Describe your most significant professional accomplishment in detail.
Starting my own solo practice on July 1, 1988, with no money, two clients, and no significant background in Jackson. I shall never forget the day. I got up early, even though I had no appointments. I put on my finest suit, even though I had no clients to see or appearances to make. I drove by my new post office box, even though I could not have received any mail yet. I got started at 7:30 a.m. – with fear of bankruptcy in my heart – and began a journey which has blessed me beyond my dreams, and which, most importantly, has seen the help of people, known and unknown to me, who wanted to support me.
How would you describe the contribution you make to the legal community?
- Passion for service.Since I started my own firm, I have had an obsession with discovering and delivering service which meets the needs of my family law clients in ways which have never been discovered before. I am constantly listening to clients, reading, seeking coaching, observing other businesses, and learning from my mistakes in the pursuit of what I call the “perfect lost chord of service.” I am always looking for innovations in service. The latest of these is my change from billing by the hour, which places the onus for the cost of the legal service on the client, to “value pricing” which places the burden on the lawyer for performing efficiently, effectively and with unparalleled service. Much of this work resulted in my first book, How to Build and Manage a Family Law Practice, published by the ABA.
- Efficiency. In every situation I look for the most efficient and excellent way of performance. This has led to a passion for discovering systems, checklists, and procedures that will lead to efficient and excellent performance on a consistent basis in every case and irrespective of what team member is handling the matter. Our firm functions as a team. We refer to ourselves as “the team,” and we function like a Swiss clock.
- Innovation and technology. The passion for service and excellence necessarily leads one down the path towards the pursuit of innovation and technology. Our firm has discovered methods of procedure and use of technology which literally allow us to perform functions in seconds which take the typical firm hours to complete. This allows us to make ourselves available to each other and to our clients on an almost 24-hour basis, and allows us to charge prices for our service which reward us for our skills and deliver certain and economical prices to the clients.
- Professionalism and Civility. Of all the areas of law, none calls more for the traditional notions of professionalism and civility as does family law. We like to say that through our work we leave a family left standing even though there may not be a marriage. This is important for the clients and critical to the future upbringing of our children. It is also important to the public’s respect for the judicial system and to the lifestyle that lawyers lead. Our commitment to these concepts has led to the publishing of my second book, The Constructive Divorce, which discusses the need for collaboration and civility, and provides practical guidelines to lawyers and clients in keeping divorce and family litigation civil.
- Service. I have enjoyed writing and speaking on all of the foregoing areas of practice. I have enjoyed sharing, through published books and countless articles and speeches, my techniques for improved law practice management, client service, and civility. I enjoy speaking and I enjoy sharing my experience with other lawyers in the hope that their lives and practices will be improved. For this, I am asked by many organizations and State Bar Associations to speak and write.
What are your most valuable personal skills or abilities?
- I care about everything I do. If I were sweeping a floor in a factory (which I have done), people are going to be able to tell Mark Chinn did that floor. Because I bring this God – and parent – given drive, I am able to take on people who have advantages over me in means, skill, station in life, or talent, and hang in there with them.
- I never stop seeking a better way of doing things. Many times, my wife would say, “You are doing fine, why don’t you leave it alone.” My response, “I don’t know, I just have to keep going. I feel if I don’t grow, I will die.”
- I am dependable.When I have interviewed people who have sent me business and asked why they send me business, they say, “Because we know you will take care of it.” I never want it said or thought that I didn’t keep a commitment.
- Integrity. The number one value of our firm is integrity. The most important quality a lawyer sells is that when he speaks, he is believed.
- Finally, fortitude. Never say die. Never quit. Stand with strength and integrity.
Who are your role models and why?
- First, Dwight Eisenhower. Though he was from another era, I have read and studied him. He displayed a unique combination of strength and resolve, tempered by wisdom. He had the humility to be selected to lead the free world in its worst conflict. I suspect a man of ego would never have survived the selection process or the battle. (I probably fail in that quality more than any other, but I have to be who I am.) Finally, he took aggressive action, with integrity, against all odds and had the constitution to withstand the pressure and the responsibility.
- Locally, William Winter. He is a consummate lawyer and litigator who has always treated everyone with classic southern gentility. Most importantly, he has been willing to take stances on issues even at great personal cost. Interestingly, he has succeeded greatly, even though he has gone contrary to the masses on many significant social issues.
- Robert Khayat. A man for all seasons. Athlete, scholar, musician, leader, Christian. The great encourager of generations in our times. A mentor to me, when I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why a man of his stature would care about me. For me, the mark of a truly great man.
- My Father, Rollin Jack Chinn, who lived a life of service to his country in WWII, integrity and performance of his duty to others in sacrifice of his own interests.
What do you consider your most significant personal accomplishments?
- My four daughters. They are all well behaved, studious, athletic, and well-grounded young Christian women, capable of making their own way in the world. In that way, they are like their Mother, my wife of 39 years, which is not an accomplishment on my part, but it is on hers.
- Starting and maintaining my own business.
- Building two commercial buildings with little capital.
- Writing three books published by the ABA.
- Being sought after nationally to speak and write articles on law practice.
- Obtaining a black belt in karate and kickboxing.
- Obtaining a pilot’s license.
Hobbies and Favorite Recreational Activities
- First and foremost, following my daughters in their activities which include basketball, soccer, track, cheerleading, softball, and church choir
- Working out with a trainer and attending yoga class
- Christ United Methodist Church Choir
- Reading books on spirituality, business, service, performance, and fitness
Characterize Yourself in One Word