Staying focused on the things in life that really matter – family, community and personal integrity

A Conversation With Attorney Rob Tookoian On Lessons Learned and Life In The Legal Profession

Fennemore Dowling Aaron’s Rob Tookoian is an attorney in our Business & Finance practice group who works out of our Fresno office. His diverse and extensive legal and business background allows him to counsel business owners and executive management to provide practical, business-oriented solutions to complex legal problems.

We recently had the pleasure of talking with Rob about his life in the legal profession, and lessons learned.

You’re a Fresno native with deep ties to the community. Are you seeing any business and finance trends in the region – and nationally – as we slowly emerge from the pandemic?

There just seems to be a lot of business activity across the region in a variety of industries. The Central San Joaquin Valley has recovered quickly from the early impacts of the pandemic.  It seems, anecdotally, like the region benefitted from the work from home phenomenon.  This has led to a hot real estate market and new small businesses to service this activity. This includes everything from restaurants to technology companies.

In addition to real estate transactions, we have seen growth in M&A activity.  A lot of my practice is in the healthcare and privacy sectors and we have definitely seen a lot of activity among healthcare providers. With the CCPA and CPRA regulations, privacy matters have been very active.

Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters that you’re working on?

I’m not sure how intriguing it is, but there are a few clients that I am working with on CCPA compliance issues. They are legacy businesses that don’t really fit well within the new privacy regimes, but they need to comply, nonetheless. It can be challenging to adapt their practices to the new requirements and educate them as to how to think about privacy compliance.

What would you tell your younger self – or a 1L at the Golden Gate School of Law School now contemplating a career in the legal profession?

I would say to keep working and reinforce that law is a great profession! With a legal education and, more importantly, experience, you can pursue virtually any career that you want. Practicing law affords one opportunities much earlier than is often otherwise available.  I would also tell my younger self to explore different areas of law and business to figure out what type of work and industries you really enjoy.

Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?

That would have to be my parents, but especially my dad. He has been a great role-model. His influence has impressed upon me an appreciation for staying focused on the things in life that really matter – family, community and personal integrity. He is a first-generation American who did not have the opportunity to learn English until he went to grade-school. Failure was not an option for him; and family and community were a huge influence as he worked hard to become a physician. Growing up, I saw how he always put others first whether in our family, professionally or in the community. With my parents as role-models, I place large importance in doing the right thing.

Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? And how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?

I really can’t pinpoint a “biggest” failure. I have had many failures over the years, but I tend not to dwell on them too much. I think that the lesson from all of my failures is to simply move forward. It seems simplistic, but there really is little benefit to dwelling on a failure, other than to make sure that you avoid the same mistake(s).

During our ongoing pandemic – the NEXT normal, what are you listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming?

Sounds boring, but I definitely increased my listening of C-SPAN radio during COVID. It tends to provide what I would call primary sources more than the opinions that permeate other media.  One subject that I have been paying more attention to is college baseball for purely selfish reasons, as my son will be playing college baseball next year.

You coach and play rugby – and serve on the Central California Rugby Foundation! Why does this sport speak to you – and what lessons have your learned from the game?

The Rugby culture is unique in sports. It is truly the most team-oriented sport in the world. Each player has to adapt to a variety of roles depending on the developing situation and make adjustments on the fly, but in coordination with your teammates. Each player must pass, catch, run, tackle and occasionally kick. In order to be successful, you must constantly communicate and identify opportunities and situations as they develop. In addition to the obvious physical nature of rugby, there is also a very creative side.

Kids love rugby because they all get to do everything, whether they are big or small or fast or slow or anywhere in between. Everyone has the opportunity to score a try (touchdown), not only a few players. You can’t hide in rugby; at some point you will be confronted with your fears and kids will almost always overcome those fears. After that, you see a change when they realize that they can accomplish things that they thought were impossible. Really, getting knocked down just means they have to get back up and keep playing.

Rugby teaches kids the values of hard-work, discipline and respect for your teammates, the opposing team and the referee. Disrespect of any of those stakeholders is not accepted. I love this as a coach because I know that these are important attributes that will help kids throughout life. It also helps that the parents have no idea what is going on 😊.

I think that rugby speaks to me because the sport accepts everyone who has the will and determination to play. It requires hard work, discipline and pushing yourself to a very uncomfortable state. I have learned that no challenge is too hard to overcome, and that most barriers are mental.  Rugby has afforded me the opportunity to travel and play across the US and the world and truly make friendships with people from many places, but the rugby culture never changes no matter the country. The camaraderie of rugby is unmatched. You can go anywhere in the world and, if you play rugby or are a fan, you will find a welcoming group of like-minded people.

Many thanks to Rob for your inspiring insights – and to all of the attorneys and allied legal professionals in our Business & Finance practice group who make a profound impact on our clients’ businesses daily!

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