A time when there is so much change and innovation in how we power the world

A Conversation On Lessons Learned & Life In The Legal Profession With Marian LaLonde

As a leader in our Natural Resources practice group, attorney Marian LaLonde’s practice focuses on the mining industry, solar energy development and equine law, and Marian also has extensive experience in tribal law matters, as well as counseling tax-exempt organizations.

We recently had that pleasure of talking with Marian about her vibrant life in the legal profession.

You’re new to the firm, and one of our rising superstars! What drew you to Fennemore? And what’s your experience been like so far?

I have been fortunate to work opposite of Fennemore attorneys my entire career and those same people have become cherished friends and mentors. I have always been incredibly impressed by the caliber and professionalism of Fennemore attorneys, but the culture is most significant. This firm is full of fun, genuine and remarkable people!!

As a leader in our Natural Resources practice group, what legal trends are you currently seeing in this vibrant sector? And how will the rest of 2022 unfold?

This is an exciting time to be in the Natural Resources field. This will continue way beyond 2022, but the transition to green energy and electric vehicles is at the forefront. It’s not just the US…the entire world is shifting its reliance on fossil fuels to sufficiency though renewable energies. But wait…some of the most important questions in this shift remain unanswered.

For example, where is all the lithium needed for batteries going to be mined? Are there enough electric charging stations for all of the electric vehicles that will soon be on the road? With the interest in green hydrogen on the rise, especially in the west, where is the water going to come from?

Moreover, with emerging technologies, there is often no legal playbook on how to develop, regulate or operate these projects. It is an exciting time to be in the industry and fun to be a lawyer at a time when there is so much change and innovation in how we power the world.

What would you tell your younger self – or a 1L at the U of A’s James E. Rogers College of Law now contemplating a career in the legal profession?

To be brutally honest, I did not enjoy law school. There were parts and people that made it tolerable, but I really questioned whether this was the right profession for me. Talk about imposter syndrome…I just didn’t belong and I struggled under the traditional law school pedagogical methods.

Fortunately, I started clerking for a firm my first summer of law school and quickly realized that practice is nothing like law school. The practice of law is full of diverse opportunities and really can be whatever you make of it. I never thought I would end up as the career law firm type, but go figure…here I am.

Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?

I am blessed to have many heroes, but there is one person who continues to have a lasting impact. I was on my own at age 15 and struggling to stay in school. With the help of a Tucson nonprofit, Youth on Their Own, I moved in with one of my high school teachers. Not only did she help provide for my basic life needs, so I could graduate from high school, but she gave me the greatest of all gifts…she challenged me to be more and do better. It is a basic mindset, but what she instilled in me has shaped me tremendously and continues to guide me through life. Regardless of circumstance, no one is stuck. Adversity is the prosperity of the great and your focus determines your reality.

Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? And how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?

I never use the word “failure”. It may sound cliché, but professionally, they are all learning opportunities. We are human and making mistakes and learning along the way how to better avoid them, is what makes us good lawyers. If I had to characterize something during my career that I would consider a “failure” that would be with respect to client management.

I once had a big client early in my career who was a complete bully and severely mistreated staff. It was a substantial relationship and I did not intervene like I should have because I was worried about the dollars in the door. That was a big mistake that I will never repeat again. Regardless of the size of the client, I have to look out for my team first and foremost. Once I fired the client, it was easier than expected to replace the work with good client relationships. Life is too short to work for jerks.

What’s the best – and worst – piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

One of my law professors shared the best piece of advice that helped keep it all in perspective…“Those in law school who get A’s, teach. Those who get B’s end up working for those who get C’s.” Ironically, there is more truth to that than I could have ever imagined.

The worst piece of advice I received as a newly minted lawyer was to not hang out with or go to lunch with the staff. Fortunately, I recognized what complete garbage that was from day one. As a young lawyer, the staff will make or break your career. Remember that.

During our ongoing pandemic – the NEXT normal, what are you listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming?

There is a silver lining to every situation and the pandemic “next” normal has given me more time with my dogs and horses. My entertainment habits haven’t changed that much, but as a Marvel and Star Wars nerd, the Disney Plus series shows have added so much to my watch list. It is hard to find the time to keep up!

You have such a sense of “your why?!” and a passion for animals. Talk about your life outside of the office on your ranch – and competing in Three-Day Eventing.

My husband and I have “children of the fur” as I like to call them…seven dogs and four horses. Aside from keeping everyone healthy and exercised, there is never a shortage of something to do or repair. Just do me a favor and don’t ask me if I like the show Yellowstone! 😊

My husband is a K9 handler in law enforcement and although he would like to blame me for the collection of dogs, it is not all me. The horses are legitimately my fault though. Horses are my passion. They keep me in good shape and grounded. I would argue that there is nothing more special than feeling totally in sync with your equine partner soaring over a series of fences on course. There is also nothing more instantly humbling than your equine partner disagreeing with your crazy ideas and drilling you straight into the dirt.

I do all of my best thinking early in the morning when I’m cleaning stalls and even when I have to fix a broken water pipe in just above freezing weather (my reality last week), there is something magical and therapeutic about being in the company of our four-legged companions. Animals really are our best teachers and I owe them a great deal for helping me get through the toughest times in my life.  

Many thanks to Marian for inspiring us with your approach to life – and your career in the law!

To learn more about our forward-thinking natural resources, energy and environmental law team, please visit: https://www.fennemorelaw.com/services/practices/natural-resources-energy-and-environmental/

Get MORE. Insights

Stay ahead in the legal world – subscribe now to receive the latest insights and news from Fennemore Law Directly in your inbox!