do my trial academy now. And each year … I mean we’ll have 1,000 people at my trial academy this year, because I think I finally figured out some of this stuff and I want to make sure I share it so other people know how to do it, because everybody deserves a good lawyer.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

If that makes sense?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. When you were talking about losing some of those cases and you were just thinking, I’ve got to figure this out, what was the problem?

Mark Lanier:

Oh. Well I don’t think, Luke, that there was one problem. I think there were a bunch of them. I think the problems included technique, work ethic, an understanding of the science behind trials, the science behind the mind and how it works.

Luke W Russell:

Who taught you to draw?

Mark Lanier:

I’m a terrible drawer. I try so hard to draw. Now I’ve learned how to draw some things, but it has been a chore. I have bought book after book after book on how to draw. I was in trial in St. Louis, Missouri and I needed to draw a duck. So I got a computer and I Googled, how do you draw a duck? And I got a four step process of drawing a duck. So I put those four steps on the inside of a manila folder that I would have opened when I was up there asking questions. So when I opened it nobody could see but me, the four steps.

Mark Lanier:

So I’ve got my projector unit, my IPEVO or ELMO up there, and I just draw the duck while I’m talking, and people don’t realize I’m actually looking at the four steps of how to draw a duck. Otherwise my duck would’ve looked like an owl or a kitty cat. I don’t have it as a natural skillset, but I’ve learned that there are books and people who can teach you how to draw. And I just have learned how to draw the things I need to know how to draw.

Luke W Russell:

What does a duck have to do with a trial?

Mark Lanier:

So I had an expert who had looked at the cancer tissues of 10 different women to see if he could find asbestos fibers in the cancer tissue. And the odds of finding it he took to be so slim that he didn’t figure he’d find it in any of them. But he thought it was worth taking a look because I asked him to. And so we equated the odds of it to going to the country fair where you can pay a dollar and you get to pick up a duck that’s floating by in the water tank. And if it happens to be the right duck, you win a prize. The odds are you’re not going to win a prize.

Mark Lanier:

So I’m using that illustration with him, so I’m drawing a duck in a swimming pool of water to illustrate that point. And then, of course, when he gives the testimony after we’ve explained the background, that he found the asbestos in nine of the 10 women in the cancer tissues. The odds of pulling up the duck with the big prize nine out of 10 times is next to impossible. So I was drawing a duck to illustrate the rareness with which we anticipated finding anything.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. When you are drawing in the courtroom, do you take something to be able to draw with? How does that end up playing out when you need to actually scribble something for the jury?

Mark Lanier:

Yeah. So I’ve got real strict rules on that. I’ve got a special kind of paper that I take into the courtroom. I’ve got special pens that I take into the courtroom. I’ve got special colors. This is a science to me.

Luke W Russell:

Oh yeah.

Mark Lanier:

I can tell you, I was trying a case one time in state court in New Jersey. This was probably, I would guess, 10, 15 years ago at least. I was using some slides with pictures in them and the other side got real upset during a cross examination with my PowerPoint slides that had pictures, and said that they were argumentative and I shouldn’t be allowed to use them. And I said to the judge, I said, “Well judge, you allow me to draw on a tablet. I’m allowed to write on a chalkboard. This is a demonstrative. I ought to be allowed to use a picture in a PowerPoint.” And she says, “Well here’s my rule. I’ll let you use the picture if the picture is something you could have drawn on the tablet had you taken time to do it.” I said, “Okay.”

Mark Lanier:

So I wanted to make a point with this witness. It was an expert for the other side. And I wanted to make the point that he was the only one who viewed the world the way he viewed it, and the science the way he viewed it, that he was all by himself out on an isolated, desolate island. And so I had a picture of water with this one little island and a little palm tree, and a fella sitting under the palm tree all by himself. Kind of a comic book draw, but it was in color and it was really nice. And so I wanted to use it. And the judge said, “Well Mark, you can’t use that. That’s too complicated. You wouldn’t have been able to draw that.”

Mark Lanier:

Well I had anticipated her saying that, so if you flip back on my big flip chart a couple of sheets, I had drawn it. And so I said, “Judge, I drew it during the break in anticipation you might say this is too complicated for me to draw. But here it is.” And the judge looked at it and she said, “Okay. You can use it.” So I got to use it.

Mark Lanier:

Now it was later, at the end of the trial day, where one of the defense lawyers, not the actual trial lawyer but one of the partners from that big firm, who was sitting in the courtroom, who had done the background work behind the case. It was a pretty big case, a pretty noteworthy case. And he came up to me and he said, “Hey, you know that drawing you did on the notepad?” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “What are you going to do with that?” I said, “I’ll throw it away, I guess, when this trial’s over or whatever.” He said, “Could I have it?” And I said, “Sure.” He said, “But you won’t tell anybody on my side will you?” I said, “Nah, you can have it.”

Mark Lanier:

So I tore it out and I gave it to him. He said, “Would you autograph it for me.” So I autographed it. I saw this fella years later at some seminar or something and he came up to me and he says, “Do you remember that picture?” And I said, “Sure.” He says, “It’s framed and in my basement.”

Luke W Russell:

I love that.

Mark Lanier:

“How many people frame a case they lost?” And I said, “Well, you know, we won that one and you’ll win the next one maybe.”

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Has anyone ever laughed, maybe when you’re drawing just you hear maybe anyone in the court let out a laugh of, “Huh, this guy’s not an artist.”

Mark Lanier:

Yeah. In fact, I’ll do it myself. I’ll laugh sometimes and I’ll say, “Okay, this doesn’t even remotely …” I drew a toaster with a piece of toast coming out of it one time. And I looked at it and I looked at the jury and the jury looked at me. And they all looked up at the screen at it. We all started laughing and I said, “Okay, so let’s just all agree I can’t draw a toaster with toast in it and let’s write instead, toaster.” And I wrote toaster across it and everybody laughed. You got to be real. And there are some things that work and look like they should work. Then there are some things that just don’t. So I do the best I can.

Luke W Russell:

With that toaster drawing, did you build quite a bit of credibility with the jury in that moment?

Mark Lanier:

Oh I think so. I think anytime you’re authentic it builds credibility. And it’s one reason I like to draw in front of a jury instead of just using these prepared slides that somebody pays a service to do. It shows a level of spontaneity, which in itself shows a level of authenticity. It’s like, okay, wait a minute. Right now it just occurred to me here’s a good way to explain this.

Luke W Russell:

When you’re thinking about how to communicate to the jury … I’m not trying to go into the Lanier academy here. But how do you assess if you’re on the right track with how you’re wanting to connect with the jury with a demonstration?

Mark Lanier:

Just be a school teacher.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

Or a parent trying to teach a kid. How do I teach someone this? What do I anchor it into their brain with? I used to teach Greek and some basic Hebrew. And Greek and Hebrew have different alphabets than we do and different shaped letters. So how can you help someone understand what the Greek letter for grow is? Well you can tell them it looks like a P. Or even though it’s not the P, the P is the pi. And so you’re thinking, okay how can I get into their brain and take this concept and turn it into something that they already understand. The psychological term is you’re anchoring an idea into their brain.

Luke W Russell:

How did you learn to tell stories? Do you make use of your mother’s storytelling skills?

Mark Lanier:

Yeah, mom was great at telling stories. She told amazing stories. And frankly, I grew up thinking I don’t have the gift that mom had. Today I could put my mom on this podcast and everybody would be enthralled and say, “Shut up, Lanier. Let’s talk to your mom. We want to hear from her. Get Mark off of there.”

Mark Lanier:

But then my storytelling came into flower, into bloom when our two oldest daughters … We’ve got five children, a son and followed by four daughters. Our two oldest daughters, when I would drive them to school in about second, third, fourth grade, they were a year apart in school but about 16, 18 months apart in age. They fought like cats and dogs. And the drive to school was 20 minutes. They would fight and fight, and it just drove me crazy. And I thought, how am I going to stop this fighting? And so what I learned to do is tell them a story.

Mark Lanier:

And so I started this long, epic saga. I mean, the Lord of the Rings has got nothing on me. This long saga. And what I would do is I would start it as soon as they got in the car. And I would build it to this pinnacle, critical moment right as we pulled up to school. “Dad, what happened next?” “Well, I’ll have to tell you when you get back in the car.” And so they’d get out of the car. Well they’d get right back in the car, “Dad, finish the story.” And I’d pick back up at that critical moment and then I’d climax it out there. But then I’d start building the tension back up so that right as we got home, or as I took them to school the next day, whatever my next time to drive was, hit that peak right at the right time. And so they were constantly wanting that.

Mark Lanier:

Those daughters today are 32 and 30 years old, and they can still tell you that saga and that story because they think that I quit at the end of the school year one year and never finished it. They’re still wanting to know what happened.

Luke W Russell:

IBM’s computer, Deep Blue, beat Gary Kasparov in a six game match back in 1997. Does that match tell you anything about the role of emotion and nerves in a stiff competition?

Mark Lanier:

Yeah. So Deep Blue, that’s kind of frightening. So I used to play professional chess, and made a good bit of my money in high school playing on the adult chess circuit. And Deep Blue was the first time a computer really took on … Kasparov was the world champion at the time. He had taken that title from Anatoly Karpov, who had taken that title from Bobby Fischer. He was the best in the world. He was really good at analysis and being careful.

Mark Lanier:

But Deep Blue, at that time, programmed by a host of chess grandmasters, my cell phone and your cell phone computes better than Deep Blue did when it beat Gary Kasparov. That process though, of thinking in a chess sense, is really instructive for people in a litigation world, because it forces you to say, “Okay, if I do this, what are the possibilities of the reply?” And so you decision tree out. All chess is, is creative decision treeing. And I say creative because there’s no way a human has time to exhaustively analyze all the possibilities as deeply as you need to. So you’ve got creativity and certain motifs and themes that you search for and work toward in a chess game.

Mark Lanier:

But in the litigation world, that same idea of finding creative decision trees and making it. And there’s a benefit to being dispassionate, like Deep Blue. But in the execution of it, we are not Spock. We are emotional beings. We’re not Vulcans who come to the table with a flat line of emotions. So the executing of what you’re doing should never be emotionless.

Luke W Russell:

In 2011 Mark received the Distinguished Ambassador of Peace Award for his work with Guatemala SANA, a non-profit that helps bring healthcare, education, and infrastructure development to rural areas of Guatemala. Join me as we listen to Rose Baglia, director of Guatemala SANA.

Rose Baglia:

Back in 2007 I was the practice manager for a heart surgeon in Houston, and he had taken care of several of the family members of Mark Lanier. And we had known the Lanier family for a long time before that. He was a dual citizen, Guatemala and the U.S. And he decided to return to Guatemala to run for vice president of the country. The Laniers were very supportive of that, and they wanted me to go with him, and he wanted me to go with him to run his campaign, which was hysterical since I knew nothing about Latin American Politics. But okay, you learn.

Rose Baglia:

And he was elected vice president. So I ended up staying for four years and learning the ins and outs of a foreign government. And then you begin to understand why there’s so much poverty in these countries, because the corruption and the lack of resources is just horrific. It’s just absolutely terrible. And so I was telling this to Mark and Becky one time when I was talking to them and they said, “Well why don’t we start a foundation so you can start helping with healthcare and education with children.” So we did that, and I would say it was the end of 2011. All during 2011, our last year in office, we were building a healthcare clinic there.

Rose Baglia:

The one problem I saw is providing healthcare. It’s hand in hand, healthcare and healthcare education. We are improving the lives of these children, and that’s the most important thing you can do. They don’t have a lot of hope, but yet when you meet these children they are happy. They don’t know. I left an iPad there when I left so that I could still be Face Timing to them. And it was so adorable, they’re holding it up and they’re looking underneath it and to the side like where’s Miss Rose. Just because you’re poor, you should have access to healthcare and education. I just believe that. And we are making that difference there.

Rose Baglia:

On our website, which is guatemalasana.com, it talks about all of our programs and there is a donation sheet there. It also tells them where they can mail checks, and some people prefer to mail a check. And it goes through the law firm. and then the payments, donations can be made through PayPal on there, so it’s secure, through a credit card.

Luke W Russell:

You can support the work they’re doing and learn more about the organization at guatemalasana.com.

Luke W Russell:

You talk about being excited when you go into the courtroom, and not nervous. For the lawyer who is feeling those nerves, what would you say to that person?

Mark Lanier:

Oh, first of all, I think 99% of lawyers do feel nervous. So they need to recognize that’s fine. There’s no problem with that, that they should be nervous. That’s actually expected. Nerves are a source of energy. Nerves can be a source of drive. And so my coaching of people is to be as prepared as you can be, don’t let the nerves push you into freezing, don’t let the nerves push you into nervous habits. Don’t deny what they are. Embrace what they are and just recognize it. And sometimes you need to be honest with the jury about it even. There’s something to be said about telling the jury, “I’m really nervous here. I represent so and so, so and so. And this is their one day and I don’t know that I’m up to it.” There’s a lot to be said about just being genuine and honest.

Mark Lanier:

But those emotions, you can channel those into drive and energy for your presentation. You just don’t let them scare you.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Speaking of energy, you’re a high energy, a high intensity person. How do you take care of yourself?

Mark Lanier:

I try to eat right. I try to exercise every day. I try to keep myself balanced spiritually. I spend quiet time each day in my faith walk. I try to spend time balance with family and things that matter. I had a boss one time who called me into his office. I’d been practicing law for about five, five and a half years. And he called me into his office and he said, “Lanier, I got a problem with you.” And I said, “What’s that?” He said, “You put your faith and your family before the practice of law.” And he said, “You need to put law first.” He said, “Out of 60,000 lawyers in Texas, there are only five A+ lawyers.” And he said, “I’m one of them,” and he listed the other four.

Mark Lanier:

And he says, “You’re young, so right now at best you’re a B-.” He says, “But if you don’t change your ways, you’ll never be better than a B+ or an A- lawyer. You could be. You’ve got the skillset to be an A+ lawyer, but you’ve got to sacrifice your family and your faith to get there. Do you understand me?” And I said, “I’m hearing you.” And he said, “My daughter’s 13, I’ve never been to one of her birthday parties. I’m too busy paying for them.”

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Mark Lanier:

And I said, “Okay.” Well I went back to my office after that little chat, kind of with a light step. I was pretty happy because my thought was, this is so cool. I can be a B+ lawyer and still have a faith and a family. This is great.

Luke W Russell:

I love it. Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

This is fantastic. Who’d have thought? I’m not going to be an average, C lawyer. And what I learned over time is, if you sacrifice your family and your faith, you will never be the kind of lawyer you want to be, because you will lose that grounding that is essential to becoming the best you that you can be. And so I try really hard to this day to do things that are family and faith first, and then the practice of law. So that’s all part of the balancing act.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Talk to me about Peloton.

Mark Lanier:

Oh, I love the Peloton. 63 days in a row right now.

Luke W Russell:

Nice.

Mark Lanier:

I’ve been on to Peloton for five years or so. I was one of the early believers. I’ve ridden in the studio in New York City countless times. I’ve got bikes galore. I take a bike with me to trial. I’ve got different routines that I ride. I’m a huge believer. I’m all over the Peloton. It’s amazing. It’s an amazing workout. It gives you amazing chances to develop endurance and aerobic workout skills. It gives you an ability to develop an anaerobic skillset, fast switch muscle skillsets, slow twitch muscles. Whatever you want to do, you can do on the Peloton.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

But it’s fun. There’s a whole bunch of lawyers who ride. So there’s almost a Peloton community at this point, where we share hashtags and you can ride with other people. It’s just a lot of joy.

Luke W Russell:

I’m curious, would you want to share your username?

Mark Lanier:

Sure. I’m Try Harder. So try harder, capitalizing T and H.

Luke W Russell:

I love that. So you talked about balancing. How do you know when you’re out of balance?

Mark Lanier:

You know, if it’s out of balance in terms of eating and exercising, you know it because of what you look like and how your clothes fit, and whether or not you just take the elevator every time instead of the flight of stairs. If it is spiritually, it’s a little bit different. You know you’re out of balance when you find yourself living in habit and doing things and ideas in your head that you need to flee from or not do. In terms of your family, you know you’re out of balance when you start feeling distant and isolated and not plugged in.

Luke W Russell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mark Lanier:

As far as your social network and your friends, it’s a little bit harder for me. But I know I’m out of balance when I realize how long I’ve gone without just hanging around with my buds and doing something. So you need to live, in my mind, deliberately, kind of taking your temperature and your pulse routinely. And one thing that helps me are living in rhythms or ruts. So I have eating ruts, I have exercise ruts. I have family time that’s going to be family time. And then I’ve got people who live near and close to me that have an ability to speak only into my life and say to me, “You’re out of balance right now.” Or, “Hey, you’re going to burn out.” Or, “Hey, you need to deal with this issue,” or, “You need to be home,” or, “You need to,” whatever it may be.

Mark Lanier:

And there’s a great value … Some of my lawyers … the lawyer who heads up our appeals section, Kevin Parker, he’s been my best friend since middle school. So I’ve got people in my life that can speak into my life, and that’s a huge thing.

Luke W Russell:

People listening might be thinking, Mark you’ve got it all. You’re big. I’m small. I could never be like you.

Mark Lanier:

Well, first of all, I don’t have it all. Second of all, I may be big but I’m losing weight. Big is all a matter of perspective. My perspective, I don’t know many big people. I don’t know that I know any, certainly not myself. I’m this kid from Lubbock, Texas who’s trying to do the best he can. And some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the bug. And it’s a whole lot more fun being the windshield than the bug. So it’s all a question of perspective. I just urge everybody, find your purpose in life. Find what you need to be doing.

Mark Lanier:

And the biggest I could ever be is if my children know that I love them unconditionally with all of my being, for my wife to know that I am fiercely dedicated to her, for my grandchildren to know I am their biggest cheerleader, or my friends to know I care for them. That is so much more of being big to me than a big name lawyer. Big name lawyers, big deal. Big deal. Big name with your kids, oh come on. I was in Florida where our 16 month grandson is, and I walked into the room where he was and he heard my voice and turned around and came running towards me with his arms out, jumping for me to catch him as he leapt into my arms. Now that’s big. That’s bigger than any jury verdict. That’s bigger … that’s huge. That’s what life’s about.

Mark Lanier:

I promise you, I don’t think any sane person is on their deathbed thinking, I wish I had worked just a little bit more and been a bigger lawyer than I was. You’ll be lying on your deathbed praying that you got your family and those you love around you, and hoping that you invested in their lives such that they will be better people as they finish their journey.

Luke W Russell:

What would you say to the person who says, “Easy for you to say, Mark. You’re the guy who has the big verdicts.”

Mark Lanier:

That makes it easy to say, maybe. But it also makes it hard to say. Because success is a powerful intoxicant. It’s more addictive than crack cocaine. Success makes you want more success. Money makes you want more money. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier.

Mark Lanier:

Now I told my children growing up, “Don’t expect to inherit a bunch of money from us. We plan on giving it away. We’ll use it to get you good education and good opportunities. But you decide how much you want in this life and how much you should have.” Because our goal has never been to try to get the most toys or the most marbles or the most dollars or the most shekel or whatever the cryptocurrency might be.

Mark Lanier:

Our goal has always just been to do the best with what we have. And to whom much is given, much is expected. So if you’ve got a lot, that doesn’t get you off the hook. That means that a lot’s expected of you. If you don’t have a lot, then take what you’ve got and do the very best you can with it, and see if you don’t get entrusted with more in this life, because you will.

Luke W Russell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). The legal industry has high rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse, and more. Have you witnessed this?

Mark Lanier:

Oh, absolutely. I’ve had very dear friends who have been drug and alcohol addicts, who have needed extreme intervention and help, and who have fought those demons. I have friends who have died from such. I’ve seen countless marriages destroyed. What we do is something that can be filled with an intense amount of pressure. It can be a heavy, heavy, heavy burden to carry. Mine is easier because of my faith position. I view this as hey I’m here because God put me here. He’s going to either empower me to succeed or empower me to fail. And if that’s the case and I’m supposed to fail, so be it. I’m okay with it. I’m just trying to do what I’m here and supposed to do.

Mark Lanier:

And so for me it’s not the stressor that it might be for someone else who says, “Gee, it all depends on me.” And if it all depends on you, then yeah that’s a heavy burden and I pray you’ve got good, broad shoulders. Because if you’re having to carry it alone it’s a natural driver to seeking help of chemicals or relationships or just an escape. And it’s a sad situation for those folks. So I urge people like that to seek help, to get balance. Heavens, email me. Don’t flush your life down the drain. Let’s find how to put you into this world with the real purpose you can have.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Is the Bible too complex to understand?

Mark Lanier:

Ah, the Bible is like a swimming pool that’s got an ability for you to wade into it and enjoy it and be blessed by it. But it’s also deep enough for elephants to swim. So the core message of the Bible, to me, is one that there is a god, that he cares about us, he wants to be in a relationship with us. And he will do everything in his power to find and sustain and sustain that relationship. And we find fulfillment and completion in a relationship with this god.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

And that you can get real easy, real easy. But the Bible’s also this incredibly deep, rich book where, for example, if you want to try and understand some of these passages that were written 3,000 years ago, you need to dig into the language and into the culture. Otherwise you stand to misread these passages. So many people misread Genesis one and two and think that God made the world in six days that were 24 hours long. And he did it 6,000 years ago. And the dinosaurs are a charade and da da da da da. Well those people just are reading it was 21st century Western science thinkers and they don’t dig into the Bible to understand it in its culture and in the original world where it was being communicated. If they did, they’d get something totally out of those passages.

Mark Lanier:

So the overarching truth of the Bible, easy to understand. But, is the book a simpleton book? Absolutely not. It’s a collection of 66 books written over a thousand year time period, in multiple languages, to multiple cultures, that allows you to spend a lifetime of study. I’ve got a new book coming out in August that I was working on this morning, the final draft on it, that I’ve got to get to the publisher Monday. And I just love this stuff, because it is, it’s shallow enough to enjoy wading into it, but it’s deep enough to swim, regardless of your size.

Luke W Russell:

That’s cool. Here in the U.S. we’ve seen a recent increase in immigration. Thinking back to 2011, you received the Distinguished Ambassador of Peace Award from the Guatemalan government. What do Jesus and you have to say about people fleeing to America?

Mark Lanier:

I think a lot of people in the religious world mistakenly think that God is a white Anglo-Saxon, a mere male. And don’t understand that God uses feminine terminology for him, as well as masculine terminology. He calls himself father, but he also relates himself as a mother. He is certainly not an American. He didn’t make Americans. He cares about a person on the Guatemalan volcano in the little village of Santa Maria de Jesus as much as he cares about Mark Lanier in Houston, Texas.

Mark Lanier:

And if you go back and look at the instructions he gave to Israel for their law, he made it really clear. For example, he said their courts needed to be sure and treat the foreigners the same as the Israelites.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

Justice is the same for everybody. We’re to have compassion upon those who need us, not compassion on those who are our ethnicity or our socioeconomic equals or our geographical co-citizens. So as a Christian I’m very concerned about immigration policies that don’t have the compassion that needs to be there for humans, for people.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. I read your an arch-conservative. Does everyone understand that word the way you do?

Mark Lanier:

No. I term myself an arch-conservative. I’m an arch-conservative to the extent that I believe in a lot of traditional family values. I believe in fiscal austerity. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that we shouldn’t be helping to educate people. I do believe that we need to do a better job with medical care than we do, that medical care should be a fundamental right of every human being.

Mark Lanier:

But I’m not one of these people who believe that government, big government has all of the answers. I think government should provide for the defense of folks. I think government shouldn’t run up big deficits. They ought to pay for what they’re doing. And if we don’t have enough money to pay for what we’re doing, we need to get more money. But we probably have a lot of fat we can trim. So in those ways I’m conservative.

Mark Lanier:

I’m pro-life. I’m pro-life prior to birth. But I’m also pro-life after birth. As a plaintiff’s lawyer, I think all human beings that are made in the image of God are of incredible value and worth. And so whether it’s before birth or after, we need to honor and give dignity to the human life. But part of that for me is, then if you’re going to give honor and humanity to the human life before birth, you don’t just tell all of these women, “Good luck with your kid. You’re not allowed to have an abortion.” Instead, what you do is you say, “Hey, let’s change the adoption laws to make them easier. Let’s make sure every pregnant woman has great medical care that’s paid for so there’s no economic problems here.”

Mark Lanier:

I think 90% of the abortions in America would be eliminated if people knew that there were loving homes for these children, and that all of the economic duress associated with a pregnancy would be resolved, people didn’t lose time off from work. That’s what caring for human life is. It’s got to be more than simply I’m going to inflict my morality on you. So in some ways I view myself as quite conservative. But I’m sure other people would label me as progressive.

Luke W Russell:

Can you only get along with people who agree with you?

Mark Lanier:

Oh I hope not. I want to get along with everybody. Now some people frustrate the dog out of me. I’m an “ultra-conservative” but I’m not a Trumper. I’ve never been a Trumper. And there are people who are members of what I call cult Trump that view him almost as a cult leader. He can do no wrong. He can say no wrong. They’ll justify whatever he says, does, et cetera. And people who are a member of cult Trump, I don’t enjoy talking politics with them because I feel like I’m batting my head against a strong wall. And they just need to be detoxed from their cult.

Mark Lanier:

But most people … I enjoy being different than them. I enjoy having different views. I enjoy a dialogue. Iron sharpens iron. You know?

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Mark, I’ve been working in the mass tort space for 10 years, and in the legal space. And I’ve got to tell you, Mark, I learned a secret. And the secret I’ve learned is that not just anyone can take on just any cases. Some cases are extremely risky and difficult to win, and to even take them on you need resources, lots of them. Firms like yours can afford to take on really expensive cases that you believe in but which may not pay out until years or maybe many years of litigation. Talc is an obvious, easy example of that.

Mark Lanier:

Medical metal on metal hips. We spent well north of $10 million from our firm, and basically 10 years of incredible time trying four cases that went into three months, and starting a fifth, before they went into settlement mode and started resolving those cases. How many people have the staying power to be able to do that? And that $15 whatever it was million, that was just part of our firm. You put the whole plaintiff’s group together and $25, $35, $40 million spent in that litigation. And the time alone was just massive.

Mark Lanier:

So you need to count the cost before you get into those fights. And you need to always give thoughts to joint venturing, finding other partners, people you trust, people you’d like to work with, people who have resources you don’t have, so that you get into a symbiotic relationship and you diversify that risk a little bit so that you can handle it a bit more. And that’s an important thing.

Mark Lanier:

There are litigation funders that are out there now. That can be a tool, but it’s one you’ve got to be very careful in how you exercise or the creature that helps you can become the monster that eats you. And the litigation funders I know don’t ever want to turn into the monster. They want to be the creature that helps. But to some degree you’ve got to be real careful there.

Mark Lanier:

So there are other avenues that can be done as well, but symbiotic relationships, law firms, funders, others, seems to be the route that a lot of people go and need to go, until they reach a point where they can go it on their own. And by and large we can go it on our own. But even still, I take great joy in networking with other people. So I can call up Pap or I could call up Richard Arsenault or I could call up any number of people. Now I’ve started naming people, so I’m in trouble. Because there are countless people that I could call up and say, “Hey, let’s do this together.” Call up Don Migliori and say, “Hey, let’s do this together.” This is the kind of stuff that you get a chance to do now.

Mark Lanier:

I got a call from Mike Berg the other day. He doesn’t need me in this case but hey looks like it’d be fun to do it together. Mike can handle anything out there. But it’s just a chance to do it together, and that’s the fun stuff.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. A friend said you think fast on your feet. Do you have to guard against drawing conclusion too quickly?

Mark Lanier:

Yes and no. I do like rapid thought. And rapid thought will give you conclusions. But I’ve studied enough psychology and neuropsychology to understand that those conclusions you draw with rapid thought are a mental shortcut. But they’re one that you always need to recognize needs further substantiation.

Luke W Russell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mark Lanier:

There’s a book by Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow. And he talks about, in easy to understand terms for those of us who aren’t neuroscientists, what a lot of these studies talk about, that there are different systems of thinking. There’s the reflective thinking and there’s the reactive thinking. And reactive thinking is that immediate process that just comes like this. And it’s something that we do a lot when we’re judging credibility of people, when we’re deciding whether or not something has merit, et cetera. The reflective is more of what you do after deliberate thought.

Mark Lanier:

So I might be able to look at 2+2 and say it’s four, because that’s reactive and it’s something I’ve memorized. But if you ask me what the square root of 64 is, I might have to think for a second before I tell you it’s eight, because I’ve got to reflect on it and I’ve got to think it through. Now some people can reflect and think it through faster than others, that’s just the nature of the beast. And some people can’t. But regardless, you’ve always got to understand the credibility that you want to give on what you’re doing, and make sure you’ve got time to balance and figure out and make sure you’re right.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Do you and your wife argue?

Mark Lanier:

My wife, I’ve known her since she was 14 or 15 years old. We went out twice in high school, but we were on the same debate team. She was an incredible debater. She has a law degree from the University of Texas Law School, and graduated real way up there in her graduating class. She was an amazing lawyer in her own right. She’s just one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. And we get along like we did in high school, that’s our relationship. I still tease her. She still teases me. Now we’re married and we do have times of disagreement. But even those are handled in a very constructive way. I give her credit, she’s the more mature one of us in that regard. I’m not. But she’s just amazing.

Mark Lanier:

So do we argue? Do we fuss? Oh, probably. Not very often. And when we do, we both understand how to do it constructively. So we try to do it constructively and we try to get things right with each other as quickly as we can. And it’s easy because she’s my best friend, as well as my soulmate. So we just have a ball together.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. Do you two still practice together?

Mark Lanier:

She rarely practices law, rarely. When we got to the point where we had five kids at home, that was more than a full-time job. And now we’ve got so many other things going on and we’ve got these grandkids. Our daughter Gracie whose got our 16 month old over in Florida is seven months pregnant with twin girls. And she’s just said it to Becky, “You’re mine for the next six months please.” And so there’s not really time for her to practice law right now. But she understands what I do, and that’s still a real boon because she can ask what happened today and I don’t have to explain what a deposition it is or how important it might’ve been or something like that. She’s all over that. She’s taken a deposition. She’s been in trial with me before. She’s all of that mess.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. With taking trials around the country, how have you balanced the relationship with family when trial is a very intense time requirement?

Mark Lanier:

So when the kids were young I would always sit down with them and say, “I’ve got a chance to go try this case. Let me tell you about it and see if you think this is worth me losing family time to go do it.”

Luke W Russell:

Oh wow.

Mark Lanier:

And they were always real good about it. And if I couldn’t explain it to them in a way to justify it, then I’m in bad trouble with the jury. And then I would also tell them that because I’m going to be gone that we need to think of a reward that we’ll all have as a family afterwards, be it a trip to Disneyland, Disney World, or whatever it may be, so that they see that the sacrifice that’s made is one that bears fruit for them in life, and that I care about them and I want them rewarded as well because they’re in it to win it also. As they got older they’d come watch me in trial. I would hire them to help in the summers.

Mark Lanier:

We’ve got one daughter now who’s a lawyer, who’s actually trying cases with me. And she put on four of the witnesses for the plaintiffs in my talc trial two years ago that’s pending right now in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. I’ve got another daughter starting law school in the fall that hopes to practice with us. And my daughter Rachel said we’re kind of like the Von Trapp family lawyers. It’s The Sound of Music, except with law, because we’re all in this together. So it’s been a great joy to do this, and to do it with them in a sense.

Luke W Russell:

Oh yeah. Mark, we asked your wife how she would describe you. You see, we’re trying to determine if your superhuman or if you’re an extraordinary ordinary person. And your wife, Becky, she settled the debate. She said you’re an alien.

Mark Lanier:

That’s pretty good or bad, depends on … I want to be one of them shape shifter aliens.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

Yeah I’m a lizard inside or something. I don’t know. No, I’ve been very blessed to have an incredible life. I’m extremely thankful. I’ve got great … Look, I do not lose sight of the fact that I’ve been blessed with great friends, with great family, with great opportunities, with great chances to use the gifts and talents that I’ve been given. I would say I’m the most fortunate person in the world and that I’m not an alien, I’m just along for the ride. But I’m very thankful for this life. And if I’m ever not exhibiting gratitude, then someone, starting with you, Luke, or Becky or whomever, needs to slap me in the face and say, “Time out. Do you realize you are riding the crest of an incredible wave?”

Luke W Russell:

How does a person like you know whether or not you’ve become a workaholic?

Mark Lanier:

That’s a really good question. I don’t know about others. For me it’s after trial … When I’m in trial I’m in a tunnel and I’m in what I call trial mode. And after each trial I have to take time to readjust to being a normal human being. When I’m in trial, everybody waits on me. They bring me my food. It’s what I want, when I want it, how I want it. I tell everybody what to do, everybody does it or they suffer the displeasure of knowing they failed. And it’s all about me as the central character directing and acting and producing this play. And everybody is subjugated to me.

Mark Lanier:

And you do that for a day and you’re okay. You do that for a week it can start to effect you. But I’ve tried 13 cases that have gone into three months.

Luke W Russell:

Wow.

Mark Lanier:

And when you do that, when you’re in for three months it warps your brain. And so when that trial is over I have to have a chance to return to normal. And that means I kind of shut down on work, keep it to the bare minimum. I get around my family. I get around my friends. I try not to go into the office. I try to do everything I can to find that balance back in life, otherwise you’re just rolling from one job to another, and you will wake up and realize you’re a workaholic and you’ve wasted your life. I’m not one because, frankly, I’d rather be doing a whole lot of other stuff right now than working. I just got to get these things done because it’s my commitment and I’m made to do it.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah.

Mark Lanier:

I’ve got a construction project going on right now at our library. I want to be home watching that. But it is what it is.

Luke W Russell:

Speaking of construction projects. How many buildings do you think you can fit on your 40 acres?

Mark Lanier:

More than my wife will allow me to build. We’ve got under construction right now, one, two, three, four, five, six. Six under construction right now.

Luke W Russell:

Wow. What’s your vision for it all?

Mark Lanier:

I want to have a facility that will allow people to come use it as a learning center, a conference center. We’ve got two schools that will be offering it, offering degrees through extension programs there. We’ve got it as a retreat center. We’ve got it as a study center. We have scholars in residence at the library. We’ve got weekly services at the chapel on Tuesday nights for people to come and talk theology and sing. We’ve got a wide array of people using it and that we hope will use it. It’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever gotten to be a part of.

Luke W Russell:

Yeah. What are you going to do when your wife says building time’s over?

Mark Lanier:

Let’s go play. If building time’s over, let’s go play.

Luke W Russell:

Love that.

Mark Lanier:

We’ve got five kids. I told my wife, I said, “You know, if anything ever happens to you and you die before I do, we’ve got one of two things that’ll happen. Neither of which is probably good.” One would be I would just work and be this horrible workaholic. I don’t think that’d be it. I think it’d more likely be the second. And that would just be I would just move from kid to kid to kid, and rotate all five of them until one of them got tired and kicked me out. But they’d all, at some point, get tired. So I need Becky to outlive me for my own balance sake.

Luke W Russell:

Okay, Mark. It’s my high velocity round. I’m going to ask you six questions, and the caveat is you can’t just answer yes or no.

Mark Lanier:

Okay.

Luke W Russell:

All right. Are Texas blueberries bigger and more wicked than blueberries from Maine?

Mark Lanier:

Yes they are. Maine blueberries, by definition, are generally very small. But we use a rabbiteye blueberry in Houston, in Texas that is huge.

Luke W Russell:

Do you ever help with the dusting in your 24,000 square foot home?

Mark Lanier:

I am terrible at dusting. I will periodically, if once every five years counts as periodically, help with dusting.

Luke W Russell:

You’re stranded on an island, can you survive without tuna?

Mark Lanier:

Ah yeah, I hate tuna. I just eat it because it’s a high source of protein that’s healthy for you and it’s low calorie. In fact, I just right before we started this ate a can of tuna. But I hate tuna and I would be very happy without it. I just would probably die sooner with high cholesterol.

Luke W Russell:

Do you feel a sense of control in religiously counting your calories?

Mark Lanier:

Yes. I am a control freak. And so I count my calories down to the one. And it’s the only way I am not a blimp. I am a natural eater. I love carbohydrates. My love language is food. And I would love nothing more right now than to eat a Heath bar and then follow it up with a bunch of rolls and then maybe some Chik-Fil-A. But instead I had tuna for lunch and I had oatmeal for breakfast.

Luke W Russell:

Have you ever dreamt you are a kangaroo?

Mark Lanier:

No. But we’ve owned kangaroos before. And I have tried to get the jump on people.

Luke W Russell:

In the back of your mind, in the privacy of this interview, do you wish you could ever be in a kangaroo boxing match?

Mark Lanier:

No. No. In fact, our kangaroos were really sweet and lovable. If you give a kangaroo a piece of white bread, they’ll be your best friend for life.

Luke W Russell:

I love that. Speaking of the kangaroos, what led you to re-home them?

Mark Lanier:

To re-home them or to bring them home?

Luke W Russell:

I was under the understanding that you re-homed them. Did you bring them home?

Mark Lanier:

Well originally … So when our daughter Rebecca, who was our biggest animal lover of the children, turned 12 she wanted a cell phone. Or maybe it was 11. And once you give them a cell phone they’re gone. Just write it off. They’re gone. So I said to her, I said, “Look, we can give you a cell phone for your birthday or we could get you a baby kangaroo. But if we go with the baby kangaroo you have to promise not to ask for a cell phone for a solid year.” And she said, “Oh, I want the kangaroo.”

Mark Lanier:

So that was the first baby kangaroo we got. And then that kangaroo grew up and went to kangaroo camp for the summer and came back and had little baby kangaroos. So we got to a point where we had four or five kangaroos. But a virus came through Houston and wiped out the kangaroos and we lost one or two to the virus. And then the others we re-homed to get them out from Houston so they wouldn’t fall prey to the virus that was going around. But it killed the Houston Zoo kangaroos, the breeders around here. It was really bad.

Luke W Russell:

Growing up, did you have a lot of animals?

Mark Lanier:

No. That may be what I’m doing. I’m satisfying this longing from growing up. So we’ve got pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, monkeys, or lemurs, every kind of bird there is, dogs, cats, everything.

Luke W Russell:

What do you learn from caring for animals?

Mark Lanier:

That you need someone else to do it who’s home a lot more than I am.

Luke W Russell:

Mark, it’s your 80th birthday celebration and people from all throughout your life are present. A gentle clinking on glass can be heard and a hush washes over the room. People raise their glasses to toast to you. What are three things you would hope that they say about you?

Mark Lanier:

I hope they would say that I have honored God in the way I lived. That I have loved my family with an intense devotion. And that I have done well with my life.

Luke W Russell:

To learn more about Mark Lanier visit lanierlawfirm.com.

Luke W Russell:

If you’re thinking hey these interviews are so unique and really highlight the humanity of the guests, that’s business that is what we do all day every day. I own an agency and we work with law firms who are advertising and marketing for mass torts and personal injury claims. We drive results by using the power of human stories. Our unique and thoughtful methods for crafting messages allow us to help lawyers get clients by connecting with the hearts and minds of potential claimants.

If you’re looking to serve more individuals in need of legal help and you want to get away from the generic marketing, shoot me an email at luke@russellmedia.us. That’s L-U-K-E @ R-U-S-S-E-L-L-M-E-D-I-A.us. And we can set up a time to chat. Or if you want, give me a ring, 317-855-8597. If you’re thinking wait a second, Luke, this is a podcast. Why are you giving out your phone number? It’s because, look, I love to chat and help people. I’ve been in this industry for a while and I know a lot of great people in it. So you can reach out to me at 317-855-8597.

Thanks so much for listening to us this week. This podcast is produced by Kirstin Stock, developed in collaboration with Max T. Russell, edited by John Curr, and mastered by Guido Bertolini. A special thanks to the companies that make this project possible, X SocialMedia, Russell Media, and The SEO Police.

You can learn more about these groups by visiting our website, lawfulgoodpodcast.com. I’m your host, Luke W Russell, and you’ve been listening to Lawful Good.