Life before the law
Bert W. Markovich
WILLIAMSON & WYATT
Bert Markovich never saw the ocean until he was an
adult. Growing up in Butte, Montana, then serving
as captain of Montana State University’s 1976 title-
winning football team, he had his sights set on high
school coaching and teaching.
So how did he end up as a cook on a tugboat?
It was 1977, and he’d followed his heart—and wife-
to-be Theresa—to the coastal Oregon town of North
Bend, where she had been hired to teach at the local
high school. Bored and jobless—with a recent double
major in English and history—Markovich struck up a
conversation one day with a fellow jogger. The man
asked, “How would you like to go to sea?”
He was a business associate of a tugboat company
that hired crews to tow lumber to places like San
Diego and Hawaii. Markovich protested that he was
not qualified. When the man told him a cook was
especially needed, Markovich had to laugh. He barely
knew how to boil water.
Still, he applied. Under hobbies, he wrote “cooking.”
It was a stretch, to say the least, but he got the job.
Theresa gave him a crash course in cooking. She
even handed over her “bible:” a Betty Crocker cook-
book. As a bonus, she slipped in a friend’s recipe for a
dish called Shipwreck.
“I said, ‘I think we’re going to have to rename that
one,’” Markovich recalls. The hamburger casserole
became just plain “hash.”
When Markovich boarded the Roughneck a few days
later, it was his first time on an ocean vessel. He met
the six men who would be subjected to his cooking.
“I was madly looking at my cookbook and trying to
make things,” Markovich remembers. But his cakes
came out looking like pizza and his eggs tasted like
rubber. One day, he recalls, a crew member threw
down his fork and said, “I can’t take any more! You
don’t even know how to cook an egg!”
The captain delivered an ultimatum: If Markovich
hadn’t learned to cook by the time the tug returned
to Oregon, he would be fired. On the plus side, he
added, the crew thought he was a great guy and they
had all agreed to teach him to cook.
Markovich held onto his job. He fed the crew well
for another few months until he landed a coaching/
teaching job in North Bend. But law school had
always been in the back of his mind, so in 1980, he
entered the University of Oregon School of Law.
Never did he imagine that his brief experience on
the high seas would end up steering the course of
his legal career.
It Takes a Tugboat
How Bert Markovich navigated his way to maritime law BY SUSAN G. HAUSER
After landing a summer associate position in 1982
with Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt in Portland, Mar-
kovich came to the attention of the late Paul Daigle,
a maritime lawyer charged with expanding the firm’s
Seattle office. After learning of the tugboat adven-
ture, Daigle invited Markovich to practice maritime
law there. In time, Markovich realized the advantage
his experience had given him.
“Some guys come out of college and law school
and they’ve never been around a working person,” he
says. “It helped me understand them, and going to
sea and what that entails.”
More than half his work is in maritime law, typically
representing vessel owners in disputes and defending
them against liability claims. He’s been on oil tankers,
container ships, fishing boats and, yes, even tugboats.
He also represents manufacturers and pharmaceutical
companies against products liability claims.
“I can have days where I’m up in Kodiak, Alaska,
taking the deposition of a crew member or vessel
owner, and then in that same week I’ll be in New York
City deposing a witness on a pharmaceutical case,”
says Markovich. “That contrast has been just wonderful. I love both aspects of it.”
It was sink or cook
for Markovich when
he went to sea on the
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 potatoes, thinly sliced
1 lb. ground beef,
browned and seasoned
4 carrots, thinly sliced
14-oz. can baked beans
10-oz. can tomato soup
Preheat oven to 375° F. Layer
bottom of greased 2-quart
casserole with onions, top with
potatoes. Spoon in cooked
ground beef, top with carrots.
Spread with beans. Mix soup with
1 can water, pour on top.
reminiscent of pasties his
grandfather ate while mining
in Butte: Seal casserole with
pie dough, poking steam holes
before placing it in the oven.)
Bake uncovered for 1 hour.