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Leadership in Law 2014: Clifford R. Whitehead

Associate, Bowers Harrison LLP, Evansville • Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, 2009

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15col-Whitehead.jpg Clifford R. Whitehead (Photo/David Greene, DIA Photography)

Clifford R. Whitehead has been with Bowers Harrison for less than two years, but he has already helped the firm grow. The commercial litigator is active in the Evansville Bar Association, serving in several capacities including the employment law and young lawyers sections and with the diversity outreach committee. Before joining the firm, Cliff was a deputy prosecutor in Marion County and worked in the Office of Corporation Counsel in Indianapolis. Cliff believes it’s important for young attorneys to recognize they don’t know everything, so they must ask the right questions at the right time – and then absorb those answers.

You grew up wanting to be a doctor, but now you’re a lawyer. What made you enter the law?

Being a lawyer gives me the freedom to work on a wide variety of topics, and as a doctor, it seems that you are encouraged to specialize in just one area in the world of medicine.

When you were in law school, you were honored for performing more than 250 hours of pro bono work. How did you find time as a law student – and now as an attorney – to volunteer so many hours?

Lots of late nights at Starbucks.

On a related note, what are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

Prioritizing what really matters in life.

If you could meet and spend the day with one lawyer from history, who would it be and why?

Thomas Jefferson. I would want to pick his brain on what did not make it into the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and why.

Why practice in the area of law that you do?

Commercial litigation allows me to do all the legal writing I could ever want, which I like, and still presents some in-court opportunities, which I enjoy.

What civic cause is the most important to you?

Ark Child Care Center in Evansville. It recognizes that life can be stressful, and during those times, it is important that families have a place to go for support.

Is there a moment in your career you wish you could do over?

Just one? In my first closing argument as an intern for the prosecutor’s office, I completely lost my train of thought in the middle of speaking and simply sat down. Thankfully, my co-counsel picked up where I left off and finished the argument.

What is the most important lesson you learned from your mentor?

Slow down, although I am still working on it.

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?

In the words of the great Denny Crane, “Denny Crane.”

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

Teach history and coach tennis at a high school.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I’d rather listen than talk.

Why do you think people often have negative stereotypes about lawyers?

Because lawyers quibble with every word people say.

What class do you wish you could have skipped in law school?

Family law.

What was the worst or most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

Cleaning mobile homes for my dad after people had lived in them.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Watching Harvey Specter on the TV show “Suits.”
 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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