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Criminal Defense Law Firm of the Month, Frederick J. King Jr.
A New Partner Joins the King Dynasty
By Haley Freeman
Fred King lays claim to an impressive legal pedigree. Among his noteworthy attorney ancestors, John Quincy Adams stands out as one of the most exceptional. King grew up hearing stories about the Amistad case, when an elderly and nearly blind Adams came out of retirement to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court and won the freedom of 53 unlawfully enslaved men. This and other tales about how his predecessors preserved the rights of people helped to spark his interest in becoming a lawyer himself.
As a youngster, King received a classical education, first at Jesuit High, then Georgetown Prep, Georgetown University and Tulane University Law School. Eight years of Jesuit education taught King to be “a man for others. I always thought that I would do something to help my fellow man,” King said. In 1963, he was present in Washington D.C. for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. That moving experience further inspired his resolve to become a lawyer and make a difference in the lives of others.
King’s greatest concern about becoming a lawyer was that he would be choosing a life without the opportunity for much fun or adventure. Throughout college, King competed with Georgetown’s rowing team. His Olympic aspirations were dashed when liver disease kept him from participating in the ‘68 Olympic trials. He left law school for the duration of his recovery and then did some soul-searching as a cowboy in Wyoming. As the weather became bitter, the urging of a law professor and his mother’s reminders about his legal heritage compelled him to return to Tulane University Law School with renewed determination.
King has been a solo practitioner from the start of his career. With admittedly little practical experience, he began with criminal and civil rights work. “I took some criminal cases, primarily in the area of search and seizure, and won them all,” King said. “My clients referred more people to me, so I hung out my shingle.”
King is often recognized for his exceptional service as a lawyer. Among his achievements, he received the LexisNexis award for 15 consecutive years with the highest possible AV Peer Review Rating. He was also rated one of New Orleans’ Top Lawyers in the New Orleans Magazine poll in 2009 and 2012. King’s many clients come to him by reputation and referral.
In 1973, King began working with the Tulane University Legal Assistance Program (TULAP). TULAP is a legal services program for Tulane University students, faculty and staff . King has been integrally involved with TULAP for 40 years, overseeing first-year law students who work cases under the supervision of two licensed attorneys, one civil and one criminal. He is happy to provide young attorneys with mentoring and the opportunity for hands-on experience that he lacked at the beginning of his own career.
In 2007, King met Carolyn Cooper, while she was a clerk with TULAP. She began working with him the next year and never left. King was so impressed with Cooper’s work, that he recently asked her to join him as a partner in his law practice. Happily, Cooper accepted. King laughingly refers to Cooper as his “co-conspirator. She is smart, diligent, creative and knows what she’s doing, but it’s more important to me that she is kind. I am committed to pro bono work. I welcome the fact that she embraces that also…. I am so blessed that I feel compelled to give back,” King said.
King is passionate about his criminal practice, as he believes that everyone is entitled to a defense. Whenever he is questioned about his choice of practice areas, King responds, “Wait until you yourself are charged with a DWI or crime you didn’t commit. Sadly, there are many innocent people in jail and even suffering capital punishment…. If you want peace, work for justice.”
King believes his greatest accomplishment as a lawyer is being of service to people. “I love helping people. Our clients all have names. We don’t have numbered files; our clients are people,” King explained. “Every single client, every single case is equally important to me…. I started keeping a file of thank-you letters. Those letters are dearer to me than any awards, headlines or television coverage.”
King has balanced his legal career with athletics. He coached the Tulane men’s soccer team for 10 years and the women’s for another 10. He was a founder of the Tulane rugby team in 1967 and the New Orleans Rugby Club five years later. King maintains his love of rowing. He was president of the New Orleans Rowing Club (NORC) for decades and still competes regularly. His favorite rowing race is the World Marathon Rowing Championship (26.2 miles). “Every time I do it, I swear I’ll never do it again. But then I forget how painful it was, and I do it again the next year.” He has won seven gold medals, five silver and a bronze. “I also delight in teaching rowing. I coach through NORC, but I also help with the Tulane program.”
King has many fascinating stories to share about his global rowing adventures. He has raced all over the United States and also in Canada, Monaco, Ireland and Amsterdam. In 2007, he met Prince Albert at a regatta in Monte Carlo. King failed to recognize the prince, a rower, and engaged him in friendly conversation. No doubt refreshed by King’s lack of pretention, the prince invited King to visit at the palace. King has a special love of rowing the currach, a traditional Irish rowing boat. King has competed in currach races in both the United States and Ireland. “Through my sports, I can go anywhere in the world and have friends,” King said.
“My fears that lawyers never have fun, excitement or adventure proved to be a complete misconception. I love the practice of law, and I will complain about it from time to time, swearing that I am going back to being a cowboy, but I’m not going to,” King said.
“It distresses me that people have such a negative attitude about lawyers,” King said. He despises the stereotypes that inspire lawyer jokes. He sometimes uses these jokes to instruct his law students. “I tell them to never be one of those lawyers that people tell terrible jokes about…. I have great professional pride…. I want to be the sort of lawyer that I would want if I needed a lawyer.”
About the practice philosophy that he and Cooper share, King said, “We are in the practice of law to help people. We don’t feel that our obligation as lawyers is limited to dealing with just the symptoms of a problem, but also extends to any underlying problems to try to ensure they don’t return to the system.”
King is looking forward to this next adventure in his legal career and joining his talents with those of his new partner. “I have been re-inspired by Carolyn,” King said. “She is the best.”
For more information visit, http://www.frederickjking.com/