Nicolle Vasquez Del Favero received the YLC’s R. Edwin Burnette Jr. Young Lawyer of the Year award for 2019 earlier this year.
How do you feel about receiving the Young Lawyer of the Year award?
Extremely humbled! I moved to Virginia in August of 2016, following my husband on active duty orders with the U.S. Marine Corps. Restarting my legal career in a new state felt like a daunting task, but with the VSB’s Military Spouse Provisional Admission process I was able to waive into the bar and get involved with the YLC soon after. I am truly grateful for the support I’ve received from my Virginia colleagues and the YLC as a military spouse and relative newcomer to the Virginia State Bar.
You mentioned that you waived in from another jurisdiction. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I began my legal career in sunny Honolulu, Hawaii. No, I wasn’t on vacation or living there at the time—I moved to Hawaii as part of a post-graduate legal fellowship I received after graduating from law school. The Skadden Fellowship is a two-year public interest legal fellowship presented by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP to 25 young attorneys from across the country who are passionate about pursuing the practice of public interest law on a full-time basis. As part of my legal fellowship I worked at the Domestic Violence Action Center in Honolulu, representing victims of domestic violence affiliated with the military in divorce, paternity, and restraining order cases. After my two-year fellowship, my now-husband proposed (I like to say it was to ensure that I would actually leave the island), and I followed him to Norfolk, Virginia.
What do you credit as the basis for your achievements?
Hard work, adaptability, and a great support system! Like many first-generation Americans, I watched my parents work hard to create new opportunities for themselves and for me. My parents’ work ethic taught me that there is no limit to what we can achieve if we keep pushing forward.
Over the last ten years I’ve moved multiple times: Miami, Gainesville, Boston, Washington D.C., San Diego, Honolulu, and Norfolk. Each move brought new legal training and personal experiences. Each move also brought a new office, sometimes new area of law, and new co-workers. Being adaptable and open to new experiences took me outside of my norm and allowed me to grow as a person and a lawyer.
Lastly, I am a firm believer in strong friendships, especially female friendships, and lifting each other up. The legal profession—and really life—are hard enough as it is; surrounding myself with friends who encourage my success and lift me up when I’m my own worst critic has been an integral part to my success.
What advice do you have for young attorneys?
As cliché as it sounds, don’t be afraid to try new things in the legal field. I began my career practicing family law and while I loved it, I also accepted the fact that I burned out from the emotional baggage attached to the work. When I moved to Virginia, I did a short stint at a mid-sized firm, before moving to the Department of the Navy’s Office of General Counsel. If you would have told me in law school that I would enjoy working on real estate, contracts, and environmental issues, I would have thought you were crazy. Today, however, I love the diversity of legal issues my job presents, the ability to travel, and the investment in my growth as an attorney. Taking a job in an area outside of my comfort zone allowed me to find immense job satisfaction.
How would you describe your career thus far and what else do you hope to achieve?
My career thus far has been a journey to job satisfaction, work-life balance, and professional growth. Throughout my time in the legal field I’ve learned to honor my boundaries, know my worth, and what I will and will not stand for in the workplace. All have been hard but necessary lessons that have helped further my career and development as an attorney. Currently, my job with the Department of the Navy’s Office of General Counsel provides all of the above attributes and more. I’m excited to be able to grow as a civil servant in the government and am hopeful that I can continue this work at a post overseas in the future.
In marrying my passion for advocacy with my work, I’m hopeful that I can also grow in the government and have the ability to influence policies and effect change on issues affecting military families.
What do you wish you could spend more time doing outside the legal practice?
Spending more time on self-care—whether hiking with my little family, enjoying a good meal, or having a lazy day on the couch. Outside the legal field, I spend a great deal of my time volunteering and serving on non-profit boards. While these activities fill my cup, they also take a lot out of me. I’m currently working on perfecting the work-extracurricular-personal life balance. Having more time to do that would be great, though I’m fully aware that may just require more hours in a day.