Lauralee Vallon was a senior business major at Texas Christian University and needed one more upper-level elective to graduate. Despite the fact that she was not contemplating a legal career, she obtained authorization from the applicable university departments and opted to take an advanced legal course for pre-law majors, as it fit her schedule.
Surrounded by budding lawyers, Vallon was selected to participate in the class mock trial, which involved prepping for the case, cross-examining witnesses, and trying the case against classmates. After this experience, she was hooked.
Vallon, now the Brazos River Authority's General Counsel, said experiencing the significance of legal practice in that one class really changed her life and motivated her to pursue a career in law.
"Sometimes, I think God has plans for us we don't anticipate," Vallon said. "I love the law. It's an exciting field that provides the opportunity to help others and really make a difference. I'm very thankful."
As part of Women's History Month, the BRA is highlighting some of the women who are attributed to making the organization what it is today. Since 1995, U.S. presidents have issued proclamations designating the March as "Women’s History Month,” celebrating the contributions women have made to the United States and recognizing the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields, according to The Library of Congress.
Importance of water
Vallon, who grew up in Arlington, Texas, was hired as Staff Counsel on Sept. 10, 2001, and later promoted to Executive Counsel on Nov. 1, 2001. She has been the Brazos River Authority’s General Counsel since March 11, 2002, serving on the BRA’s Management Team and overseeing the Legal Department.
Her family practically predicted her career path.
When she was just four years old, her family joked that she’d be a lawyer one day because she talked a lot and liked to debate.
The idea never crossed her mind until that fateful class, she said.
Ironically, as she was about to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business, her law professor encouraged her to go to law school. He told her that he had only advised three students to pursue a legal career in all his years of teaching, and she was the third. So, on a whim, she took the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and decided to attend law school.
After obtaining her Doctor of Jurisprudence, she began her career working for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Vallon also worked for Clay Dugas and Associates, the top-rated plaintiff’s firm in the Beaumont/Orange area. After working as a litigation attorney, she decided to return to public service and became the City Attorney for Hillsboro, Texas. After representing the City of Hillsboro in negotiations with the BRA, the BRA approached Vallon and offered her a position.
“I was told that the BRA was impressed with my performance in the negotiations and felt that I could be a valuable asset for their legal department,” she said. “I’ve always recognized the significance and importance of water and how critical water is for the growth of Texas. Working for a river authority that provides water to a good portion of the state was really an excellent opportunity for public service. I think water is the lifeblood of Texas, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Vallon said she loves her job and is thankful for the opportunity to serve with the BRA team. She said the BRA is a top-notch organization with incredible people that create a cooperative environment and accomplish great things.
“BRA has an awesome team of professionals. Everyone has a voice, and all voices are heard. I am pleased to work in an environment the fosters teamwork, cooperation, and a spirit of public service,” she said.
As General Counsel, Vallon is responsible for ensuring sound legal advice is provided for the entirety of the organization, from the Board of Directors to management, to each and every department. Her goal is proactive liability avoidance by working issues early in an effort to ensure sound decision-making, maintain statutory compliance, and avoid unnecessary liability. Coordination, teamwork, and early intervention allow the legal team to provide beneficial legal support to an organization working diligently to meet Texans' growing water needs. For the lawyers at the Brazos River Authority, every day is filled with new challenges and opportunities, which keeps the job exciting, she said.
Vallon said she enjoys the sense of accomplishment derived from being a part of a team that works on major projects which bring water to Texas. She attributes her longevity with the organization to her desire to be a part of something important and provide meaningful public service and stewardship. Vallon emphasizes her thankfulness for the opportunity to serve at the BRA, with an awesome staff and talented coworkers.
“BRA is an amazing organization. The fact that, during a pandemic, we really haven’t missed a beat really says something about the versatility and dedication of this organization,” she said. “While we have been out of the office and working remotely, productivity has continued to escalate, and projects are moving forward.”
Overall, Vallon said, she prefers to stay busy and active both at work and in her personal life. Vallon emphasizes her role as a mom, noting that she and her husband Jeffrey have four wonderful children who are a “great joy and inspiration.” She said they enjoy raising registered Brahman cattle and quarter horses on their property, while providing a home to a wide variety of other animals. If she’s not working BRA legal issues, you will find her driving the tractor, riding horses, or just being with her kids on the farm, all of which she is thankful for.
Vallon said her female role model is Sandra Day O'Connor, a trailblazer in women's legal field. O’Connor was the first woman on the Supreme Court, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and served from 1981 until 2006. In recognition of her lifetime accomplishments, President Barack Obama awarded Justice O’Connor with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2009, according to the Supreme Court of the United States. Vallon said she was always inspired by O’Conner, who exemplified strong Texas women who have devoted themselves to public service.
In discussing O’Conner, Vallon referenced O’Conner’s guidance:
“It is the individual who can and does make a difference even in this increasingly populous, complex world of ours. The individual can make things happen. It is the individual who can bring a tear to my eye and then cause me to take pen in hand. It is the individual who has acted or tried to act who will not only force a decision but also have a hand in shaping it. Whether acting in the legal, governmental, or private realm, one concerned and dedicated person can meaningful affect what some consider an uncaring world. So, give freely of yourself always to your family, your friends, your community, and your country. The world will pay you back many times over.”