July 23, 2014
Alumnus Rules as Administrative Law Judge, Continues to Support Debate Team
March 31, 2014
Britt Clark BA’06 is an administrative law judge for the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation.
Britt Clark is a fast talker.
The UT Dallas alumnus honed that skill on the UT Dallas debate team. He now puts it to good use as an administrative law judge for the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation in Fort Worth.
College debate takes place at about 350 words per minute, and although he doesn’t know his exact speed, Clark said people often comment about how fast he reads the scripted introduction before a hearing.
“I have a reputation for talking very, very quickly,” said Clark BA’06. “Debate makes you talk quickly. Like auctioneer quick. Even in my ‘normal tone,’ I am the bane of court reporters who — even though I'm a judge — tell me to slow down.”
That’s not the only thing people notice about the public official. Clark’s young age is noteworthy.
Now in his early 30s, Clark says his age gave pause to others in the division; but his post-college experience as an attorney with a disability law firm and a workers’ compensation law firm made him the perfect fit for the job.
He explains workers’ compensation trials as more similar to arbitrations than jury trials. When an injured worker brings a claim regarding workers’ compensation benefits, the case goes to mediation. If mediation fails, Clark said, it goes to a judge within the Workers’ Compensation Division.
The judge hears the case from start to finish. Physicians testify and the insurance company presents evidence. The hearing finishes after about two hours, and the judge writes a decision and puts it in the mail.
Workers’ compensation law has a lot of room for argument, Clark said, and seeing skilled advocates argue well is the most enjoyable part of the job.
“I see great attorneys arguing on both sides, and their arguments help further develop my understanding of the law,” he said. “… Seeing each side take documentation and use the law to effectively argue their point is incredibly interesting. There's never a dull day.”
At the Forefront of Building Debate Team
Clark said his experience on the UT Dallas debate team — where he refined his critical thinking, listening, argument construction and research and advocacy skills — eventually led to his selection for the position.
Clark grew up in Deer Park, Texas. His father died of cancer, and his mother did not have the money to put him through college. He credits high school debate for keeping him on track. After a “mildly successful” senior year, Clark applied for and earned a debate scholarship to UT Dallas.
“I feel forever in debt to UTD and the debate program for the incredible, positive changes in my life. Debate turned me from an introverted, insecure kid into someone who has no fear of speaking in front of others.”
“I feel forever in debt to UTD and the debate program for the incredible, positive changes in my life,” Clark said. “Debate turned me from an introverted, insecure kid into someone who has no fear of speaking in front of others.”
He credits much of his success to guidance from UT Dallas director of debate Scott Herndon, who was assistant director when Clark joined in 2002. Back then, the program only had four members.
“Britt sort of stepped into a situation where we were still building the foundation of what it was going to be, and what eventually became, a very successful debate team nationally,” Herndon said. “Britt was at the very forefront of that.”
In fact, in 2004, Clark was on the first UT Dallas team to qualify for the National Debate Tournament and put the team on the map as a regional powerhouse.
And Clark didn’t plateau. Throughout his college career, he got better and better, Herndon said.
Herndon was not surprised to learn of the former student’s latest achievement.
“If I think back to that 17-year-old kid I first met in the little broom closet in Founders that the debate team used, yes, [his career path] is far more surprising,” he said. “But when he graduated, he’s just such an outstanding person that nothing that he would have accomplished would have surprised me.”
‘Whatever It Took, Britt Did’
In 2006, Clark graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in government and politics (now political science). He then attended Baylor Law School. His debate experience earned him the Leon Jaworski Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduate Advocates, which paid half of his law school tuition.
Herndon said it’s hard to imagine the debate team without Clark.
Luckily, he doesn’t have to.
The alumnus remains involved with the organization. He serves as president of the UT Dallas Debate Alumni group, which he cofounded. He assists in the team’s coordination with University administration. He attends the first squad meeting each year to meet the freshmen and talks to high school students at debate camp. He follows the team’s results online during competitions. He even volunteered when the University hosted the National Debate Tournament a couple of years ago.
“Whatever it took,” Herndon said. “That’s honestly what it will say on Britt’s epitaph, ‘Whatever it took, Britt did.’ Since his, there have been five, maybe six generations of debaters, and every one of them could tell you they’ve met Britt Clark, and he’s had an impact.”