Frederick S. Ursery
Arkansas Bar Association | Publications
Frederick Stanley Ursery
Life, situated on the 22nd floor of the Regions Bank building in downtown Little Rock, looks pretty good for the Arkansas Bar Association's new President, 62-year-old Little Rock trial lawyer Fred Ursery.
In this case, life comes complete with a windowed corner office overlooking the downtown workday and a winding Arkansas River, just one reward for working hard at a profession he
"As a lawyer, you have to master a variety of different areas," said Ursery, a partner at Friday, Eldredge & Clark, the state's largest firm.
"You're always learning something new.
With each case you learn about a new product or industry, or you meet new and interesting people."
introduction to the legal profession came while in Sunday school at Lakeside United Methodist Church
hometown of Pine Bluff.
His teacher, Steve Matthews, now the senior member at the Bridges Law Firm in Pine Bluff, proved a solid role model for Ursery, who would later graduate from Vanderbilt University with a degree in political science before moving to New York City to attend Columbia University Law School.
Drawn to Columbia for both its distinguished reputation and cosmopolitan setting, Ursery
spent three years in the Big Apple.
studied with future powerbrokers like Richard Ben-Veniste of the 9-11 Commission and former California Governor Gray Davis, buried his
nose daily into The New York Times
and managed to catch a few games at Yankee and Shea Stadiums.
graduated, it was 1967.
War still raged in Vietnam, and Ursery
was confronted with the certainty that soon he
would be drafted.
He chose to enlist, and for the next 13 months he served in the U.S. Army Artillery in Vietnam as an enlisted man.
was ready to come home to Arkansas and received a job offer from Judge Bill Smith of Smith, Williams, Friday and Bowen, which later became Friday, Eldredge & Clark
Ursery went to work on Law Day, 1969, becoming the 18th lawyer in the firm. (Now the firm has over 80 attorneys.)
began working in the firm's trial section, accompanying more seasoned members of the firm, such as Boyce Love, Bill Eldredge, Buddy Sutton and Bob Light, to their trials prior to tackling a case on his
"I tried my first case in September of that year," he
"I defended a case for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which I lost before the jury but got it reversed and dismissed in the Arkansas Supreme Court
I was disappointed in the jury trial but happy with the end result."
Throughout the years, he
has tried about 60 jury trials.
"In my opinion, a strong litigator is someone with a lot of common sense, good judgment, and an ability to relate to people," said Ursery
relaxed, surefooted way.
"In the lawyers that I know and admire, those are the traits they have."
These abilities transfer directly to jury selection, which, he
noted "…involves a lot of intuition, educated guesswork.
You're looking for a juror who's fair.
"Trying a lawsuit is a very high pressure situation.
I don't think lawyers ever get to the point that they don't feel pressure, though over the years anyone who tries cases becomes more comfortable.
I think all lawyers feel nervous.
Some just hide it better than others."
service to the legal profession extended to the Arkansas Bar Association
soon after he
also met his
wife, Sharon, around this time.
"At that time," Ursery
[Bumpers] was a political unknown, and she
[Sharon] was his
first paid campaign worker."
"With the exception of when our kids were little," Ursery
said, "we went to all the bar meetings in Hot Springs."
leadership roles in the Association also came early in his
"Boyce [Love] was in the House of Delegates, and Bob Compton appointed him Chair of the Executive Council," Ursery
In 1996 Ursery
received the Association's Outstanding Lawyer Award.
In 1997 he received the Golden Gavel Award for his service as Chair of the Sustaining Members Committee, and in 1998 he received the Golden Gavel Award for his work as Chair of the Annual Meeting Committee.
"I've made a lot of friends from all over the state through bar activities," he
said, "people who I would not have met otherwise.
"I like lawyers.
I like being around lawyers.
I think lawyers are people who are concerned about our system of government, who take these matters seriously, and who have a good sense of humor," continued Ursery
, himself famously witty.
"Most of my close friends are lawyers."
When the rotation for President of the Association fell in the Central District, which consists of Pulaski County, Ursery
decided to run.
"I've served in numerous positions in the bar, and I decided that I would like the opportunity to lead our Association as President.
Although I knew there were several other good people running, I decided that at my age, this was the time to do it," he
"We had a good, friendly campaign.
It's good to have a contested race so that bar members feel they're involved in the selection process.
"I enjoyed running for bar President because I contacted a lot of people across the state and attended several county bar meetings.
The campaign gave me the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and to meet new people."
Quick to give credit to other Association members for their efforts, Ursery
said the most pressing issues facing the Association center around determining the future location of the bar center, continuing a sound fiscal policy and ensuring that membership numbers don't dwindle.
"I think that our prior leaders, such as Tom Daily, have done a good job, and I don't have any revolutionary programs.
I just want to continue on and expand the number of people who want to belong," he
The purpose of the Association, in his
view, is to provide a service to members, to make it an organization to which attorneys want to belong.
"I think Arkansas VersusLaw
is a great member benefit, and we provide great CLE," he
is also a staunch supporter of the Arkansas Bar Commission on Diversity
(ABCD) and plans to give it high priority.
"Both the leadership and membership of our Association should reflect the makeup of lawyers in the state," he
Long involved in a variety of other professional organizations, Ursery is a past President of the Pulaski County Bar Association and the William R. Overton Inn of Court.
He is a fellow of the Arkansas Bar Foundation, American Bar Foundation, and American College of Trial Lawyers.
He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, serving as president of the Arkansas Chapter in 1996.
He is also a former member of the State Board of Law Examiners and the Arkansas Supreme Court Model Jury Instructions Committee Criminal.
Almost baffling is how Ursery
has found time to develop habits outside of work, but he
He's an active member of First United Methodist Church in Little Rock.
has an affinity for TV news programs, NPR, fine dining with Sharon, and his
living room book shelves are full of non fiction.
also jogs four days a week, ending up with his
jogging partners at the Satellite Café on Saturday mornings.
"I get that [jogging] out of the way before I can think of a reason to not go," chuckles Ursery