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Zeke Fortenberry

Zeke Fortenberry

Dallas, TX

Title: Assistant District Attorney

District Attorney Collin County Texas logo


School of Law Class of 2007

Juris Doctor

What does being one of Pepperdine's 40 under 40 honorees mean to you?

I am humbled to be selected as an honoree. I know there are so many alumni who do such great things to make this world a better place. I am thankful to serve in my role in the criminal justice system to seek justice for victims and hold criminals accountable for their actions.

Describe your success:

I have been trying criminal cases to juries since my first month in the district attorney's office. As my experience grew, so did my responsibility. Ultimately I have successfully tried all types of criminal cases, including capital murder. What is more important to me than my success in the courtroom is my commitment to giving back and teaching others who are interested in becoming a trial attorney. The time I spend teaching trial advocacy, coaching mock trial, and mentoring law students is what makes me feel most successful when I see those students grow into thriving young lawyers.

How does Pepperdine play into your success?

Pepperdine Law taught me the fundamental skills to be a great trial advocate. But perhaps more importantly, at Pepperdine Law I also learned to integrate my faith into my career. As a Christian lawyer, I strive to practice law with the utmost integrity and the highest ethical standards.

Who inspires you and why?

My wife, Natalie Smeltzer Fortenberry, inspires me everyday. Natalie works as a corporate lawyer at big law firm, and despite her hectic schedule she never fails to squeeze in time for pro bono work to help underprivileged people with their legal problems. I am inspired by her dedication to serve others in mission work and nonprofit organizations.

What's next for you? What's your five year outlook? What's your ten year plan?

I hope to keep doing what I've been doing—being an effective advocate in the courtroom using the skills and abilities I've been blessed with and giving back by teaching and training the next generation of lawyers.

What's your secret sauce?

Coffee, coffee, and more coffee.

How do you prepare for a busy day?

I get up early in the morning so that I have quiet time to gather my thoughts and prepare for the day.

What is your favorite quote?

"The only real lawyers are trial lawyers, and trial lawyers try cases to juries." –Clarence Darrow

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." –Micah 6:8