photography by denmarsh
With nostrils flaring and mane flying, Titan’s muscular frame is tautly defined, catapulting from 0–40 miles per hour in just two strides—all four hooves instantaneously air-borne.
In a series of motions that pushes the envelopes of precision and power, Nadeau drives his horse to the exact position where the steer is aligned directly between himself and his partner. He then spins his rope into a loop to catch the steer’s horns, spins the steer into a 90-degree turn so that his partner can catch the steer’s hind legs with his own rope. Together, they have successfully “roped” the steer.
This is the heart-pounding, precision-filled, lightning-quick sport of team roping.
And for a team roper like Mark Nadeau, all of the action, from start to finish, happens in seven seconds flat—or less.
Action so well-orchestrated and so seamless, it seems improbable that anyone could successfully master this particular series of techniques in seven seconds or less—actions that, if mishandled, could result in severed fingers from bad roping form, or an injured horse stumbling over an ill-thrown rope, or being thrown from a horse oneself.
A team roper has to be quick. Agile. Focused. Strategic. Skilled in a variety of disciplines. Able to handle a variety of tasks at once.
And as it is a team sport, a roper has to intuitively know his or her partner. Intuitively know what they’re up against because each and every outing presents a new challenge.
Such are the characteristics of Mark Nadeau.
It’s what makes Nadeau a prize-winning team roper. And it’s also what makes Nadeau one of the Southwest’s leading attorneys and one of the world’s leading experts in international arbitration.
The practice of law and the sport of team roping are two of his greatest passions, bringing Nadeau some of the greatest pleasure, satisfaction and acclaim of his life.
Nadeau recently opened one of the newest U.S. offices of DLA Piper in Phoenix, Arizona—serving as its managing partner and director of its international arbitration practice. Nadeau brings his own considerable talents to this global law powerhouse of 3,200 attorneys in 63 offices throughout 24 countries. His extensive complex commercial litigation expertise, a reputation for being one of the Southwest’s top trial lawyers, as well as his expertise in international arbitration enhances DLA Piper’s already strong reputation in the global marketplace. DLA Piper is a firm known around the world for “its prominence in navigating complex cross-border disputes in jurisdictions across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the United States under a wide range of arbitral rules.”
Nadeau founded and co-chaired the International Dispute Resolution Group at his former firm. Over the course of his career, he handled any number of high-profile, complex international disputes, involving areas as diverse as trade secret, product liability, real estate, the aviation industry and the television industry.
His arbitration work spans the globe. Nadeau represented the largest builder of shipping containers in the world in a product liability arbitration, as well as Pacific China Supermarkets, a Chinese company, in an international trademark dispute.
He has represented both plaintiff and defendant in a variety of commercial litigation cases. Nadeau’s litigation work also has been diverse and often high-profile, ranging from serving as counsel in the largest land exchange in Arizona history to representing one of the world’s top five Condé Nast hotels in a construction litigation case.
One such high-profile case was CBS Broadcasting Inc. v. Echostar Communications. Nadeau represented the satellite company and its affiliate (the DISH Network) in a copyright infringement suit brought by CBS along with three other major TV networks and hundreds of local network affiliates. The monthlong trial in Florida concerned nationwide copyright laws involved in the retransmission of network signals, reexamining copyright licenses as provided by the Satellite Home Viewer Act (SHVA).
His range of experience is one of his greatest strengths.
“Mark Nadeau is unique in that he has such a diverse range of case experience and a diverse range of skills,” says Susan Watson, Of Counsel in the DLA Piper Phoenix office. As a colleague who has worked with Nadeau for seven years, Watson says, “He has handled all types of commercial litigation—cases of product liability, to trademark copyright, to unfair business practices—of local, national and international scope.
“But even more noteworthy,” Watson goes on to say, “is the scope and range of the international dispute resolution practice he has built. There are many attorneys turning their attention to arbitration dispute resolution today. But very few have international arbitration expertise.
“Mark inherently understands international cultural nuances. He knows the local regulations and practices within countries and can navigate the linguistic and cultural variations.
“As a result, Mark’s ability to maneuver on the international stage is exquisite,” says Watson.
Cynthia Ricketts, co-founder of the DLA Piper Phoenix office, who has worked with Nadeau for 13 years, concurs, calling him “visionary.”
“He had,” says Ricketts, “the vision—was forward-thinking enough—to see that international arbitration was an area of the law with tremendous growth potential. His commitment and drive allowed him to develop and grow that original idea, and now he has a burgeoning international arbitration practice. And not at the expense of his litigation practice. Mark is one of the best trial lawyers around. When he goes into the courtroom and is ‘on,’ there is absolutely no one better in the courtroom than he is.”
Nadeau will unabashedly tell you he loves the law—a love that dates back to his earliest childhood dreams.
“I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer—from the time I was in the eighth grade,” says Nadeau. “By the time I applied to law school, I knew I really wanted to be a trial lawyer.
“Trial work draws upon, what I like to call, ‘theatre of the courtroom.’ Advocacy is all about persuasion, after all. A trial lawyer needs to tell a legitimate story that is understood by both judge and jury—one that causes them to, ultimately, arrive at the same conclusion you’ve put forward. But the story has to be emotive. Any good story has to speak to the emotions in order for it to resonate.
“And so, in that way, the courtroom is quite analogous to the theatre. In the final analysis, the goal is the same—to tell a story that the audience can get behind. But the story-telling mechanisms are very different. In the theatre, there is a director, producer and a cast. There are scripts, costumes, music, full dress rehearsals, and a prompter in case the actors forget their lines. The story plays out, usually, in 90 minutes. And the audience pays to listen to the story.
“In the courtroom, the attorney is both director and producer of the story. The scripts are more akin to outlines. There are certainly no prompters, no full dress rehearsals, and no music. The attorney has to create the changes, the intrigue and the climax using the sheer dynamics of his own words. The story can take weeks or months to play out, and the ‘audience’ would most certainly rather be elsewhere!
“Telling your client’s story in a courtroom is a daunting, challenging task. But when you succeed, it’s one of the most exhilarating, rewarding experiences you can have. And that’s why I love trial work.
“Through my law practice, I’ve realized a dream I’ve had since childhood. I consider myself lucky to be working in a profession I truly love.
“Just as much as I love being a part of this.”
Nadeau tips his Stetson-covered head in the direction of the roping arena before him. With his arms draped over the arena’s fence, his eyes drink in the stunning scene before him.
His horses canter across the arena, part of Nadeau’s eight-acre ranch in Cave Creek, Arizona. It is a resplendent desert beauty, dotted by saguaro cactus and painted with the vibrant hues of Arizona wildflowers—from the yellow sunflower, to the intense violet of desert bluebells, to the deep red of the yucca plant. Nestled at the base of the Tonto National Forest, it offers a sweeping vista of the New River Mesa and front-row seats to Arizona’s magnificent sunsets.
“I had been around horses all of my life,” explains Nadeau. “My mother had an interest in horses as she rode ‘English Style’ where she lived as a child in Portland, Maine. I grew up across the street from a horse ranch in in Boulder, Colorado. and I showed horses as a member of the 4H Club doing barrel racing and western saddle competitions. When I went on a trail ride here in Arizona some years ago, all of those memories I had of horses as a kid came back to me. And I remembered what I had been missing.
“I wanted my son and daughter to have that same experience. I longed to buy a horse. Not only did I eventually buy a horse, I ended up buying this ranch. It fulfilled my ‘other’ lifelong dream.”
Now Nadeau has seven horses, consisting of several trail horses with the majority trained for roping.
“You can call yourself a cowboy, but you’re not really a cowboy unless you know how to rope a steer,” Nadeau says with a smile.
And so, within just the past five years, Nadeau became a “real” cowboy and learned the sport of team roping.
Consisting of a two-member team of “header” and “heeler,” the header chases down the steer, ropes the steer’s horns and turns the steer so that the heeler can then rope the steer’s hind legs. It is a Western-style ballet of sorts that is as graceful as it is powerful.
It requires mastery of a blend of intricate maneuvers precisely executed, strategy, skilled horsemanship, and the prowess and power of the horse itself.
“It’s actually very hard,” Nadeau readily admits. “First, you have to learn how to ‘spin’ the rope—move the rope up over your head and into a loop. Followed by learning how to ‘dally’ after the catch—twisting the rope around the saddle horn for a grip on the rope in order to control the steer. You have to learn to ride with the reins and the loops of the rope in one hand while throwing the lasso portion of the rope, yanking the slack out and dallying with the other. At the same time, a roper needs to train their horse—not only for speed, but also to know how to be in sync with the steer. The horse can’t ever outpace or overrun the steer.”
The horse is, indeed, instrumental. And Nadeau is quick to tell you that his American quarter horse, Titan, is “as fast as any horse out there.” This 1,500-pound horse can go from a standing position to a 40 mile-per-hour gallop in two to three seconds flat—and, then, can stop on a dime.
Like everything he undertakes, Nadeau didn’t just learn the sport; he became a serious student and competitor. As he tells it, like the law, roping can be a humbling experience. Nadeau has been taught roping skills by World Champion ropers like Mike Beers, John Miller and Jake Barnes. His friend, Mike Drennan, a legend in Quarter Horse circles and one of his coaches, can make Mark fumble at roping in ways that are “reminiscent of my early years as an associate at a law firm,” Nadeau recounts.
Even so, he has become a prize-winning roper, winning the “Champion Buckle” for first place at a roping event in Arizona. With truck, trailer and horses, he travels to competitions throughout the west, and has placed in the finals at United States Team Roping Championships, competing against more than 400 teams.
In all things, Nadeau exhibits a commitment, a drive, and a will to succeed. Characteristics those around him absorb.
DLA Piper colleague Susan Watson says, “He motivates you to go beyond what you ever thought you could do. And then he’s the first to congratulate you when you succeed.”
Ricketts agrees. “Mark enables you to be better than you ever thought you could be. I am definitely a better lawyer for having had the opportunity to work with him. Because when you are around Mark Nadeau, you can’t help but be better yourself.”
He cultivates the very best in those who surround him, and he demands no less from himself. From law, to roping, to a family he treasures, Nadeau strives to be the best that he can be. Aside from the career acclaim and roping awards, there is one commendation he particularly cherishes—being named the 2006 “Father of the Year” by the Arizona Chapter of the American Diabetes Association and the Father’s Day Council.
The setting sun casts a glorious purple light over the rocky hillsides of the Tonto National Forest, and, as it does so, Nadeau leads Titan into the barn for the night.
Nadeau won’t be roping for the next several weeks, embarking on a multi-week trip to Shanghai and Hong Kong to discuss his firm’s international dispute resolution capabilities. Nadeau pats Titan’s nose and then turns from the horse he so loves and begins to walk away.
Mark Nadeau always had two dreams—to be a lawyer and to live on a ranch surrounded by horses. So characteristic of Nadeau, he became not just any lawyer and not just any rancher. He pushed himself to perfect the art of both, becoming a leading attorney in one of the world’s top five law firms and a prize-winning team roper.
As he literally walks into the Arizona sunset, you can’t help but realize that Nadeau, surrounded by the people and things he loves—his family, the law, horses, and his Arizona ranch land—is living the dreams of a lifetime.