Air Force veteran Alex Clark pays it forward to fellow veterans every chance he gets.
The Haynes Boone associate is an active member of his firm’s military, veterans and partners network (MVP), mentors veterans applying to law school through the nonprofit Service to School, and even ran 2,020 miles in 2020 to raise money for the organization.
In law school, Clark also co-founded a student organization at the University of Texas called the Texas Law Veterans Association, which supports veteran J.D. candidates and recruits prospective military talent to the school.
On Tuesday, Clark and several fellow TVLA alumni organized a special swearing-in ceremony for veterans who have recently graduated law school and passed the bar exam. Administering the attorney’s oath to the newly minted lawyers was Texas’ commander in chief himself: Gov. Greg Abbott. Adding to the significance, Gov. Abbott swore in the new lawyers in the historic Texas Supreme Court room in the Texas Capitol.
Other TLVA alumni involved in Tuesday’s ceremony included Jackson Walker associate (and TVLA co-founder) Miguel Ortiz, McKool Smith attorney Kyle Ryman, Winstead associate Wes Hunnell and U.S. Army JAG officer Joshua Davis.
Clark served in the Air Force reserves as an intelligence analyst with top secret clearance at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. He worked his way up to the non-commissioned officer in charge of the current intelligence program for his unit, the 433 Operational Support Squadron, which entailed supervising the creation of classified intelligence briefings for commanders. He also worked on pre-deployment briefings for deployers and pre-mission briefings for aircrew.
“I loved my job as an intelligence analyst; I got to nerd out,” Clark said. “My intellectual curiosity could run wild. … They called me Walt Disney because I used so many PowerPoint animations. I loved to tell stories — ‘Here’s what this mound of sand looked like. Here is what China did to it.’”
Clark enlisted in the Air Force while working his first job out of college as a third-grade teacher for Teach For America, eventually serving through law school and during the first half of his federal clerkship in the Western District of Texas with Judge Lee Yeakel.
Had the teenaged version of Clark had it his way, he would have enlisted at age 18.
“Growing up in Sherman, Texas, my grandfather, MSgt Samuel Allenbaugh, was my hero,” he said. “When I wanted to join the Air Force out of high school to be like him, he was the only one who could talk me out of it. My grandfather didn’t go to college until after enlisting into the Army Air Corps in 1945 and retiring in the Air Force 26 years later. [He told me,] ‘Go to college first. The Air Force will still be around if you want to join.’”
In addition to the mentorship of his grandfather, the guidance by a Teach For America friend, Theodore Rostow, made a significant impact on the path Clark would pursue to becoming a lawyer. After Rostow got admitted to Yale Law School, Clark said he “took whatever advice he had” for applying to law school.
“My personal journey through the law school application process would have been a disaster had it not been for Theodore Rostow,” Clark said. “I would have never taken it upon myself to buy LSAT study books or sign up for a class with the kind of money I had at that time in my life. My LSAT score jumped 14 points. The money I spent on that class pales in comparison to the additional scholarship dollars that class opened up for me.”
Clark’s own journey drove him to begin volunteering with Service to School as a first year at UT Law. The national organization provides free college and graduate school counseling to military veterans and service members.
“I felt a really strong sense of duty to reciprocate that kind of life-changing assistance that altered the course of my life,” Clark said.
Pointing out that only a third of U.S. veterans have bachelor’s degrees, Clark said veterans often struggle with applying to college or graduate programs because they tend to hold a discomfort with trumpeting their accomplishments and set their sights lower “in terms of the quality of schools they believe they can get into.”
Another challenge Clark has observed through mentoring veterans is that they tend to not ask for help because they “feel like a burden.”
“There’s a process of bucking them up, and I love that I’ve gotten to be that guy,” Clark said. “I don’t have the opportunity during my ordinary working hours to be someone’s hype man.”
Moreover, Clark said, veterans can become targets for “fraud and abuse” by the abundance of predatory organizations — such as for-profit colleges with “terrible graduation rates” — that are known to prey on those who have served.
“I think one way the legal community can help veterans is providing pro bono support for situations like this,” he said.
He said another opportunity the legal community has to serve veterans is to help them “understand the full scope of what opportunities are out there and helping them obtain them.”
“In my experience, they have such a capacity for impact,” Clark said. “Once they’re given the right tools, they know how to apply themselves, and they make the most of it.”
Other Public Service News
— On Saturday evening, more than 500 guests are expected to show up at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Houston for the Jet Setter’s ’23 Ball paying tribute to Robert L. Waltrip, the museum’s founder. Waltrip’s passion for aviation and World War II aircraft led him to establish the museum in 1985. Falling on Veterans Day, the gala will also recognize those who have served. Net proceeds from the gala will benefit the museum’s aircraft collection and exhibits, STEM education programs and the preservation of Texas aviation history.
Co-chairing the event are CenterPoint Energy General Counsel Jason Ryan, ConocoPhillips General Counsel Kelly Rose and their spouses, Megan Ryan and David Rose. CenterPoint and ConocoPhillips and Bette and Ralph Thomas are serving as the premier sponsors. Other key sponsors include Carolyn and Anthony Hall, Joan Skipper and Ed Peine and the Strake Foundation. The Monte Carlo-themed gala will take place in the museum’s Heritage Hangar and will feature a cocktail reception, big board, dinner, live auction, music and aircraft exhibits.
— On Nov. 16, Advocates for Community Transformation (Act) will host the leaders of the Sudreau Global Justice Institute in its Dallas offices for a CLE featuring the organization’s work. Based out of Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, this international organization seeks to provide holistic solutions to systemic injustice in places like Uganda and Ghana while equipping others to do the same. The theme of the CLE, which will run from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., is “Access to Justice: The Power of the Rule of Law to Transform a Nation.” A happy hour will follow.
— On Nov. 2, Aldous Walker attorney Caleb Miller was honored with the Texas Trial Lawyer Association’s Reich Chandler Outstanding Advocate Award. The award recognizes a young lawyer who demonstrates the highest level of professionalism with an unwavering commitment to the ethical pursuit of justice.