NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) – The adage “like mother, like daughter” rings true in the Norfolk law firm of Copple, Rockey, & Schlecht, P.C.
Earlier this year, Norfolk native and attorney Allison Rockey Mason became a shareholder in the firm, where her mother, Kathleen Rockey, has built a successful career that now spans 35 years.
“I never dreamed we would be in this situation we are in,” Rockey said of practicing law with her daughter. “We’re really fortunate. I don’t think I ever really envisioned having a legal career of over 30 years and a daughter practicing beside me.”
Mason’s role with the firm began many years before her decision to follow her mother’s footsteps.
During her days in junior high school, she spent summers doing small jobs around the practice, including shredding papers and pulling weeds from the parking lot. As time went on, Mason took on more responsibility at the firm – answering phones and helping with filing.
“She knew a lot about the practice and what the demands were like from a very young age on,” Rockey said of her daughter.
Mason told the Norfolk Daily News she was drawn to pursue her own career in law because of her mother’s influence and because of the familiarity that arose from the time she spent at the firm.
“Nobody goes into law if they’re not interested in it,” Mason said. “It’s too difficult of a path and a profession. If you’re not interested, you’re not going to last very long. I definitely had an interest in it that probably stemmed from my mom and from working here growing up and in high school.”
Rockey, herself, didn’t have a family member in law to influence her own career choice. Instead, Rockey said her interest in law arose after watching law-based dramas on TV and after participating in County Government Day as a youth.
At the time she entered law school, fewer than half of the students were women, but women had started entering the legal profession in greater numbers.
Rockey said when she began working at Domina Law – which later became Copple, Rockey, & Schlecht – she was only the third female attorney in town.
“That was kind of a novelty in a sense,” she said. “Now … nobody really thinks about that.”
Rockey graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1986. At the time she began her career, Rockey said new attorneys would “get their feet wet” by taking court appointments.
“We had no public defender,” Rockey said. “You got on the list, and they would randomly assign cases to attorneys, and a lot of young associate attorneys would get those court appointments. That’s how you would learn the ropes.”
Rockey said she was fortunate to be part of a firm that made a concerted effort to make sure she avoided being labeled as an attorney who focused only on domestic relations.
“It seemed as if a lot of women got their foot in the door in the legal profession, and they were stuck doing (domestic law) the rest of their career,” Rockey said. “They didn’t want me to be labeled only as a domestic relations attorney.”
By the time Mason followed in Rockey’s footsteps 30 years later, new attorneys were gaining early experience by collaborating with other attorneys in house who were working on cases.
“It’s been a different transition into the practice than what I had, which was to start with court cases and work your way up,” Rockey said.
Before coming to Norfolk to practice in 2018, Mason spent time at the firm’s Omaha office, but she decided to return to her hometown of Norfolk because of the positive changes and growth she has seen in the community.
Rockey and Mason handle mostly civil cases. Mason said she has valued the mentorship role her mother and other attorneys at the firm have played for her as she began her career.
Now, as the field of law begins utilizing technology more, Mason may have an opportunity to return the favor. She recently participated in the firm’s first trial conducted through Zoom.
“There are a lot of things that I learned that I will pass on to other attorneys if they find themselves in that situation, especially with documents,” Mason said.
Rockey and Mason said they are excited about working with one another and collaborating on cases. And, Mason added, she hopes it’s something that lasts for many years to come.
“Hopefully I have a similar career path to my mom,” she said.
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