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Patrick James Cleary graduated from NC State in 2006 with a dual degree in Paper Science Engineering & Chemical Engineering. Patrick also earned a B.S in History in 2006 and in 2009, a law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.  We reached out to Patrick to find about his current career, and advice for current students.  Thanks for sharing Patrick!

Experiences at NC State

  • Internship/co-op experience: Internship – Kimberly Clark Experimental Mill, Summer 2003, Undergraduate Research in the Wood Chemistry/Biomaterials Laboratories (Prof. Kadla) – Fall 2001 to Summer 2005, Undergraduate Research at the Faculty of Forestry – University of British Columbia – Summer 2005, Internship, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Summer 2006
  • I also served as a TA for Dr. Jameel’s Unit Operation class, helped Dr. Venditti rewrite the coursepack for Process Controls, and tutored chemistry and math in the College of Natural Resources.
  • Favorite Class: Dr. Jameel’s classes – all the PSE faculty have a gift for teaching and a desire to see students succeed; Dr. Jameel had an ability to explain the concepts in a way that every student could grasp. I can’t count the number of times he changed explanations, provided additional support, or did one on one tutoring to help everyone in his classes. Even when he was mad or disappointed in us, you knew he wanted us to achieve. I always felt like I needed to do extra preparation to do well in his classes.
  • Best memory at State: Too many to single one out in particular. I recall especially when I first figured out a material and energy balance in CHE 205 – I knew then that I could handle the rigors of the program. I had struggled (like everyone in the class) to take the abstract notions in Felder and Rosseau into workable solutions on the mandatory green-lined paper. But one night it just clicked.
  • Worst memory at State: Watching Philip River’s last game at Carter-Finley – Maryland edged us out on a last minute field goal. It was a cold night, the traveling Maryland fans showed their exquisite sportsmanship, and the loss capped a very frustrating regular season. I was numb, literally and figuratively. I was in the lower deck in Section 7, and hearing the Maryland fight song as time expired should have made me mad, but i felt nothing. I also felt gutted for Rivers. He had been such a great quarterback and leader; watching him lose on Senior Night just felt wrong.
  • Clubs/Hobbies: Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, Student Government, TAPPI, AIChE, Benjamin Franklin Scholars, Catholic Campus Ministry, running (did my first marathon senior year).
  • Favorite part of PSE Program: My favorite part of the program was how you knew everyone in your classes, and knew a lot of fellow classmates in the classes above and below you. There was a collective sense of wanting everyone to do well, and a shared goal in working together. In particular, I remember how my group in Dr. Heitmann’s Papermaking Class worked together to solve a tricky problem on the Wolfpack Baby.
  • Most important thing PSE taught me: How to translate technical and legal concepts to other smart people who don’t have my combination of experiences and education. I work at lot with other lawyers and a lot with engineers/scientists. PSE taught me how to think and approach questions and then gave me the tools to prepare answers that were accessible to all audiences. I couldn’t tell you how to determine the kappa number of pulp in the lab, but if I was asked, I could explain why kappa number meant to another lawyer. Or, I can explain to my clients how additional testing of their product will improve their legal and regulatory position in the US.

Current Career Information

  • Company/job position: Attorney, Bowman and Brooke LLP
  • Years at current job: July 2010. I practice in the areas of product liability and financial litigation. I’m licensed in both South Carolina and North Carolina, and handle many cases for our clients in both states. I’ve also been fortunate to participate in some very high-profile cases that have had me around the country and meeting clients around the world. Of note, I worked on the Toyota unintended acceleration litigation and am working on the Takata airbag litigation.
  • Favorite part of current job: I get the opportunity to work with really smart people – both clients and other lawyers. I’m pushed every day to grow and expand my knowledge base.
    I’m constantly challenged to learn about new and existing technology, ranging from reusable shopping bag manufacturing to tires to autonomous vehicle technologies. I’ve got a particular interest in autonomous vehicle technologies; they are going to change our societal fabric in ways none of us can imagine right now.
  • Biggest accomplishment in your career: Early in my career, I had the lead responsibility in preparing a very detailed presentation for a United States District Court. The presentation explained to the Court how the technology worked, how it was tested, and how it detected/responded to faults. It took approximately four months to prepare, refine, and improve the presentation. There were meetings with the clients engineers, multiple focus group presentations, and innumerable late nights tweaking and editing. But when the presentation went well, it made a significant difference to our clients position with the Court and with the judge – the other side made repeated comments about how good and clear the presentation was.

Advise for Current Students

  • Two things. First, read everything you write from the back to the start before you send it. I’ve found that doing this improves the clarity and quality of my writing, and tends to make everything I write shorter and more effective. Second, challenge yourself with a non-PSE class. You might just find a hidden interest in a subject you know nothing about, gain a perspective on a different part of the world, or get a great story to use at a family reunion, work meeting, or around a campfire.

Personal Information

  • Hometown: Hartsville, SC
  • Family: Married to Marjorie – she works at the Nature Conservancy in South Carolina. Her work ends up touching on many biomaterials, forestry, land conservation, and water management policy work. So I’m still hearing about many of the biomaterial and environmental issues we touched on in the program.
  • Hobbies/interests: I’m involved with a number of organizations in Columbia – I’m on the young professionals board for Historic Columbia, I attend all the events at the Art Museum and see a number of films at our local independent theater. I’ve got a plate on the wall at Columbia’s Flying Saucer – I’ve made a lot of progress while watching the Pack play.
    Most of my weekends are taken up with home repairs on our historic bungalow – there’s always another tool to buy.
    Through the South Carolina Bar, I lead a team of volunteers who prepare free income taxes for low-income and elderly clients, help prepare wills for Habitat for Humanity homeowners and screen candidates for judicial positions across the state.

Any Other Comments to Share

  • Stay in touch with the faculty when you graduate – they’ll want to hear from you and root your success.