Women in Business: Laura Pearn

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Class of 2020 Women in Business Laura Pearn Associate Attorney Ledbetter, Cogbill, Arnold & Harrison LLP, Fort Smith

Residence: Fort Smith

Education: B.S., biology, University of South Florida; M.S., forensic DNA, University of Florida; J.D., University of Arkansas School of Law

Professional background: Pearn joined Ledbetter, Cogbill, Arnold & Harrison in 2019 and has been an attorney since 2014. She also is an adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. She previously was deputy prosecuting attorney for the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney of Sebastian County in Fort Smith and served as a crime scene investigator, auditor, forensic scientist and technical leader for the Albuquerque Police Department in Albuquerque, N.M. Pearn is membership vice president on the board of directors for the Junior League of Fort Smith.

What was your dream job as a kid and why? I knew at the age of 8 I wanted to be a lawyer. My parents were divorcing, and in the midst of the process, I recall interacting with an attorney who spoke directly to me. He sat in a little chair next to me and asked me what I wanted. I knew then I wanted to help people in the same way.

What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career so far? Practicing law is my second career, having returned to school after 10 years in forensics. Overall, I am fulfilled having come full circle to be able to live out a childhood dream. If I had to choose a singular moment, it would have been the first time a victim of a crime hugged me after a trial. Knowing I helped that person obtain a sense of closure and relief made my heart proud.

What advice would you give young women who are currently at the beginning of their careers? Occasionally, try to see yourself through the eyes of those who support you. When they commend you, believe it. As we grow, we are oftentimes the last ones to recognize how much we’ve grown. We hold ourselves back by believing we are still the same person we were, rather than seeing ourselves for who we are. Allow yourself to believe in yourself the way others believe in you. Also, follow your dreams, no matter how long or winding the path may be.

What’s the next big personal or career challenge you plan to take on? My goals are to continue to grow our firm in areas of the law we currently serve, to adapt and change to the needs of our current clients, and to fill the legal needs in the community that we may not be currently serving, with an eye on partnership.

Of all the mentors in your professional career, who has been the most influential and why? Sebastian County Judge James O. Cox. I did not take the traditional path to law school. When my family relocated to Arkansas, we were not within a reasonable driving distance to the state crime laboratory in Little Rock. Since the opportunity to work as a forensic DNA analyst no longer existed, I chose to return to school and become an attorney.

My first year was quite a challenge. Going from a recognized expert in my field to a clueless law student was difficult. I had the opportunity to extern with Judge Cox at the beginning of my second year. The second week in, we walked out of the courtroom after hearing a morning of testimony, and he asked me what I would do if I were him. Suddenly, I regained my voice. He helped me see I could be as competent at the law as I had been at my science. He has supported me ever since.

What’s the last good book you read? “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.

What’s your biggest passion and why? My biggest passion is to help people. It was what drove my career in forensics, what drives my career in the law and what led me to join the Junior League. I am passionate about the mission of developing women, volunteering and building a better community. Our focus is foster care, and I have been blessed to have worked with several organizations through Junior League to support those who find themselves in the foster system, whether as a child or a parent.

Can you share what you have learned about your business from the COVID-19 pandemic? I have learned that we all have the ability to come together and adapt. Behaviors, attitudes, processes and procedures were all impacted by this pandemic. Adaptability, clear-thinking and perseverance have led to the stability that is needed to move forward.

If you have a bucket list, what are the top three things on it? I’m not sure I have a true bucket list, but I know I would love to see Europe, to own a little vacation spot by the water and to serve as a foster parent.