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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. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  2. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  3. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  4. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

  5. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

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