Women in Business: Rebecca Hurst
Smith Hurst PLC
Education: B.A., accounting, Arkansas State University; J.D., law, University of Arkansas School of Law; LL.M., taxation, New York University School of Law
Professional background: Hurst has been managing partner since co-founding the firm in 2011, helping Smith Hurst become a leading regional business and private wealth law firm, with offices in Fayetteville and Rogers. She has established herself as a premier deal lawyer, an area of law generally considered to be dominated by male lawyers.
What brought you to Northwest Arkansas? Law school in 2002.
What are the attributes of a good leader? Empathy, ambition, introspection and flexibility.
Best advice you’ve ever received? Work hard and be proud of who you are.
Did you have any mentors when you were breaking into the legal profession? I did. As corny as it sounds, my law partner now [Jim Smith] is one of them. He actually taught me in law school and was one of the ones who hired me at our old firm. And also Jim Harris, who was my senior partner in my practice group at my old firm, who’s now passed away.
What has been your biggest career break? I honestly think it was when we started our law firm. That really helped push me in the right direction, for sure.
Do you plan to be in NWA five years from now? Absolutely. I’ve put down roots here and with the firm. I expect that we’ll continue to have a great presence in Northwest Arkansas.
Have your career aspirations evolved through the years? They really have. I started out my practice at our old firm really just doing estate planning work. As the years have gone by, I still do estate planning work but also so much business transaction work. When I was in law school I would always say that I wanted to be the corporate counsel for the St. Louis Cardinals. That was my dream job. Now, I don’t get to do it for the Cardinals. But I do get to do a lot of that kind of corporate representation together with mergers and acquisitions, and I really enjoy that. It’s a lot of fun and a great practice.
Last book you read? “Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles.” It’s Don Felder’s autobiography about his time with the Eagles.
If you had $1 million to give, what causes would you support? The first one would be the Morgan Nick Foundation. I love what they do to help families of missing and exploited children. I would also like to give to the arts, through the Walton Arts Center or a similar organization.
To unwind, I like to … Go to a great concert. Rock concert, usually.
I wish I knew how to … play bass. Everybody always says the guitar, but for whatever reason I’ve always wanted to play bass.
Person(s) you most admire? I would say my parents. I was raised in the military. I always say I have had three constants in my life, and that’s been my parents and my sister. And honestly, I can put my sister in there just as easily as my parents. All three of them are wonderful people and hard-working and very giving and super intelligent. I’m very blessed to have a wonderful family that raised me.
What part of your job do you love, and what part do you hate? It’s probably kind of the same. I really enjoy the great businesses and clients that we get to work with. And at the same time it’s very hard — because we have so many great clients — to be able to make everyone the priority I want to make them. I don’t want to say it in a negative way because it’s in no way a reflection of the clients. It’s more about everybody can’t be a priority all the time. Somebody has to come first, and that’s the hardest part in that respect. You don’t want to have to prioritize, but someone is first in line.
You are also an adjunct professor at the UA. What’s most rewarding about that? I really enjoy getting to work with the up-and-coming lawyers and seeing things through their fresh eyes and with a new perspective. They haven’t been jaded by the “real world.” But it keeps me really fresh in my approach, which I really appreciate.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry? Try to work to build other women up and work with others in your profession. The legal field has traditionally been so male-dominated that there can be a tendency — which I’ve seen throughout the years from both men and women — to step on other people and try to get ahead. I think it’s really important to work with your peers to help build each other up.