Jayson Clark never had any intention of going to law school.
As a biology major at Saint Louis University, he was on track to be a doctor. Then he discovered political science, and added that as a second major.
“My whole life, I’ve had a hard time making myself specialize,” says Clark, who grew up in the town of Eldorado, Ill., population 4,600, near Carbondale. “I’ve always been like a jack-of-all-trades.
“I’m not a stellar student, but I am pretty good at a lot of things rather than being an expert in one thing.”
His first job after college, as the mobile office director for Republican Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson’s district office in rural Missouri, got him thinking about law school.
“It was a huge, very rural congressional district,” Clark says. “I went to every county in the district every month. It was probably the best preparation for being a lawyer I can think of, because each person you talked to was basically like a client interview.
“You have to learn to listen, to figure out what their issue really is. You have got to connect with them like you are a counselor or an attorney. And then you have to go back and figure out how to help them out. I loved it.”
But when Clark wasn’t driving on the back roads between Cape Girardeau and Rolla, he was playing guitar for FASTPLANT, a punk-rock band out of Eldorado. The band, which started out as a cover band and then performed its own music, toured throughout southern Illinois.
“I first met Jayson at a happy hour during his first year,” says Mark W. Smith, J.D., associate dean for student services. “We talked about music, and I learned he was in a punk-rock band. Jayson’s band did a show at the Hi-Pointe, which I went to and really enjoyed. They played punk rock with a sense of humor.
“He also gave me a copy of a CD his band made, which I loved. The music is funny and irreverent. It reminds me of the Ramones and other bands I would listen to and see when I was in college and law school.”
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Clark describes his music as “fast and very tight, with some catchy choruses and tongue-in-cheek humor. Our songs were mostly about girls, drinking, girls, our friends, drinking, girls, teen angst and a promoter we hate — roughly in that order.”
“The music is loud,” says Whitney McGuire, a friend and former classmate of Clark’s. “It’s a throwback to the Sex Pistols. …
“Every time I hear it I laugh; this is Jayson Clark?! It’s completely incongruous with his alter ego.”
Because, if you were to meet Clark without a guitar in his hands, he does not come across as a rebel.
“Jayson is a very conservative person,” McGuire says. “He often takes the unpopular view and stance, but he never backs down just because the crowd is doing something different.
“He takes a strong stand in what he believes; he doesn’t waver. And that makes people appreciate him, whether they agree with him or not.”
But, like his music, Clark’s strong beliefs are leavened with a healthy portion of humor and enthusiasm.
“He’s a fun person to be around; he’s not uptight,” McGuire says. “Jayson is always enjoying whatever he does, and makes you enjoy it too.”
Clark, who won the Wiley Rutledge Moot Court competition with McGuire, has a position lined up at the St. Louis firm of Husch & Eppenberger.
“It’s a good fit,” Clark says. “Although working at a big firm like Husch means I won’t see as much of the courtroom as I might like at first, I will be learning under some of the most talented attorneys around. That counts for a lot.
“And more importantly, the people at Husch are just plain good folks. They’re not stuffy, hypercompetitive or rude to junior associates. There are lots of young attorneys there and several attorneys I already consider friends.”
Clark’s punk-rock days appear to be over. The group disbanded a few months ago, and he has traded his chained wallet, studded belt and combat boots for suits, buttoned-down collars and ties.
But he will continue to stand up for what he believes, even when it might be unpopular.