Numb3rs

Alan Perry posted the nation’s second-highest CPA exam score—while in law school

Published in 2007 Mid-South Super Lawyers — December 2007

When Alan Perry was in high school, his father told him to be a tax lawyer. Why?  Because it was an easy way to make money. Without hesitation, Perry dropped his plan to become an engineer. “It was an ill-informed decision,” says Perry, now a corporate attorney at Forman Perry in Jackson. “As impressionable as I was, I had no idea what lawyers or accountants did until I began studying it in college.” 
 
He learned fast. Perry graduated first in his class from the University of Mississippi and earned the second-highest grade in the nation on the Certified Public Accountant exam. “I was shocked, absolutely shocked,” Perry says of his test score. “They invited us to the Waldorf Astoria in New York to celebrate.” It’s not as though he studied accounting day and night, either. He prepped for the CPA exam while a first-year student at Harvard Law—where he also graduated first in his class. “That was also a shock,” he says. “I considered myself way out of my league when I started law school.”
 
Despite all his scholarly accolades, Perry didn’t spend much of his youth in the library. “I’m good at taking tests,” he says. “I was a Sigma Chi and did all the things that college kids do.” He remembers looking at old CPA exams before the big test, but doesn’t recall his score. “The test has changed,” the ever-modest Perry says. “Now it’s probably a lot more sophisticated.” 
 
After graduating from Harvard in 1972, Perry embellished his résumé at Butler Snow, where he practiced tax law. But he soon realized that his dad’s recommendation wasn’t quite right for him. “Tax law was too much an in-office job,” he says. “There was too little interaction with people and it wasn’t quite flexible and creative enough.” 
 
Now he focuses on corporate and commercial litigation and executive advising at Foreman Perry, where he defends some of the most powerful players in the accounting world. “Our biggest cases are out-of-state companies being sued in Mississippi,” says Perry, 60, who also represents banks and takes on the occasional financial fraud case. “I get people going in the right direction.” 
 
The mastery of the unknown is what invigorates him. “I get to reinvent my job every year,” he says. “I’m constantly learning things that I’ve never had to deal with before.” 

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