Beyond the Bio

From the Classroom to the Courtroom, Fred Clarke Talks about His Journey into Law and His Many Interests Outside the Courtroom

From the Classroom to the Courtroom, Fred Clarke Talks about His Journey into Law and His Many Interests Outside the Courtroom

Fred Clarke enjoys a diverse general practice that includes a wide variety of commercial litigation from bankruptcy and finance litigation to construction and automotive warranty work where he assists automotive manufacturers in warranty and Lemon Law matters, as well as against alleged product defects.

“Recently, I’ve been working with Scott Williams helping mine workers to protect benefits, healthcare, and pensions and position them for collective bargaining after bankruptcy, which has been both challenging and rewarding,” noted Fred.

Fred has gained trial experience early in his career and has already witnessed the importance of preparation. “I like working with different partners because I get exposure to a lot of cases and more opportunities to be in court. The trials I’ve worked on have been my favorite experiences so far. It takes a lot of preparation to be confident and ready for trial, but it is well worth it in the end,” he said.

Fred talked about his first trial experience where he was able to handle and prepare the case on his own with only minimal supervision from partner Jimmy Walsh. “It was a small matter for a client for whom we typically work on larger issues. It was helpful to work on a case with lower stakes and gain valuable experience and confidence for my next case which had much higher stakes,” he said. “Although it was a big commercial fraud construction case, I felt much calmer during my cross examination of their expert witness thanks to the formative skills I learned in my first, smaller case,” he explained.

“While we won both of those cases, sometimes a case does not go your way and it’s just as important to pay attention and identify the missed opportunities. That happened recently in an arbitration case that we knew was a long shot and did not go our way. Focusing on how we could have handled some things differently helps to be even better prepared next time,” he added.

Seeing the impact of his work and helping clients is what Fred enjoys most about being a lawyer and what led him to leave the classroom to pursue law. “I really like having measureable feedback, which is especially true in trial. In law, you’re always working toward a goal and advancing cases, which I have found more satisfying than when I was teaching composition at the University of Southern Mississippi where my impact was not as obvious or measureable,” he explained.

Fred also loves to write, which is what led him to get his master’s degree in English after graduating from college with a degree in political science and a minor in French. “I wrote a lot of poetry in my master’s program and was published in a couple of anthologies. I went to a writer’s retreat in the rural part of the Loire Valley in France and spent four weeks writing at a 1,000 year-old abbey,” he shared. “While teaching after my master’s program, I was not writing as much as I wanted, so that was another reason to pursue law. I write much more now than I did then, though I would like to find some time to write more fiction,” he admitted.

Growing up the eldest in a large blended family, it’s not surprising that Fred ended up becoming a lawyer. “I am the oldest of 11 siblings, including half, step, adopted and foster siblings,” he explained. “I was always the mediator in the family between different branches and siblings. I also was always the responsible one who everyone came to for advice. I’m a natural advisor and problem solver,” he continued. “My mom remarried when my sister and I were teenagers and we had three step brothers around the same age. I’m not really sure how she and my stepdad survived being surrounded by teenagers,” he laughed.

Fred spent many of his summers growing up with his dad and extended family in Missouri. “We spent a lot of time in the Ozarks. There are a lot of lakes surrounded by low mountains and foothills so we naturally spent a lot of time fishing and camping,” he said. “Branson is about an hour away and there are a lot of fun things to do there—Silver Dollar City, Whitewater theme park. The town my dad lived in, Marionville, is an old town built around a small downtown with a library, park, soda fountain and a Five and Dime. It was a really good place to spend summers and I still like to get back to visit each summer, though sometimes we don’t make it back until fall. I really enjoy hanging out at the lake and just being away from everything. It’s very rural and open. You don’t always have a cell signal and there really aren’t a lot of places like that where you can just relax, spend time with your family and spot bald eagles.”

When he’s not working, Fred and his wife of 12 years are busy with their two sons. Their oldest is going into second grade and the youngest turns two in August. Fred says he loves raising kids and has a lot of fun with the boys. “My oldest likes trying lots of different sports. He’s taken taekwondo, soccer, and is swimming, now,” he said.

Fred admits to being a “foodie” and likes to make complicated recipes on the weekends. “My oldest son likes to assist, which is really fun. We like to experiment a lot with different things. A couple of weeks ago, we made bolognese sauce all day from scratch. It takes about 6-8 hours to make. First, there’s three different kinds of meat that you cook slowly and add dairy until it’s absorbed. There are a lot of steps, so we only make it once in a while. We also have a special chili recipe. We make our own chili powder by drying and toasting chilies and grinding them into paste. I’ve helped Scott Williams with the Exceptional Foundation Chili Cook Off for the last 3 years, though we haven’t placed since my first year when we were 2nd runner up. I really enjoy grilling when the football season cools down, too,” Fred shared.

His interest in food extends out of the kitchen, also. When traveling, Fred seeks out unique restaurants and said he’d like to earn his first sommelier certification. “When I was in college, I taught pairing at a couple of restaurants and an introduction to wine. My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Napa and I’ve just always had an interest in wines.”

A man of many interests, Fred is right at home in his practice where he is able to work on a wide variety of cases helping clients resolve their issues.