Entering his ninth year as partner at Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson, & Kitch, L.L.C., in Wichita, Roarke Gordon,
, has been partner longer than any other Weigand Scholar. His experience as partner gives him insight into what makes a successful attorney—in terms of legal practice and personal contentment. “There is a fit for every personality within the legal field,” Roarke said. “If you really want to be successful in what you’re doing, you need to first and foremost like what you’re doing.”
Roarke’s path to partnership started when he became an associate at his firm in 2006. Working at a smaller firm gave him the opportunity to try out different practice areas, including insurance defense and estate planning. Eventually, he moved into transactional practice and now focuses primarily on real estate. "I can say that after nine or t
en years of being a partner, you become more selective in what you want to work on or decide to work on," Roarke said.
Roarke said that's a much different feeling than starting out as a new partner. "When you're first a partner you're worried about billable hours and receivables, and getting enough money and clients through the door. After a while, you still recognize the importance of those things,
start narrowing in on working efficiently," he said. "You kind of shape your practice and get better at it as you go."
Roarke said he remembers getting feedback from partners when he was an associate himself. "For lack of a better term, they redlined the hell out of what I did," he said. "That's far and away the best experience you can have.”
He tries to pass on that same feedback to associates now. And it’s worth it to mentor an associate properly, even though it takes a significant amount of time that's not billable. He encourages associates to ask for that kind of feedback. "I think a lot of associates are scared because they know everybody's time is valuable, so they don't ask for it," he said. "If they knock on the door and take a few extra minutes, they find the partner is more than willing to give the feedback," he said.
Roarke’s experience mentoring associates at his firm is also an asset to the Weigand Trust in terms of selecting the next class of Weigand scholars, as he tries to participate in the interview process each year. However, Roarke said, the Weigand interview process is also important for applicants who are not ultimately chosen. "I've met a lot of people that didn't end up getting the scholarship for one reason or another, and I see them and know them and know something about them."
To those who are chosen as Weigand scholars, Roarke finds that automatically signifies something special. “If I see a Weigand scholarship recipient I see a few things," Roarke said. "One, they are likely exceptional at what they do and will be very successful. Two, I automatically assume they are a friend, even if I've not met them or had any social dealings with them," he said. "There's a connection there. It builds some sort of likeness to them, automatically. No matter what."
Roarke said being a Weigand is not just about having a base of people that you know in the community when you're going to social events or to Court, but also for referring work. "I kind of have a sense of watching people go through the [Weigand interview] process, and I routinely call them," he said. "And I hire 'em too."
Roarke says having the type of community the Weigand trust helps create is integral to building a legal career. Currently, Roarke stays involved in the Wichita community by serving on several boards, and giving annual presentations for medical students, focusing primarily on physician employment contracts. But he notes it is difficult and time-consuming to form skills as a new lawyer while also developing clients and getting involved in the community. Starting his career in his hometown of Wichita made it much easier to build his practice because he already knew people in the area.
“Kansas is such a great place to practice. We’ve got a level of collegiality and enjoyment of work and home life that exists here that makes for a more enjoyable practice than probably anywhere else in the country,” he said.
Roarke also thinks it is a great place for he and his wife, Molly Gordon, to raise their two sons, Ignatius (6) and Roosevelt (4 mo.), and daughter, Graham (4). Molly understands the unique challenges of practice and partnership because she is an attorney, herself. In fact, the couple met at Washburn Law.
Molly grew up in Missouri, so she was not eligible to apply to be a Weigand scholar herself, but is nonetheless a huge supporter of the Weigand Trust. “I've loved getting involved with Roarke and getting to know so many wonderful scholars”, Molly said. “We've hosted scholars in our home, and are always happy to provide advice or guidance in any way we can.”
Being lawyers gives Roarke and Molly similar parenting styles, Molly said. And this means no whining! “If they start, we tell them to stand up straight, use a strong voice and present their case”, Molly said. “At this age, they are presenting an argument about why they should get a frozen yogurt,” she said. “But we are trying to instill the concepts of logical thinking, being persuasive, and presenting a reasoned argument into them at a young age.”
Molly feels lucky that her family gets to be a part of the Weigand family. “And,” Molly said, “we feel lucky to have found each other in law school.”