By Eric Butler
Whether it is on the basketball court or in the courtroom, Nelson Franse has always found ways to come out on top.
A former Clovis High and University of New Mexico basketball standout, Franse is drawing accolades as a defense attorney.
Franse, 42, is a director in the professional liability department for the Albuquerque law firm of Rodey Dickason Sloan Akin & Robb, where he has been practicing for 16 years.
He’s been recognized this year by Best Lawyers in America, a yearly publication that names the top 50 attorneys in the country. Another law publication gave Franse the highest rating for “demonstrating the highest professional and ethical standards” after surveying members of the New Mexico Bar Association.
Franse said the honors are nice but he hasn’t reaped any financial dividends — yet.
“It’s great to get. I guess you would hope that (the honors) would bring some more work in,” Franse. “But I don’t think I’ve had anyone call and say, ‘Hey, I want you because of this.’”
At Clovis High, Franse’s long-range shooting helped the Wildcats win a state championship in 1979. He also was a varsity tennis player from the time he was an 8th-grader at Gattis Junior High and valedictorian of his graduating class.
It was that combination of smarts and shooting touch that made him attractive to college recruiters.
“When I was working in Austin, Abe Lemon, the University of Texas basketball coach, found out I was from Clovis,” said District Judge Ted Hartley, who was a neighbor of the Franse family and employed Nelson in his Clovis law office in the early 1980s.
“He says, ‘How well do you know Franse?’ I said, ‘Pretty well,’” Hartley recalls. “Lemon says, ‘I gotta have him. He’s not only one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen — he’s also got a four-point (grade average).’”
Franse was the UNM’s most valuable player for the 1983-84 season and later worked as a commentator for Lobos games.
In the courtroom, he was part of the law team that successfully sued the NCAA over the eligibility of then-UNM player Kenny Thomas, who is now with the Philadelphia 76ers.
These days, Franse’s clients mostly are in need of the best defense available.
“I’ve represented lawyers who have been sued, I’ve represented manufacturers of products,” Franse said. “It’s usually people being sued. Usually, they want money from my client.”
Franse typically downplays his ability in any of the areas he’s succeeded.
That, said his father, Roy Franse of Clovis, may be one reason that Nelson is so well-liked by his peers.
“What’s kind of funny is that he took the same kind of competitiveness and hard work from sports into being an attorney,” Roy Franse said. “It’s kind of interesting that he was able to do that. He hates to lose.”