Attorney at Law Magazine Palm Beach Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with Clark Strandell to discuss his mentors that guided him in his career.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
Strandell: Oddly enough, even as I found myself in a law school classroom, I still was ambivalent about my chosen profession. I went to Florida State University, where I was a male cheerleader, a bartender and a bouncer. I studied creative writing and psychology. I figured law school sounded like a good fit and I had been told growing up that I would make a fine lawyer. It wasn’t until my second year at law school that I realized not only the legal profession was for me, but specifically criminal defense.
AALM: Who is your current mentor? What is the best lesson they’ve taught you so far?
Strandell: My mentor would be Michael Gottlieb. He’s my boss and my close friend. He has taught me to live in the present, look forward to the future and refrain from dwelling on the past. This perspective helps us hone our focus on the facts and circumstances we confront every day. It forces us to realize each case is based upon its own set of unique facts and circumstances, thus giving us the opportunity to address each client and situation individually.
AALM: Who are some of your legal heroes? Why?
Strandell: I studied under Gerry Spence in Wyoming and found his approach to trial work fascinating. He taught me to be a real and caring person. His philosophy is to expect jurors to be real people and he showed me that we can’t ask them to do what we want if we are not real. That realism appeals to people and imbues us with a sense of commitment to our cause which comes across as a genuine belief that your version is correct and that translates into getting the results you want and need for your client.
AALM: What drew you to your current firm? How would you describe the culture there? How would you describe your role within the firm?
Strandell: Prior to working at my current firm, I was a public defender. I would joke around with my clients and other inmates and try to lighten the spirits in the courtroom. Many of the inmates would be represented by Michael Gottlieb and his name would ring throughout the courtroom and the jail. Over the years, I would see Mr. Gottlieb often and we would joke around or discuss legal issues. One day I just simply asked him to consider me if he was considering employing anyone. He ended up hiring me shortly thereafter. We both look at every case that comes into this office. We discuss the legal issues we individually see. By doing so, we create unique defenses that benefit our clients. Although I am an associate attorney, my ideas are of value and I am told this often. My role is more consistent with being a partner but without the label.
AALM: Where do you see your career going? Partner track? Going solo? A corporate job? The bench or a position as a government attorney?
Strandell: If I hit the lottery, my career as a fishing captain would begin immediately. Until then, I plan on remaining right where I am. I am not interested in a corporate career nor would I hold a position as judge or government official. I am happy where I am and see no reason for change. I am a firm believer in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. And where I am currently doesn’t need fixing.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Strandell: I enjoy spending time with my family. On the weeknights, I am with my wife and two children and on the weekend, we are with our extended family and friends. I absolutely love it. When I am not with the family, I am on a boat fishing. My father and I grew up on the water and I plan on doing the same with my children.