Cardinal Cadence Spring/Summer 2013
Keeping everything in balance
At first glance, it’s difficult to imagine that a majorette, drill team sponsor, English teacher, accomplished pianist and a member of multiple local choirs could also be a tough toxic tort and product liability litigator successfully defending international corporations in mass tort litigation. As incongruous as it may seem, that’s exactly the path Sandra (French) Clark ’76 has taken in her career. For her, it’s a matter of keeping balance in her professional and private life.
Although she always wanted to become a lawyer, that wasn’t the first rung on her career ladder. Born and raised in Trinidad, a small East Texas town near Athens, she spent a year at Henderson County Junior College before transferring to Texas Tech, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She is a big advocate for community colleges for their ability to prepare students to attend a four-year institution, especially when they come from smaller communities.
Upon graduating, she accepted a position as an English teacher at Port Neches-Groves High School, where she also served as faculty sponsor for the Indianettes drill team. During her tenure at PN-G, she enrolled in the graduate program at Lamar and earned a Master of Arts degree in English. Attending a year of night classes and two summer sessions, she earned her degree with a 4.0 grade-point average. On a late-night bus trip returning from the football state championship game while chaperoning her share of the 90 or so girls on the drill team, she decided that if she could handle this, she could definitely handle law school.
Clark joined the Beaumont law firm MehaffyWeber in 1980 immediately after graduating from the University of Houston Law Center and has become a leading product liability and toxic tort attorney. She has tried many complex cases and was one of two MehaffyWeber attorneys recognized by the National Law Journal in 2001 for obtaining one of the top 10 defense verdicts in the country that year. Recognized in “Best Lawyers in America” from 2001–2012, Clark was named “Beaumont’s Best Lawyers Product Liability Litigation – Defendant’s Lawyer of the Year” in 2011, an honor bestowed upon only one attorney each year. She is a “Texas Super Lawyer”, “Top 50 Female Super Lawyers in Texas”, named a “Top Lawyer in Houston”, as well as many other “Super Lawyer” designations and awards. She has also served on several prestigious bar committees.
“Every single contact you make can be the one that gets your foot in the door,” Clark advises young graduates looking for that first job. Recalling her own experience of getting a coveted interview with MehaffyWeber as a summer associate on the recommendation of a law instructor, Clark said, “Sending out tons of resumes in a tough job market isn’t always the most productive way to become employed.”
Ten years of piano lessons, at her mother’s insistence—or assistance, as she corrects herself—led her to play for their hometown church while growing up and, later, for the choir while attending junior college. Playing fueled her love of the fine arts. Clark has funded an endowed scholarship at Lamar in choral music and serves on the College of Fine Arts and Communication Advisory Council. She is a member of the Lamar University Foundation board of trustees and co-chaired the fine arts fundraiser le Grand Bal in 2012. She loves to sing and performs with her church choir at Trinity United Methodist, as well as the Interfaith Choral Society and the Beaumont Symphony Chorus.
“Through these choirs, I met several Lamar choral students and was so impressed with their talent and commitment that I wanted to establish an endowed scholarship for choral music,” Clark said. “I recently attended the annual Scholarship Dinner and it was great to see so many people who are supporting so many students.”
In her spare time, Clark loves to work in her yard, being a self-professed “crazy woman” when it comes to yard work. Hurricanes Rita and Ike wreaked havoc on her beautiful yard, and she is just now getting it back to the show quality she demands. She has one daughter, who is also an attorney, living in Chicago with her husband, who is a writer for the national satire publication The Onion.
by Larry Acker