10/30/23 - News
“A Firm on the Rise”: A Q&A with Associate Fraser Holmes
Fraser Holmes joined SHJ as an associate in September 2023. He litigates complex commercial disputes at both the trial and appellate levels, as well as in arbitration proceedings. Before joining the firm, Fraser clerked for the Hon. Bridget Bade of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and, prior to that, the Hon. Sam Sparks of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
Has your experience as a federal clerk made you a better lawyer?
My clerkship experience helped me cultivate real strategic focus. I have a strong sense of how a case fits together (both at the microscopic level and at 30,000 feet), and when to fight and when to give ground. I also know how to pivot between the demands of trial court versus appellate court, especially in my writing. Audience, tone, and content are all different. For example, at the trial level, the emphasis is on big, hard-hitting ideas, because you’re trying to quickly and succinctly draw the reader’s attention and persuade them. At the appellate level, however, you have to be far more nuanced and polished because you’re writing for an extremely learned judge.
You also have a master’s degree in Political Theory. Do you draw on that skillset?
I was very close to finishing my PhD, so I spent quite a lot of time thinking and writing about political theory. The types of arguments we talked through in my courses are similar to legal arguments. What does an ordered society look like? What is justice? What premises form the basis of the law? That training has supported my appellate work immensely. It’s an arena that deals in abstract, academic concepts and demands real intellectual rigor.
What are you currently working on?
One matter is a dispute between a major oil and gas producer and a mid-stream natural gas deliverer that’s tied to Winter Storm Uri. It’s one of several cases involving the producers’ invocation of a force majeure defense that have recently been before the federal courts. Another is a dispute between a primary contractor and a subcontractor regarding the development of the next-generation space suit for astronauts. This one is still in its infancy, but getting to work on something related to spacesuits is cool.
I’m also gearing up to handle three adversary proceedings in a bankruptcy case. The partners have told me I’ll be responsible for organizing strategy, planning and serving discovery, taking depositions, and arguing hearings, which is intimidating but energizing. It’s stuff I wouldn’t have done in Big Law for another three or four years, but it’s a great entrée into the real practice of law, which is why I came to SHJ in the first place.
You previously worked at a large international firm. How have you found the transition to a litigation boutique?
After spending two years in Big Law, I was interested in a workplace that was a little more adaptive. I was drawn to SHJ in particular because it felt truly collaborative, supportive, and committed to helping me grow my own practice. This firm is keen on having young lawyers assume meaningful responsibility and run with it. The support at SHJ is also every bit as strong as what I received at my previous firm. Everyone here is really sharp and willing to pitch in on everything. That efficiency gives our clients a huge advantage.
I’m also excited by the prospect of getting to develop relationships with clients, which I didn’t really do in Big Law. The lawyers here are elegant, creative problem-solvers who will do anything to deliver a great result for their clients. They’re not just growing their own practices—they’re strengthening the reputation and the legacy of the firm as a whole. I love being at a firm that’s clearly on the rise.