Seth C. Pearson: 2016 Best and Brightest

Seth Pearson

Seth C. Pearson

Duke Law School

Hometown: Syracuse, NY

Undergraduate School: Georgia State University

Undergraduate Major and Minor: Bachelors of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During Law School:

Current Positions and Memberships

President of OUTLaw 2015-2016

President of the Duke Black Graduate and Professional Student Association

Treasurer of the Hurston-James Society 2015-2016

Member of the Duke Graduate School Council of Presidents 2015-2016

Member of the President’s Council on Black Affairs

Member of the President’s Committee Studying Recognition for Julian Abele 2016

Member of the Provost’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee 2016

Member of Search Committee for Director of Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity 2016

Member of the LGBT Task Force 2015-2016

Working with GPSC Diversity Committee on establishing racial sensitivity and diversity training across the nine Duke Graduate and Professional schools

Past Activities and Positions

Vice-President of OUTLaw 2014-2015
Member of the MLK Planning Committee 2016

Nominee for Graduate Student Leader of the Year at the Julian Abele Awards 2015

Where have you interned during law school?

Thompson Hine (Atlanta)

Foley & Lardner (Boston)

What practice area will you be specializing in after graduation? Private Equity/Venture Capital

Why did you choose to attend law school? My son had some run ins with the law in his youth and I was at a loss as to how to advise him. I never wanted to be in a position where I couldn’t advocate for the people I loved. Law school allowed me to gain the knowledge and fundamental understanding of how the law worked. Law school also introduced me to a career that would provide me with the kind of salary that will allow me to take care of my family. Before law school, I was working 70 hours a week to make $30,000 a year just to feed my kid. I knew that working as an attorney would mean long hours and sometimes tedious work, but I was no stranger to that. What was new is being compensated for the time I put in in a way that means I could be a resource to the people in my life.

What was your favorite law school class? My favorite law school class was Business Associations with James Cox. I found not only the subject matter riveting, but James Cox is one of the most engaging professors I’ve ever had. He illuminated a difficult and complex subject in a way that made it palatable and digestible. To say he made it simple would be a stretch, but making such an infinitely difficult subject learnable, particularly to someone without an inordinate amount of experience in industry was quite a feat in my book.

Which attorney do you most admire? Ed Snow is one of the attorneys I most admire. He was introduced to me when I was working in a call center in Atlanta. I was just thinking of law school at the time and hadn’t even re-enrolled as an undergraduate. Despite this, he was still willing to meet with me and talk to me about his career and what he had done and give me insight on some decisions I needed to make. We have continued a relationship throughout the years and he has been a real encouragement to me in my journey through law school. I respect not only Ed’s career and accomplishments, but his willingness to take the time to inspire and advocate for those who are just beginning this journey. He is the kind of attorney, and human I aspire to be.

What have you enjoyed most about law school? I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to connect with my fellow classmates, both in the law school and beyond and the opportunity to participate in the evolution of this University. I consider myself a complete Duke student as much as law student. I have had the opportunity to work with students, staff and administrators all over campus and really watched the evolution and shift in the character and culture at Duke. I have watched them struggle with their history and attempt to address who they will become in the future and being allowed to be a part of that is something I have truly enjoyed.

What word best describes your professional brand? Relentless. I am kind of a force of nature when it comes to going after what I want in life. I refuse to take no from someone who can’t give me a yes, and anytime I encounter an obstacle I am able to quickly pivot and adjust, but I never stop. I am never paralyzed by difficulty or challenges. I will always find a solution even when no solution seems evident.  I refuse to lose.

If you were debt free, how would you spend your first paycheck after landing your first law job?  Furniture. Coming home to a beautiful place is really important to me. I think after working those long hours I need to come home and say, this is what I am working for. The challenge would be convincing my boyfriend that the huge brown plush sectional I purchased matched his black and white design aesthetic.

“I knew I wanted to go to law school when…I sat in my first mock criminal law class. I was watching the cold calls and said to myself “this is it, this is where I am supposed to be.”

“If I didn’t go to law school, I would be…pursuing my MBA at Duke. Either way I would have ended up at Duke.”

Which academic or personal achievement are you most proud of? I am really proud to have served as a White House Intern in the Obama Administration in the Executive Office of the President in the Office of Presidential Personnel. It was an experience that has opened so many doors for me and being allowed to meet and converse with President Obama and hug First Lady Michelle Obama. I was able to work for this great man and feel that I was contributing to the work and mission of this Administration. It is an experience that is unparalleled and something I will be able to tell my grandchildren about.

Fun fact about yourself: I auditioned for American Idol the year Fantasia won, slept on the sidewalk in the rain in NYC and ultimately lost to a girl who forgot the words to “I Love Rock & Roll” (The Britney Spears version) and burst into tears.

Favorite book: The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo

Favorite movie: The Color Purple

What are your hobbies? What hobbies? I’m in law school, but if I had any they would be playing the keyboard and singing.

What made Seth such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2016?  

“I think two things are really special about Seth. One, he has no fear. Law school is tough, but Seth has been through tougher things, so he’s just not intimidated by any of this stuff. So he’s willing to raise his hand and speak his mind, get involved, submit a petition to the Dean or be appointed to committees grappling with the most difficult issues that the university faces. But at the same time, he has this generosity of spirit that makes his involvement much more likely to be constructive. It’s not just that he’s willing to hear people out who disagree with him, it’s that he actually likes and is friends with people who disagree with him. Our politics are very, very different, but he doesn’t just tolerate me, he likes me and we’re friends. We respect each other and we’re interested in what the other has to say. He can reach across all sorts of divides because he’s sincerely interested in what people think and because he has this great respect for other people.”

Ernest A. Young
Alston & Bird Professor of Law
Duke Law School