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Arkansas Business Power List 2016: Law

4 min read

R.T. “Rick” Beard, 69

Managing Director
Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard PLLC, Little Rock
In 2013, Rick Beard became managing director of Mitchell Williams, Arkansas’ second-largest law firm. A litigator, Beard has made a practice of representing insurance companies and self-insured corporations in civil litigation, malpractice, personal injury, product liability and similar disputes. Beard is a fellow in both the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Academy of Trial Counsel. He earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1971 and was admitted to the Arkansas bar the same year.

Jeffrey J. Gearhart, 51

EVP, Global Governance and Corporate Secretary
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville
After joining Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in 2003 as vice president and general counsel, corporate division, Jeff Gearhart began receiving a series of promotions. In 2007, he became senior vice president and deputy general counsel. In 2009, he took over as the head of the retailer’s legal department when he was promoted to general counsel. A year later, Gearhart was named Wal-Mart corporate secretary. In 2012, his responsibilities expanded to include oversight of compliance, ethics and investigations. His current title is executive vice president, global governance and corporate secretary for Wal-Mart. As the head of global governance, Gearhart’s responsibilities include the oversight of the company’s legal, compliance, ethics, and security and investigative work around the world. Before joining Wal-Mart, he was a partner with both Kutak Rock and the Rose Law Firm. Gearhart is on the board of directors of the Walton Arts Center and the President’s Council for Mission of Hope, Haiti. He graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Law.  

John Goodson, 57

Keil & Goodson, Texarkana
The Texarkana class-action attorney John Goodson is a partner at one of the most lucrative law firms in Arkansas. Keil & Goodson is one of three firms that together generated $420 million in attorneys’ fees tied to settlements in class-action lawsuits in Miller County between 2005 and 2012. Goodson also has been a key campaign contributor in several political races. In January, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Goodson, his law firm and five out-of-state law firms were among the biggest campaign donors to state Supreme Court justices, including his wife, Justice Courtney Goodson. John Goodson also contributed to state Auditor Andrea Lea’s campaign in 2014. A sign of his influence: In 2015, based on Goodson’s recommendation, Lea awarded a no-bid contract to out-of-state attorneys for a contingency fee nearly twice as high as other states have committed to pay in pursuit of unredeemed U.S. Treasury bonds that belonged to Arkansans. Former Gov. Mike Beebe named Goodson to a 10-year term on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees in 2011.

Matthew J. Hass, 39

Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association, Little Rock
Matthew Hass joined the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association in 2004 as director of politics and government relations. The state’s largest professional association of plaintiff’s attorneys has nearly 1,000 members. In his government affairs director role, he managed one of the state’s largest political action committees and represented the interests of the injured before the Arkansas General Assembly. In 2009, he was named ATLA’s youngest ever chief executive officer. He serves on the executive committee of the National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives and in 2018 will be its president. Hass received his bachelor’s degree in communication in 1999 from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.

Edwin L. Lowther Jr., 62

Managing Partner
Wright Lindsey & Jennings LLP, Little Rock
After graduating with honors in 1981 from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School (now the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock), Ed Lowther joined Wright Lindsey & Jennings. He’s been there ever since and is now its managing partner. Lowther is a trial lawyer whose practice revolves around class-action and multidistrict litigation, malpractice defense and product liability. He has served as two-term chairman of the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Model Jury Instructions-Civil, which is responsible for drafting model instructions for civil litigation in Arkansas.

Karen L. Roberts, 45

EVP and General Counsel
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville
In 2013, Karen Roberts became the general counsel for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. She oversees the retailer’s legal department, which is responsible for handling all legal matters affecting the company in both its U.S. and international markets. She also makes sure Wal-Mart is in compliance with laws and regulations where it operates. In addition, she heads department initiatives such as the company’s Medical-Legal Partnership Program and its diversity and inclusion efforts. Roberts joined Wal-Mart in 1995 as a real estate manager. She has had various positions since then, including EVP and president of Walmart Realty, with responsibility for a real estate portfolio of nearly 1 billion SF. She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law.

J. Shepherd Russell III, 62

Chairman and Managing Partner
Friday Eldredge & Clark LLP, Little Rock
In 2012, Shep Russell was named chairman and managing partner at Friday Eldredge & Clark, the state’s largest law firm with 87 attorneys on staff. A lawyer since 1978, he practices in public finance law, which involves bond and other debt offerings by governmental units in Arkansas and elsewhere. He serves as bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel and trustee’s counsel in these transactions. Russell is listed in the Best Lawyers in America for four areas of law: municipal, project finance, public finance and structured finance. He graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1978.

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