James Derek grew up in Mississippi, was the child of a single mother and is a first-generation college student. He graduated high school in the top 1% of his class and was also Mississippi’s Most Outstanding Student-Athlete in 1999. In high school, James Derek won 11 state swimming titles and set five state records.
At the University of Cincinnati, he was the Most Outstanding Freshman on the men’s varsity team and was a finalist at the Conference USA Championships in 2000. James Derek came out that year and chose to leave the team after his freshman year. He graduated college with a Bachelor’s in English in 2003 and, after taking a year off of school in New Orleans, LA, began graduate work in the field of gender and sexuality studies. Before law school, he attended courses at the Sexuality Institute at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, taught undergraduate courses in gender and sexuality and took positions on non-profit boards such as Equality Ohio, Equality Cincinnati and GLSEN Cincinnati.
James Derek recently earned a MA/JD at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. His Masters thesis research advocates for a new paradigm in anti-harassment legislation, specifically within schools, and argues against the focus of classic liberalism on discrete and insular categories of identity. James Derek has received numerous awards for his academic performance and has had the honor of working with several state and federal judges, including the Honorable Deborah Batts (S.D.N.Y.) and the Honorable Michael Barrett (S.D. Ohio).
In March 2009, James Derek moved to New York City and joined the firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, where he is an Associate in litigation. His practice primarily is the defense of companies in complex securities fraud class actions. James Derek also maintains pro bono clients, which have most recently been gay and/or HIV-positive men that are seeking political asylum in the United States.
Outside of work, James Derek pursues various athletic goals and regularly competes in triathlons and charity runs. His long-term goals include to continue the practice of law, but he also hopes to originate a non-profit foundation that supports single mothers with children that are involved in after-school sports programs.