From soccer field to legal field, MSU Law grad finds success


By Jake Jenkins

A competitive nature and willingness to endure demanding work are attributes that make athletes special. That is often why so many athletes become lawyers.

Paul Vance is one of those examples of how and why athletes take that training and become successful attorneys.

“The competitiveness of sports translates to many aspects of being a lawyer,” Vance said. “Whether it be litigation or negotiating a contract, having that competitive spirit helps. In sports there is a winner and a loser and in law it can be the same way; you always strive to be on that winning side.”

Before enrolling at Michigan State University College of Law, Vance was a soccer player for MSU whose drive and willingness landed him an opportunity to play at the collegiate level, despite developing soccer skills at a later age.

“Growing up I was sort of a late bloomer in soccer,” Vance said, a native of Flint. “I didn’t play travel soccer until I was in middle school, so I was little behind everyone else. I was fast with great endurance and that’s what interested me in the sport. I could use those attributes to my advantage.”

Vance’s skills and hard work throughout high school was enough to land him a partial athletic scholarship to MSU. Like most collegiate athletes, it can be tough to juggle sports and studies.

“It’s really a job,” Vance said. “It’s a job we like, but it’s still a job. You learn to manage your class schedule with practice and games along with mandatory aspects like weight training and study hall. Dealing with all that, you didn’t have time to get a real job to make money, so you learn at a young age about time management and taking care of business.”

Entering law school and becoming an attorney was something Vance decided in his senior year as an undergraduate. A history major, he knew there needed to be something done to put his degree to use in an impactful way.

“I had an older cousin and brother who were attorneys and kind of always had law in the back of my mind,” he said. “I enjoyed reading and writing and even liked watching the lawyer movies and shows growing up. So, I always thought about it, but I wasn’t sure until my senior year.”

While attending MSU Law, Vance never lost touch with his soccer “family” as the players and coaches still welcomed him with open arms during his time of training to become an attorney.

“It truly was a family atmosphere with the soccer program,” said Vance. “When I was in law school I would participate in practices whenever I wanted to. The weight room in the fieldhouse was always open to me. They even welcomed me into the student-athlete services building to study late nights.”

Despite not being an official member of the soccer team anymore, head coach Joe Baum still allowed Vance to use facilities even during his stressful time of preparing for the bar exam.

“He would allow me to work out in the weight room and then open the locker room for me to shower and eat so that I can make my way to the library to study for the bar,” he said. “Study for the bar is tough if you don’t have that outlet, so it was nice to break up my day with a workout and go back to the library to study.”

Flint, a city that has gained the reputation of being filled with crime and violence within the state of Michigan, has produced many great athletes and professionals. And Vance used this narrative to push himself.

“When I was growing up, there was a sense of pride being from Flint,” he said. 

“As you get older and you meet people who are not from Flint and you tell them where you’re from, you get that side-eye which makes you want to prove people wrong.”

Today, Vance works for Cline, Cline & Griffin, P.C. in Flint where he specializes in providing strategic legal counsel on business and litigation matters for individuals and companies. 

He has extensive litigation experience in state and federal courts in many areas, including commercial and business litigation, medical malpractice defense, real property disputes, employment, and personal injury litigation.

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