David Calder Named Leader in Law

Mississippi Business Journal honors UM clinical professor’s stellar career

OXFORD, Miss. – For the past 20 years, Oxford attorney David Calder has made major contributions to various clinics in the University of Mississippi School of Law. Fittingly, the clinical professor recently received a 2014 Mississippi Business Journal Leaders in Law award, and was chosen one of the top ten leaders from the group of 40 honored.

The fifth annual program recognized members of the state’s legal community for being astute, wise, knowledgeable and successful. Honorees also exemplify the noble tradition of the legal profession, win cases and solve problems with the utmost integrity, inspire and lead others with their skills and character, are role models and mentors and are passionate and aggressive on behalf of clients and the community.

“I was quite surprised and grateful to be included,” said Calder, who directed the Fair Housing Clinic from 1994-1996 and returned to clinical teaching  in 2000 as a staff counsel. He was recently made a Clinical Associate Professor.  “I enjoy working closely with our law students as they develop a practical understanding about practicing law, improve their professional skills and experience making a difference in the lives of the children we represent.”

Calder has also directed the Consumer Clinic, the Domestic Violence Clinic and, for the last ten years, the Child Advocacy Clinic.

“Our Child Advocacy Clinic is my favorite because we provide a much needed service to our courts and local communities, and because I enjoy teaching my students to act as advocates for the children we are appointed to represent,” Calder said. “Our cases provide students with their first opportunity to act as lawyers in real cases, and the decisions reached in our cases have a permanent impact on the lives of the children we represent.”

In addition to training students for the practice of law, Calder’s conducts pro bono activities, which are part of his professional obligations.

“I also work on post-conviction appeals in death penalty cases,” he said. “I was proud to be part of the team that recently won a new trial for Michelle Byrom, who had been on death row for 14 years.”

His colleagues and former students say Calder is most deserving of his honors.

“David is our most experienced litigator and is a great resource to all of us,” said Deborah Bell, professor of law. “He’s traveled a long road from part-time to full-time to a professor title.”

Laci Moore credits Calder with strengthening her research skills and making her aware there is more than one side to every story.

“I have learned that it is very important to take on each case and listen to each party involved with an open mind and hear from each party before coming to any conclusion in the case,” said the second year law student from Pisgah, Alabama. “This lesson and experience has taught me to be diligent in searching for the truth because determining a child’s best interest is not something that should ever be taken lightly.”

Caitlyn Lindsey-Hood said she became a part of the positive change Calder effects daily among the families of Northeast Mississippi.

“During my experience in working with Professor Calder, I learned the importance of keeping a strong focus on the purpose of your advocacy,” said the third-year law student from Southwest Georgia. “When dealing with sensitive family matters, it is sometimes easy to be distracted or motivated by your own emotions, impressions, or even concerns of practicality. But when your purpose is to represent a child, often a child who can barely speak for herself, you will not effect positive change without wholly and completely devoting your efforts to pursuing the very best outcome for that child, no matter what it means for anyone else involved.”

Cara Hall spent her third year of law school with Calder and three other students representing the poor in chancery courts throughout rural northeast Mississippi. During the experience, she found him to be intelligent, resourceful, articulate and, most of all, kind.

“I was so impressed by David’s empathy and ability to connect to people others had virtually given up on, such as single mothers, prisoners at Parchman and abused children,” said Hall, an attorney at Christovich & Kearney in New Orleans. “Although we were only student attorneys, David let us play important, pivotal even, roles in the cases. He trusted us. He gave us credit. But he also knew where to draw the line.”

Calder received a bachelor’s degree in religion from Mississippi College and a J.D. from UM, where he was a member of the Mississippi Law Journal and received the Mississippi Law Institute Scholarship.   After law school, he served as law clerk for U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry A. Davis for two years before entering private practice.

Calder’s family includes his wife, Claire, and daughter, Laurie, 12.

By Edwin Smith