Raised in Indianapolis, Fred attended Brebeuf Jesuit High School and then Indiana University, earning his bachelor's degree in 1981 and a law degree from the Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 1984.
Following graduation, Fred served as a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge S. Hugh Dillin, also an IU alumnus. From 1989 to 1993, he was chief of staff to former Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh, and, in 2000, helmed the transition team chief for former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson.
Peterson appointed Fred, then a partner in the law firm of Baker & Daniels (now Faegre Baker Daniels), to the city's Capital Improvement Board, which oversees Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Convention Center, Conseco Fieldhouse and Victory Field.