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Lori Cole connects with the community


On June 23, Lori Cole joined Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave P.C. The 32-year old lawyer returned to working for a law firm after more than two years with EMC Insurance Cos. in the subrogation department.

When the insurance company paid a claim to one of its clients but a third party was responsible for the damage, it was her job to recover the funds from the third party. Cole said she took the job because it offered a unique opportunity to work on large loss cases and learn about things she hadn’t experienced with her previous employer, Peddicord, Wharton, Spencer & Hook LLP, where she had worked first as a clerk, then for more than a year as an attorney.

“I missed clients,” she said of her time at EMC. “I missed the outside interaction. The bulk of my practice was being done from inside the office. There was not a lot of interaction with Des Moines or the Iowa legal community, which I had really enjoyed at my previous job.”

In her new position with the Bradshaw firm, Cole mostly performs insurance defense litigation. She is usually hired by insurance companies to represent them or their clients in automobile accident, property damage claim or insurance agent errors or omissions cases.

“I love the variety,” she said. “It’s different every day. I’m always learning something new, and I love the human contact with clients, witnesses and other lawyers. Litigating is very social.”

Cole took a somewhat unusual route to becoming a lawyer. She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in public relations and mass communications in 1993. She then became the lifestyles editor for the Marshalltown Times Republican and enrolled in the Iowa Army National Guard. Cole went through basic training and advanced individual training, which taught her to be a legal specialist, assisting judge advocate general attorneys. She served in the national guard for three years before going to graduate school.

“I actually knew I wanted to go to law school back when I was [at UNI],” Cole said. “I thought that the military experience would help in law school.”

She said the discipline she learned with the National Guard helped in her later academic endeavors and gave her confidence.

“Law professors were a lot less intimidating after drill sargents,” Cole said. “No matter how much they wanted to embarrass you in front of your peers, they weren’t going to make you do push-ups.”

In December 1998, Cole received her law degree from Drake University. When she went to work for Peddicord, Wharton, Spencer & Hook LLP, she said was “naively surprised” to discover how much she had yet to learn. It reminded her of a saying she learned in the National Guard: “No one is so wrong as the man who has all the answers.”

“You don’t have to have all the answers,” Cole said. “You just have to know where to find the answers.”

Being a lawyer can be stressful, Cole admits. She says lawyers are sometimes viewed with hostility and get blamed for things that aren’t their fault. She jokes that if she had another job, she would be a massage therapist, because “its peaceful and relaxing and everyone loves you.”

When not in the office, Cole volunteers with the Family Violence Center as a first responder. She answers calls to a state-wide hotline and is on-call to go to local hospital emergency rooms to serve as a support system and let victims know what options they have. She provides child care at the Family Violence Center once a week while mothers are in group therapy. Cole has also been elected to the board of directors of the Children and Families of Iowa Foundation, and starts her term this month.

To ease the stress of her job and activities, Cole works out every morning at 5 a.m., and occasionally sets aside days relax and focus on herself. She says she’s not quite sure what the biggest challenges of working for the Bradshaw firm will be, but she enjoys the learning curve and the attitudes of the people around her.     “It’s a large firm, and it’s professional yet informal,” she said. “People are working hard, but they genuinely enjoy what they do. That’s important.”   

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