Cleve Burke graduated magna cum laude from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina with a B.A. in History and Spanish, and a minor in English. He was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, an honor bestowed on the top 5% of liberal arts graduates from each class. Before law school, Cleve worked as a wrangler at an elk hunting camp outside of Yellowstone National Park and as a fly-fishing guide in Dillon, Montana. Cleve also traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, where he spent a year teaching History and Sociology to high school students in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. 

Cleve is a graduate of  The University of Texas School of Law where he earned his J.D. with High Honors in 2008. He was inducted into the Order of the Coif, an honorary scholastic society recognizing high achievement among law school graduates reserved for the top 10% of each graduating class. While in law school, Cleve served on the Texas Environmental Law Journal, which published his article entitled Massachusetts v. EPA: Standing Up for States’ Rights in the Battle over Global Warming. Following law school, Cleve clerked for the Honorable Will Garwood on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Cleve began his practice in 2010 with Thompson & Knight, LLP, where he focused on civil litigation and appeals. He later moved to Hohmann, Taube & Summers, LLP, a small litigation boutique, where his practice expanded to include bankruptcy and creditors’ rights. Following two mergers, Cleve eventually came to work at Holland & Knight, LLP, which is a global firm with dozens of offices throughout the United States and Latin America. Cleve joined Vela Wood in 2024. He is admitted to practice in Texas, Colorado, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and all federal district and bankruptcy courts in Texas.

Cleve was named to The Best Lawyers in America list for Commercial Litigation in 2024. Cleve is a Texas Bar Foundation Fellow, an honor granted to 1/3 of 1% of Texas attorneys, and has served on the District 9 Nominating Committee since 2022.  

Cleve was born in El Campo, Texas, where his family operated a rice farm for several generations. He moved to Austin when he was 8 and now considers himself a native. He grew up hunting and fishing in Southeast and Central Texas and spent his summers climbing mountains and riding horses in Colorado. Cleve is fortunate to be supported by a loving wife and three amazing children. When he is not chasing after his toddler or shuttling his daughters around, he enjoys being in the outdoors. He is an avid fan of Texas football and Duke basketball. 


  • Litigation
    • Breach of contract
    • Business torts such as breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, tortious interference, and theft of trade secrets
    • Loan defaults, debt collection, and foreclosure on real and personal property
    • Real estate disputes involving commercial leases, sales, restrictive covenants, land use, easements, and lien validity and priority
    • Partnership disputes and unwinding or restructuring jointly owned businesses, including preparation of any associated corporate, finance, and real estate documents
    • Employment disputes involving compensation, non-competition covenants, and non-solicitation covenants
    • Workout negotiations and restructuring of debts and other contractual obligations
  • Bankruptcy
    • Corporate Chapter 11 reorganizations and Chapter 7 liquidations
    • Pre- and post-petition claims against the bankruptcy estate
    • Adversary proceedings involving dischargeability of debts, fraudulent transfer and preference claims, lien disputes, and property of the bankruptcy estate
    • Contested matters involving claim objections, relief from the automatic stay, executory contracts, cash collateral, post-petition financing, asset sales, utilities, and plans of reorganization
    • Purchase and sale of bankruptcy estate assets
    • Post-petition loans to debtors-in-possession
  • Receivership
    • Representation of receivers appointed to assume control of, operate, and sell assets of ongoing business concerns
    • Representation of secured lenders seeking the appointment of a receiver over their collateral
    • Representation of post-judgment receivers in litigation related to judgment collection

Fun Facts:

  • After graduating from college, Cleve spent 75 days sea kayaking, backpacking, and mountaineering in Southeast Alaska and the Yukon. Among other memorable experiences, Cleve was nearly rammed by a leaping orca in his kayak, confronted a grizzly with bear spray and a pocketknife, and helped to helivac his expedition leader after a nasty fall into a crevasse.
  • Cleve has climbed seven 14ers in Colorado and hopes to summit many more.
  • Cleve learned to dive in the Bay Islands of Honduras and has an advanced scuba certification. The highlight of his diving exploits is a 175-foot descent into the Blue Hole off the coast of Belize.  
  • After several close encounters, Cleve has learned many hard lessons on how not to shoot an elk with his bow. He still holds out hope that it will all come together someday, preferably on a nice bull.
  • Cleve still reads every night before bed, mostly picture books (for Teddy) and history (for Daddy). 
  • Cleve speaks Spanish fluently. 


  • Duke University, B.A. in History and Spanish, Minor in English, magna cum laude
  • The University of Texas School of Law, J.D., with high honors