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CAFS Alumni Spotlight: Emily Lyons JD'14

Emily Lyons headshot

Working in private practice in Washington, D.C., this alumna focuses on food regulation while staying true to her farming roots.

By Michael Rice MFALP'20

Emily Lyons JD'14 grew up on a small conventional dairy farm before coming to Vermont Law School (VLS) to broaden her "understanding of the intersection of food, agriculture, environment, and the law." Once she arrived, Lyons loved the fact that everyone on campus had such varying ideas about food and agriculture. "There were so many opportunities to learn and challenge each other’s way of thinking,” she recalled.

After graduating, Lyons spent a summer back on the family farm studying for the bar, then moved to D.C. to intern at the National Farmers Union while looking for fulltime legal work. She soon found it, going to work on regulatory affairs and as legal counsel for the International Dairy Foods Association. There, she felt lucky to have amazing mentors who helped her build on the legal education she received at VLS. "It was a very intense, but extremely fulfilling job to have right out of law school," she said. Her work touched on many different regulatory schemes including food safety and defense, labeling and marketing, organic, environmental, workplace safety, commodity programs, and market regulation. She also learned valuable lessons on "balancing the need to protect public health with the realities of manufacturing environments."

After about four years at the association, Lyons decided to move to private practice. She is now a senior associate at Husch Blackwell LLP in Washington, D.C., living what she calls the "unglamorous but extremely rewarding Big Law associate life." Her work focuses on food regulation within the firm’s FDA practice. "In my current work, no day is the same as the next," she said, adding that it's particularly rewarding to have clients call her directly looking for help on a complicated topic. She loves being able to work in D.C. while keeping her "roots firmly set in food and ag."

"Vermont Law School is known for having a great environmental program and it stands out in the pool of other D.C. resumes."
–Emily Lyons JD'14

Lyons knows that a degree from Vermont Law School gave her a leg up as she searched for jobs. "Vermont Law School is known for having a great environmental program and it stands out in the pool of other D.C. resumes," she said. The VLS experience also helped her “to be able to bring together food and ag stakeholders with disparate points of view."

She adds that there are so many opportunities in the food and ag space, whether you’re looking to land in D.C., another city, or a rural area. "Never be afraid to try something different or think outside the box," she said. "Find the right place for you to make an impact."

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