Want to Save the World? Meet a Lawyer Who’s Doing It

Lara Pearson photoAre you in law school because you want to make the world a better place? It is possible!

Today, I’m delighted to interview Lara Pearson, a certified do-gooder who’s using her legal training for good.

And, interestingly enough, we met on a ski lift (just proving that you really don’t have to play golf to get ahead in life).

Check it out!

I went to law school to make the world better, but all I do is read for class and take exams. Do you have suggestions for connecting with “the real world” that I want to help?

You should have gone to Northeastern! I’m kidding, kinda.

While Northeastern has a public interest focus, most other law schools do offer some kind of public interest program, whether it’s volunteering with legal aid or taking a criminal practice clinical and working with indigent clients.

I also suggest volunteering with local non-profits that need legal assistance. I helped out with legal research for litigation briefs and by monitoring litigation dockets in cases related to the one on which I was working on for the the non-profit.

I also volunteered with my local law library helping connect folks with the legal services they needed. Many family law courts also need volunteers.

I’m considering applying to law school, but I’m concerned I’ll have to give up all my values to get a job. What are the three most important things I should think about before applying?
  • A. Why are you going to law school — what’s your personal mission? (Hint — write this down)
  • B. Do the schools to which you have applied have programs that support your mission? Law Schools, like undergrad, have different focuses and strengths. For example, my Alma Matter, Northeastern, has a great public interest program, while the University of Vermont is well known for environmental law and University of Pennsylvania is known for fashion law.
  • C. You don’t have to become an attorney. Lots of people use their law degrees for other things — just look at Alison Monahan or my friend Marc Ross who runs the non-profit Rock The Earth.
  • D. Ok, so technically this is 4, but remember, I’m an attorney, not a mathematician. Not all law firms are evil; some are even soulful! Do your homework to find those that share your values. If you value the triple bottom line — people, planet & profit — you can find like-minded firms that are involved with the Law Firm Sustainability NetworkSocial Venture Network, 1% for the Planet or that are Certified B Corporations.
Could you talk a bit about what you do in the average day at work and how it’s different from (or similar to) what you thought you’d be doing when you started law school?

I first wanted to go to law school to be a family law attorney and later to do women’s rights work.

Once I got to law school I became totally disillusioned and no longer wanted to be an attorney.

But then, in my very last academic semester, I met Professor Stacey Dogan. And Stacey Dogan made me fall in love with intellectual property law, and especially trademark law.

I always envisioned myself as a litigator living in a big city. Instead my husband (then boyfriend) convinced  me to move to Lake Tahoe. We moved here in 1988 and I completed my final two co-ops (internships) in Carson City, Nevada. I interned first with the Nevada Supreme Court and then with the Nevada State Public Defender’s office. I was licensed to practice law on October 12, 1999 and I’ve been a trademark attorney at Lake Tahoe ever since.

I started out with a small Nevada law firm where I felt unappreciated, leading me to hang out a shingle in July, 2002. I then ran my own firm (focusing exclusively on IP law) until December, 2009 when I joined a virtual law firm headquartered in San Francisco.

I left that firm in the middle of last summer to join Exemplar Law as a trademark attorney and Exemplar Companies (a law firm, business consulting firm, and investment bank) as the Sustainability Steward.

I also run Brand Geek, a media platform where branding law and do-gooder business happily collide.

I work from a home office, so I get to wear my yoga clothes to work. I’m not a morning person (unless it’s a powder day), so I get to my office between 8-9 am & I don’t schedule meetings on powder days. 🙂

In the mornings I focus on billable work. My clients are around the globe and e-mail is my primary mode of communication, which often makes it hard not to get distracted! In the afternoons & evenings I focus on new client development, marketing, sustainability issues and the never ending administrative work.

That’s probably the biggest surprise to me — how much admin work there is!

I envisioned lawyers doing non-stop legal research and writing, but in reality I spend only 30% of my time actually doing legal work.

The rest of my time is spent getting new work to do and hopefully making the world a better place — both through our firm’s sustainability efforts and the education I provide through Brand Geek.

— – —

Thanks, Lara! Nice work and I hope we’ll see each other on a powder day soon.

Connect with Lara
Want to keep abreast of what Lara’s up to? Check out the BrandGeek website and Facebook page or follow Lara on Twitter.

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    I’ld like to join this group, please as this is my mission too…



  2. Thanks for sharing this! It is nice knowing that there are environmental law attorneys out there who are able to use their expertise for good. It’s also nice that an environmental attorney can use their expertise outside of law- it makes that law degree a lot more versatile. I hope this article was able to help law students stay focused on their environmental law career!


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