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Community Highlights: Meet Lori Vella of Law Office Lori Vella

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lori Vella. 

Hi Lori, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
I wanted to be a lawyer nearly my entire life. Viewing it as a child, there was something so “majestic” and “honorable” about serving the public by assisting with their legal needs. Of course, here and there, I had other career paths, such as a veterinarian and, of all things, a comedian. But I still get to take care of people and laugh with them every day. As for my specialization in Estate Planning and Probate, I had to come full circle. During law school, I specialized in this area by choosing electives surrounding trusts, taxation, and planning. By the time I graduated, I was not sure what to do, and where to go, New York or Florida. 

After law school, I ultimately accepted a position with the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is one of Florida’s state appellate courts. I figured it would get me some great experience working closely with judges and also help identify my path by exposing me to many areas of law–criminal, family, etc. However, while it was a great experience, it didn’t provide that “calling” that I often heard about. After my clerkship, I landed an amazing job at an insurance defense law firm. I met wonderful professionals and learned so much. But again, fate was at work. As luck would have it, I would be granted my wish to have a child (one month before turning 40!). Wanting to focus completely on this blessing, I quit my job and left it all behind. I officially retired as an attorney. 

During that time period, I found other things to greatly amuse me….and to cause incessant worry. One of the worrisome things was contemplating (as new mothers often do) the potential dangerous and extremely scary contingencies that may happen in life. Words such as “custodial guardians” and “trust creation for minor children” started flashing through my head. What do I need to do…? How will I do it…? Wait a second, I said to myself–I have a legal degree…why can’t I figure it out for myself??!! And, that’s what I did. 

I started to frequent the local (mostly empty) law library every weekend to learn a thing or two. The librarians came to know me. Who was that mom in the corner feverishly copying pages and asking about the library’s Estate Planning collection? It was easy reading for me, and very interesting as well. I recalled the years I spent in my previous legal position and how hard it was sometimes to get through the esoteric legal jargon. This was different. This felt right. It felt like a calling. Now I knew what that term meant. I felt as if I was being led to learn more in this area. 

At that time, I decided to start a new hobby. “Would you like me to put together guardian nominations for you,” I asked local moms. Then, it moved to Wills and setting up simple trusts naming financial guardians for the children. I formed my official law firm but with the sole intent to serve the people I knew (my “mom friends”) with no intention of finding success or even making money. 

However, a couple of years later, after a divorce, I had to decide my next step–find a job out there with a law firm to guarantee myself a steady paycheck, or to make this law firm happen. I have to admit, the thought of finding success on my own felt far out of reach at first. I never ran the business, nor set it up, to be a full-time income. However, the other choice (going into work/finding childcare for my son) was so overwhelming in other ways, that I knew I had to make my own law firm happen. I had to follow my heart. When you follow your heart, and your reasons are strong enough, that positive mindset kicks in. I started to deeply believe in myself and my ability to make great things happen, in my own way. This was my chance to present a law firm to the public in a different way. More casual, down-to-earth, transparent, and…full of love. Each client’s plan would be created with the highest level of care as if I’m standing in her shoes. As one mother to another, I would help protect the children by contemplating any negative consequence and creating well-rounded complete plans to safeguard. 

I started with rock bottom goals. Any dollar I made was a huge victory. But I believed that because I had so much “heart” for the subject area, years of general attorney experience under my belt, and a fervent desire to be with my son, I could make it work. And, work I did. I put my heart, soul, sweat, and tears into the process, learning all I could about not only about the legal area, but how to run a business. I cannot tell you how often I was on the computer with my toddler sitting on my lap. 

Finally, when he went to first grade, I was off and running…nothing could stop me. I had hours alone to dedicate to the law firm and I went for it, full out! I would be given about 7 months until the pandemic hit. The business, the world, our lives, came to a crushing halt. I took a couple of weeks to let the shock settle and decide my next step. As I know mindset is all, I took some motivational classes. It was just what was needed. I decided to focus on marketing, automation, and procedures. Slowly, the pandemic also started making people aware of estate planning. I expanded into probate, guardianships, elder law, and special needs trusts. The New York office came next. From there, it has been a true joy ride. The pleasure, pains, and rewards of being a sole proprietor are things I wouldn’t change for anything. My life has changed. My outlook has changed. And I now truly understand the “calling” that so many other lawyers feel. I was led it be here. It is my path. The clarity in knowing that you have found your chosen professional creates this true synergy. I help people every day. My team members do too. Through it all, we have fun, we get work done, and we give back to our community by providing “legal documents with love.” 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I wouldn’t describe my road as smooth but it challenged me to rise above and get better. I see my road as a constant one of self-development, positive mindset, and deep interest in knowing as much as I can about my subject area. I truly believe that outlook is everything. We can focus on all that has gone wrong and get trapped in a cycle of self-pity. Or, we can accept our challenges with the new perspective that each trial we have faced has taught us something. What can we learn from this experience? How can we avoid this challenge again? Or, how can we see that it was not even a “challenge” but an opportunity to grow? My story is a true “fake it until you make it” testimonial. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon the realization that many, even those in important positions, were not these untouchable omniscient creatures that I was not worthy to be around. And what’s more is that they were down-to-earth lovely people that wanted the best for others. I had nothing in which to be afraid. There was no room for intimidation. If I could counsel any young female, I would say this. “Hold your head high. Walk quickly and with confidence. Look people in the eye. Lower your voice and keep it steady when you speak.” Somewhere between my early and my late 20s, I learned these tricks. Now, when I see young women that seem uncertain or even suffer from “imposter syndrome,” I remind them that nearly everyone has those feelings but if you walk the walk, talk the talk, and believe in YOU, you are unstoppable. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Law Office of Lori Vella is a law firm that specializes in Estate Planning (Wills and Trusts) and Probate. We also handle business succession planning, guardianships (elderly and minor), special needs trusts, and elder law. We have offices in Tampa, Florida, and Rochester, New York. We can virtually serve all of Florida in each practice area. In New York, we focus on estate planning and probate in the Upstate area. 

In developing our law firm, the goal was to breakdown the disconnect between lawyers and their clients. We sought to create an atmosphere of trust and transparency. The front page of our website says, “The mission of the law firm is to give outstanding service to our clients through honesty, integrity, and creativity. We make the lawyer someone that is approachable and helpful to the public. The ultimate goal is for you to complete your time with us feeling joyous and peaceful that you did what you needed to secure your family and its future. We will always do our very best for you. You can believe in us.” 

What sets us apart is that we go the extra mile. We will work extra hours to get something right. Our clients are taken care of as if they are family members. Our plans are also well-rounded to include wallet cards, fridge magnets, and our #GetMyGuardian Guide, that focuses solely on children. We also want parents to capture their emotions during this process so we encourage them to download our free book on Kindle called, “The Live-On Project.” It provides a step-by-step guide to write letters to your children to increase future connections. 

We take pride in our Signing Celebrations as we believe that every positive accomplishment should be celebrated. Before Covid, when we formalized estate planning documents, we would serve cake, champagne, or both. Our clients need to be acknowledged for the selfless task of creating documents and setting forth desires, to avoid family conflict and create a beautiful legacy. Legacy is more than leaving behind financial wealth, it is setting up a plan that allows your family an easier path. We are all about “peace of mind” planning. That is what we deliver. 

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
I have a lot of people to thank. My son that allowed me the time to work on my craft, keeping himself busy playing legos, or playing with the paperclips during one of our Signing Celebrations. My father, mother, sister, and brother that cheered me on, asking about the law firm. My clients during that first year that took a chance on my abilities. My team members that support me behind the scenes to put it all together. My group of local estate planning attorneys that offer advice, practical tips, and camaraderie. My referral partners that trust me enough to refer their own clients. I’m thankful for all of the people that love to hear about my business, are happy to have endless conversations about the mechanics, and patiently allow me to mull over my thoughts about how to get better. This law firm has been a team effort. As a team, we want to change the ways that law firms do business. We lead with heart, integrity, and transparency. Apart from my son, this calling has brought the most incredible happiness to my life. So, a big thank you to all of you that have had any role. 

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Image Credits

Monica Mae Photography

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