In December of 2009, I was unemployed, worried that my unemployment coverage was about to end, and interviewing with anyone who needed an associate with a few years’ experience who had no idea what she was doing. Mark Payne brought me in for an interview and after a couple of hours laughing about mutual acquaintances, he gave me a job.

I grew up in a family that often failed to comply with various restrictive covenants, and working for homeowners associations was an act of rebellion. It also became something that I, unexpectedly, and quickly, loved.

Mark showed me how to write opinions, give guidance without controlling the outcome, and adhere to my ethical obligations in the face of challenge. I learned when to be steely and when to shut my mouth. He helped me through hard times – even if he didn’t know it – and saved my bacon more than once. He showed me how to counsel and how to advocate (although he’d never grace the inside of a courtroom with me). He’s a brilliant man and the best mentor I could hope for. This firm is what it is today because of Mark, and I am grateful to him on every imaginable level.

Today, Mark is retiring. Mark, thank you for all that you have done to create a firm that is both my home and my business, and for the work you put into me that allows me to be who I am today.

I know you’ll still be around from time to time, but I will deeply miss the advice you regularly gave to me when I’d ask for your insight: “I don’t know, why don’t you figure it out?”