Lance D. Clarke, JD '77 sets a new standard for multitasking. A judge who also maintains a thriving private practice, Clarke recently added "elected official" to his résumé-for the third time-when he became the Nassau County Bar Association's first African American president this past June. A Cambridge, Massachusetts, native, Clarke first became enamored of the law while an undergraduate at Tufts University in the early 1970s, as he watched the Watergate proceedings on television.
"I would go to class and come back, sit down, and watch some of the lawyers who were involved, as well as the lawyers being tried," recalls Clarke. "Several of the congressmen were also lawyers, and they asked all the questions. It piqued my interest in the profession."
Clarke's older sister had graduated from Suffolk Law School, so he decided to follow in her footsteps. "My sister encouraged me to come to Suffolk because she felt welcomed there," explains Clarke. "Prior to 1970, African Americans were a rare commodity in law school. Deans Sargent and Deliso were enthusiastic about having a diverse student body, and that was reflected in their words and deeds."
After law school, Clarke and his wife Carol moved to New York City, where he joined an insurance defense firm. The couple lived in Queens until 1982, when Clarke went to work at his father-in-law's general practice firm in Hempstead, Long Island. Clarke has since built a strong private practice that focuses on real estate, estate litigation, and municipal law. In 2001, he also became village justice for the Justice Court of Hempstead, and is currently on his second four-year term. Over the years, Clarke has taken on a few additional jobs as well: he was a three-time deputy mayor and a city councilman for 15 years, and also served as president of the Hempstead Civic Association.
However, Clarke assumed new levels of electoral responsibility when he became president of the 108-year-old Nassau County Bar Association, an organization of nearly 6,000 members and 60 committees. "It's a fulltime job," he notes, "keeping track of 6,000 people-or 6,000 people keeping track of me-as well as answering all the media inquiries . not to mention serving as a member ex-officio of every committee." But Clarke wouldn't have it any other way. "My first 60 days have been extremely exciting!" he says. "I look forward to the balance of my term."
Clarke uses much of his time as president to increase minority involvement within the bar association. "I've gotten a lot of calls from people who are African American. They feel as if the time has finally arrived-and they've arrived, too," Clarke says. "My goal for this year is to create more and more diversity in the bar association. If I open the door and don't pull in anyone else behind me, then I've wasted my time and haven't done the right thing for this community."
Have we mentioned that in his "free time," Clarke is a volunteer firefighter? "I've had a very wild career," Clarke concedes. So wild, his wife confides, that between the three jobs, the elected offices, and the volunteer work, he doesn't sleep much. "Carol says I always have one eye open," laughs Clarke. "She tells me, 'I'm going to get you a license plate so I can recognize you.'"
- Arin Greenwood
ALUMNI PROFILESLance D. Clarke