'Peace of mind' Former JAG attorney opens estate and probate law firm

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Peter Clark never expected to become an estate planner but ended up doing this work as a JAG attorney and immediately found it to be his calling.

"I absolutely love getting to know my clients and giving them a product that gives them peace of mind," says Clark, who founded the Law Offices of Peter C. Clark, PLC, in Ann Arbor in August, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate Law.

"It's an analytical area of law where creativity is especially valuable and I find that fun. You're meeting people, helping them, and it's typically an all-around positive experience for everyone involved. I've had the pleasure of representing hundreds of estate planning clients, from retirees with multi-million-dollar estates to young parents just beginning their careers, and it's been the highlight of my practice."

Clark's interest in law was sparked as a cadet in Army ROTC at the University of Michigan, where he earned his undergrad degree in Political Science.

"The unique role a JAG plays in policing the Army and advising decision-makers is what drew me to the profession," he says.

After commissioning as an officer in 2007, the Army placed Clark on an educational delay and sent him earn his J.D. at Wayne State University Law School.

"I had a wonderful time, met some brilliant people, and made life-long friends, but any lawyer would agree there is no more enjoyable part of law school than finishing it," he says with a smile. "I've always loved performing be it musical, comical, or public speaking so working as a trial attorney was a natural fit. Being able to make a jury panel laugh with me, not at me... I hope came in handy on many occasions," he says.

After graduating, Clark became an active duty JAG attorney and in the next five years served as a civil law attorney; a prosecutor; the senior prosecutor for Fort Bliss, Texas; a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas; Chief of the Legal Client Services Office at Fort Bliss; and Military Magistrate for Fort Bliss. His last position brought him back to Michigan where he served as the sole active duty JAG for the State of Michigan/Command Judge Advocate for TACOM in Warren.

Clark enjoyed working with and learning from his fellow JAG officers.

"You'll be hard pressed to find a group of lawyers as fun, as smart, as diverse, and as dedicated as you find in the JAG Corps," he says. "Beyond that, I loved being an adviser to Commanders. I felt that I was truly doing my part, however small, to help our Army's leaders accomplish their mission in an intelligent and legal way."

Though much of Clark's time as a JAG was spent litigating criminal cases, he also did a substantial amount of estate planning for service members, their spouses, and retirees while working as a civil law attorney and as the Chief of Client Services for Fort Bliss. Over the last year, as the JAG for the state of Michigan, a very large portion of his time was spent handling estate planning for Michigan's retired military community.

"I specialized in estate planning, and found it to be extremely enjoyable, much more so than being a prosecutor," he says. "I was giving back to true American heroes young soldiers heading into combat, World War II vets who stormed the beaches of Normandy, or retired vets who served our country for 20 years and deserve everything we can give to them. I was just honored to be able to give something back to our military community."

In August, Clark finally hung up his uniform and opened a private practice in his native Ann Arbor, focusing on estate planning and probate law.

He also has teamed with the Community Action Network in Ann Arbor to provide free basic estate planning services for low-income clients of CAN community centers.

"I think it's important everyone find a way they can give to others and my small way is estate planning," he says. "As a JAG attorney I would often do estate planning for young military families who greatly needed it but never would have been able to afford an estate-planning attorney in the civilian world. It always struck me how such a large percentage of the population simply doesn't have the means for such an important thing."

Clark and his wife, a special education teacher in Livonia Public Schools, make their home in Ann Arbor with their 6- and 4-year-old daughters. In his leisure time, he is passionate about music playing it, listening to it, and talking about it.

"Before going to college and joining the Army I owned a music store and record label in Ann Arbor and while those days are long behind me, I've still retained a deep love for music," he says.

As expected, Veterans Day holds special meaning for Clark.

"Veterans Day is important to me because it's a time when those who served, those who truly sacrificed in ways we can't understand, can see they are appreciated," he says. "Some guys go around with bumper stickers, flags, license plates, letting the world know they served, and that's fine, but there are plenty more out there who will never let you know what they've done for our country and it's important those guys know how much we appreciate them."

Published: Mon, Nov 09, 2015

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