Leaura Luciano is a lifestyle expert that focuses on technology, style, beauty, culture and cars
What do you currently do?
I work as a lifestyle brand expert that focuses on technology, fashion, beauty, makeup, styling, cars and anything really that is on the cusp on changing the world
Tell me a little about your legal career
I had a rather brief career in the law I passed the bar in 2007 and started doing litigation support work.
How did you get involved with lifestyle brands?
I also started working at a magazine freelancing my last year in law school and I really enjoyed that. Also, while in undergrad before law school I was working part time in the creative world writing about beauty and fashion, doing makeup, fashion styling and I used to model while in school which I used to fund myself through law school. I continued that throughout law school and was a beauty and fashion editor and freelancing at independent magazines.
Were you always juggling your creative side and being a lawyer?
Yes even when I was doing work full time my side hustle was always something in the creative and editorial world.
How do you think the two meshed?
At the time the two didn’t mesh well I was a creative person by nights and weekends and a lawyer during the day.
What made you eventually say that you were done with the law and that you wanted to pursue a full time creative career?
I looked at the opportunities in the profession at the time and didn’t really see much. I saw colleagues and former classmates had limitations in growth opportunities. The days where people were on a track for a partner were number by the time that I graduated especially with the recession happening (in 2007 after graduating law school) in NY and around the world. I could see that things were changing and since things never fully there are new ways of doing business and the legal profession is slow to adapt and catch on.
How do you think leaving law school and entering your legal career with so much uncertainty?
It was a good experience because fast forward now I work in social media where everything is changing very rapidly and I have to hedge my bets. An example of that is hanging out on twitter and figuring out what it was and what it is and how it works and how to utilize it. Its probably one of my favorite platforms. I have over 100,000 followers on twitter and I am able to connect with people in a big but personal way.
I see that you are connecting with people in another way now that your out of the profession?
Circling back I don’t want to say that I am out of the profession because once you’re a lawyer your always a lawyer. I’m still qualified to give legal advice to friends, loved ones and people in my life. I haven’t given and left my legal background because the education is used for everything that I do and benefits me in every aspect of my creative life
Contracts because anyone who is a freelancer and works independently get a lot of contracts even if it’s a basic invoice agreement because I look at terms differently as opposed to if it was one of my freelance colleagues who will pretty much sign anything and anytime I gets a piece of paper where my signature is required, especially if its my first time doing business with a company or an individual, I go over the terms. Sometimes it’s a matter of not just money and the negotiation of a dollar amount but things like mediation if a contract breaks down how does it get resolved. For big companies they will have clauses saying that any problems will be handled by mediation and you agree to play on their terms and as an independent contractor small claims court can be your best friend and sometimes your worst nightmare. It’s about reading terms clearly and understanding them but also I think my legal background and experience give me the confidence to ask questions to other attorneys or other professionals. Usually when you get those contracts and there are some things that you don’t understand or that isn’t clear, looks weird or isn’t standard in your industry you ask for clarification. Sometimes you catch a mistake that the attorney who was drafting it for the company made because he was simply using boiler plate and it doesn’t apply, it may be harmless but you want to make sure that its clear and mutually agreed upon. That’s a course of business everyday experience for me.
It seems like you apply your legal skills on a daily basis. Do you think that changing careers has allowed you adapt to that change since the law can be so regimented?
I read a study somewhere that something like throughout the course of a lifetime every twelve to thirteen years people change careers and that includes positions, but gone are the days where you work with a company for your entire life and then you retire. I think as a working professional you have to be able to adapt to change whether it’s by your own choice or design for your career. Whether it’s by being laid off or having to work for another company or change careers completely you have to be aware of potential pitfalls in different industries. There are a lot of things to avoid and being able to read legal language takes away a lot of the intimidation factor when your signing anything because bureaucratic forms can be overwhelming for people who aren’t filling out forms all day long and aren’t filling out that particular type of form and don’t have a legal background
Do you think that the financial crisis gave you the confidence to go out on your own and take that chance?
Yes and no I’ve always been an independent spirit in that regard and it really made me come to terms with that because I had been freelancing my entire life. My first job was babysitting, working in cosmetics at the Clinique counter and then freelancing for different beauty companies from there and then working as a model. I was an independent contractor since I was eighteen years old but I think working in the legal world I was looking for opportunities to predict the trajectory of my career and see where I would end up. When the economy was shrinking, bursting, contracting however you want to look at it people were scared and opportunities were thinning out or disappearing and it felt like things changed forever. It wasn’t how people who graduated a few years earlier were on a partnership track or were opening their own firm and hanging their proverbial shingle out. I didn’t think that that was the best thing for me and there were more opportunities that I could create for myself. Starting out in the editorial world I realized that I could write stories about all thing lifestyle because her interests are not just beauty and fashion but travel, technology and cars. Just practicing law it would limit those creative opportunities.
Do you think that you transitioning out of law and the key to that was embracing what you saw yourself doing and applying what you’ve learned in law school and going from their?
Yes with 20/20 hindsight it makes sense but at the time did I know what I was doing and was it any clearer no. It was scary and that was the reality. I’m leaving a professional field to do something that was creative and unstable but the reality is at least in my experience law was just as erratic or unstable or less stable than any creative job that I have taken since
What are your long-term goals?
My long-term goals are to continue hosting events that I do on camera, red carpet hosting events and grow that. I don’t know if that necessarily include a career in TV per se because theirs so much in terms of technology and social media that is growing. Between YouTube and live streaming like periscope, which is one of my favorite platforms now and it’s growing. It’s all about what’s happening in the moment and the way that people consume media and technology I think a lot is going to change and it certainly has. In the past ten years that I have been in the industry there have been a lot of changes. TV used to be my goal but now that’s not the end all be all and I don’t know what the next big thing is it might be periscope but it might be something that’s coming out next week
Were their any mistakes that you made along the way when you started out freelancing? If there is any what’s the advice that you would give someone on how to avoid them?
Getting compensated and if you think someone is shady then trust your gut with that because a lot of people will promise you the sun moon and stars and you don’t get paid. Going to court is not the answer because you may win a judgment and collecting may prove more difficult. So when it comes to things like getting paid there are a lot of opportunities that I haven’t taken because if I’ve heard something even a rumor or a whisper even if it seems like really good money or a dream opportunity I might have to pass on it because sometimes its more trouble than its worth to try to get paid. You prep do the work and invoicing and following up is infinitely more difficult than the job itself and that becomes a second job and that’s not what you signed up for. Invoicing and getting paid is part of freelancing but its best to avoid those obstacles if you can. My number one tip is to trust your gut when taking work
Any final words of advice or encouragement for anyone considering a career change from the law?
I think you have to know that’s what you want to do and once you leave the profession to be sure. I’ve dabbled with going back and I’ve been asked by recruiters and headhunters what I’ve done and theirs a little bit of once you leave the profession coming back isn’t easy so just be really clear and make sure that its what you want to do. That’s not to say that its impossible and theirs always a way back if you really want it but being really clear on what you want to do. Having those goals and not that you have to spell everything out just be really clear that’s the leap that you want to make. You can soar or it can be a rough fall so be prepared.
Thanks for such an amazing Leaura.
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