Leveraging Georgia Tech science education into a career in business law.
Personal fulfillment comes from achievements of groups in which he plays a part; lifelong relationships were key factors in success.
A native of Atlanta, W. Clayton “Clay” Sparrow Jr., attended Murphy High School, now known as the Alonzo A. Crim Open Campus High School.
After receiving a B.S. in Physics from Georgia Tech in 1968, he joined the U.S. Navy.
While in the Navy, Clay decided to build a career in business law. To that end, he earned a J.D. degree from the University of Georgia in 1976 and an MBA degree from Georgia State University in 1979.
Clay says his Georgia Tech education and the lifelong relationships he cultivated have been key factors in his success. He is currently senior counsel at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, in Atlanta.
What is your average workday like?
The workday includes walking to the office, preparing a report of time spent on previous day on client matters for billing, respond to and filing emails, attending conference calls with clients and attorneys, managing the legal work of colleagues, performing legal work and delivering results to clients for which I have responsibility, attending to staff matters, and assisting community support organizations in which I participate.
I most enjoy the productive relationships with people, particularly assisting with problem solving and providing leadership that improves situations.
How did Georgia Tech prepare you for your current position?
The rigorous requirements for success at Georgia Tech taught me that I am mainly responsible for the results of my actions and for achieving my goals.
I learned discipline, focus, and determination, which have been the key to the success of my service in the U.S. Navy after Tech and in my career as a business lawyer.
My service in campus organizations while at Tech taught me leadership. I learned that personal fulfillment can come from the successful achievements of groups in which I have played a part.
What has been the greatest challenge in your professional life so far?
While in the Navy, I decided that business law would be my career. The reputation of my Georgia Tech diploma got me into law school. I subsequently also earned an MBA in finance via night school. This degree helped overcome the assumptions of employers that I would follow a patent law track.
The next greatest challenge was to use the abilities I learned at Georgia Tech to analyze, understand and solve problems of clients so as to retain and develop sufficient client relationships to support adequately my chosen vocation.
What has been the most gratifying experience of your professional career thus far?
A major event early in my professional career was clearing all obstacles, including government opposition, to the acquisition by my client, a publicly traded Japan-based manufacturer of electronic components, of a Canada-based multinational company in a similar business. This acquisition allowed my client to expand to Europe and become a leader worldwide in its industry.
This case occurred during my early years of practice and was an experience of personal fulfillment through team achievement. I was convinced I had chosen my vocation well.
What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
Self-reliance. And that relationships established at Tech can become lifelong.
What is a vivid memory of your time at Georgia Tech?
The Whistle, 8 AM classes in the winter, and fun with friends at the fraternity house.
What advice would you give to current students at Georgia Tech?
Put personal achievement related to your coursework as your top priority, but also spend precious time in organizations that do good works and afford opportunities to make many friends.
If you could have taken an alternative career path, what would you be doing instead?
I would either be an emergency room surgeon or part of a team that saves struggling businesses.
What’s something about yourself that’s not obvious to your colleagues?
I have jogged 40 Peachtree Road Races; 2019 will be No. 41.
My four brothers and our families have gathered for a week at Tybee Island each summer since 1980.
I love classical music and cosmology.
If you could have dinner with any person from history, whom would you invite?
Amadeus Mozart. So I could introduce him to rock and roll, as well as possibly prevent him from dying so young.