New assistant county attorney
Laura Barrett knew she wanted to be a prosecuting attorney in criminal law since she was in high school.
“I used to watch Law and Order with my mom all the time — “I owe it all to Jack McCoy,” she laughed.
Barrett can joke about how a fictional character inspired her in the early days, but her practice today is very real.
She is Becker County’s newest assistant county attorney. Barrett joined a team of five lawyers and other legal staff that work under Becker County Attorney Gretchen Thilmony.
When she started in Detroit Lakes two weeks ago, she began working in what she calls her “dream job.”
The legal route
A 2003 East Grand Forks High School graduate, Laura Barrett took off to Bozeman, Montana where she would earn her undergraduate degree in political science from Montana State University.
Although the talkative sports enthusiast who loves running, skiing and “bleeds green” from her love of UND hockey, contemplated sports medicine as a career, she knew her strengths lined up better with law.
Lucky for Berrett, UND has a law school.
In 2010 she graduated with a law degree in her hand and a desire to make a difference in her heart.
Out of law school, Berrett took a job in Warroad, practicing both as a prosecuting attorney for the cities of Warroad and Baudette and also working in family law in that region.
Although Barrett liked working in the smaller communities and enjoyed building relationships with the law enforcement agencies there, family law wasn’t always her “thing.”
“Family law takes a certain person to do it,” said Barrett. “It’s emotional at times because you’re dealing with peoples’ children.”
“People go from thinking they’re happy to divorce and having their income split in half but still having the same bills… people were always tattling on each other…” said Barrett, who enjoyed the prosecution side of her job, but was limited to misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors.
“I told myself if anything ever opens up for an assistant county attorney position somewhere, I’d apply — that’s what I wanted to do,” said Barrett, who jumped on the opportunity when a position was posted in Detroit Lakes.
“Laura Barrett comes to our office with a mix of prosecution, child protection, and private practice experience, as well as an energetic attitude that will make her a great assistant county attorney and addition to our office,” said Thilmony.
The single lady and enthusiastic attorney packed up and took her talents to Detroit Lakes. For her, it’s pretty perfect.
“I’m close to home; I like fishing and being around the lakes,” said Berrett, who started work on July 21.
“And it already feels like I’m part of a team… everyone just helps each other,” she said, indicating that she hadn’t experienced that until she got here. “Everyone is so willing to step in and help when I have questions on things — because I am a relatively new lawyer and am new to handling felony cases.”
And taking on more serious cases is something Berrett is anxious to handle.
“It’s fulfilling because you feel like you’re on the good side of things,” she said. “I feel like I’m advocating for people… for law enforcement officers, for any victims there might be and for the community in keeping the bad guys off the streets.”
While Barrett will be assigned a variety of crime cases, she will specifically be working with child protection cases. This will bring her full circle as the attorney who once worked in family law and argued against the county in her court-appointed cases, will now be on the other side.
“It will be hard to think about stepping in and removing someone’s child, but at the end of the day you’re thinking about what is best for the child,” said Berrett. “I couldn’t know a child is living in a potentially dangerous situation and not help them.”
With her sleeves already rolled up, Barrett doesn’t take this dream job or her position in life for granted.
“I’ve met a lot of people along the way who have said they wished they could have went to law school,” said Barrett. “So I know how lucky I am to have had this opportunity.”
“I can see myself staying Detroit Lakes for a very long time.”