ACC South Carolina Chapter Member Spotlight:
Cliff Bourke Jr.
Vice President Legal Services, Southeastern Freight Lines
When did you “go in-house,” and what prompted your decision?
I decided to “go in-house” at Southeastern Freight lines, Inc. in 2007. After working with a variety of clients and being exposed to a multitude of organizations, I knew providing up-close and personal service was a better fit for me. I had the pleasure of learning more about Southeastern’s culture and organizational values, which aligned perfectly with my personal values. It was a perfect fit and I have truly enjoyed helping to shape future business strategies (from a legal perspective) and helping the organization reach its goals. I also really dislike billable hours, which was another key factor that prompted me to go in-house!!!
What do you enjoy most about being an in-house counsel?
There are so many wonderful things about serving as in-house counsel. I really enjoy not only serving as a legal expert to my organization but a business partner as well. I also enjoy connecting with other attorneys whom we use to handle external legal matters--folks who are subject matter experts in different areas that I can leverage.
Do you miss anything about your prior position?
Although I enjoy being in-house there are certainly things I miss about my prior position at Ogletree Deakins. One thing in particular that I miss is writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing appellate briefs and memoranda but do not have the opportunity to do so as in-house counsel.
Have you had any strong mentors in your career? What did they teach you?
Ted Speth, who is retired now, was the absolute best mentor! Ted taught me so much about the legal profession and how important it is to not only do good work but to focus on the relationships and how to move the organization forward. He emphasized the importance of providing options to clients, navigating people away from being narrow in thought process, and how to have uncomfortable conversations without souring relationships.
What matter or accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
As an attorney with over twenty years of experience, I am very proud of how my experience has equipped me to serve others. I serve my community through numerous past and present boards and am blessed that Southeastern Freight Lines places a premium on giving back, which affords me the flexibility to serve the community. Most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the South Carolina Bar’s Board of Governors and I serve as the Chair of the Diversity Implementation Committee. This allows me the opportunity to effectuate change in the legal community throughout the entire state of South Carolina.
What key advice would you give to new in-house lawyers or those contemplating going in house?
I would suggest to any new in-house attorney to listen and learn the organization. Don’t be a roadblock but rather someone who is truly committed to uplifting the organization. Ultimately, your reputation in the legal profession matters most, so always remember practice law!
Has the COVID pandemic changed your perspective in any way?
COVID has absolutely changed my perspective. It made me rethink how business has historically been done and it opened my eyes to the possibility of what it may look like in the future. Our most prized asset are our people.
Aside from the law, what professions are interesting to you?
Professions that were once of interest to me still interest me today. Had I have not gone to law school, I believe I would be a guidance counselor and basketball coach at a high school somewhere in South Carolina.
Are you an “early bird” or “night owl”?
I am an early bird; and I have a consistent bedtime.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
Outside of work I enjoy golfing. That’s how I relax. Each day I look forward to spending time with my family, whether we are watching Family Feud, playing board games, or Lady Gamecocks basketball.
What book or movie do you recommend, and why?
I highly recommend reading The Go-Giver, written by Bob Burg and John David Mann. This book explores the idea of giving and how it can help people succeed. So often we approach relationships (personal and professional) from the perspective of what can I get or gain. This book challenges you to shift your focus from getting to giving. The authors use a parable of a salesperson trying to meet his company’s sales quota to share their five principles for success, which I won’t outline here so as not to spoil it for you. However, these principles reinforce character traits such as honesty, integrity, humility, and encouragement – and the importance of going out of your way to add significant value to every relationship in which you are involved.
How long have you been an ACC member, and what is your favorite part about it?
I have been an ACC member for 15 years. ACC does so much great work, but I am most appreciative of the sense of comradery and community across the entire organization, and specifically within the South Carolina Chapter. As an ACC member, I enjoy building valuable relationships with colleagues through events and volunteer opportunities. I appreciate the fact that the organization is truly focused on adding value and serving the unique needs of an in-house attorney.