Lexington, KY – Laura D’Angelo may have grown up in Meaford, Ontario, in a family that had never had horses, but the Kentucky equine industry got into her blood at a very early age.
“I had been asking for a pony since I was 2 or 3 years old,” D’Angelo said. “No one in our family had horses at all, so they could never figure out where I got this idea from.”
When she was 8 years old, her stepfather granted her wish and bought D’Angelo her first pony. She spent much of her childhood riding and showing ponies, if not reading horse magazines in her bedroom (which was adorned with a James Archambeault poster depicting a Kentucky horse farm).
The path D’Angelo took to becoming a Lexington lawyer focusing on the equine and gaming industry, however, was not linear;
she got an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Guelph in Ontario and spent a year doing research in exercise physiology. Due to encouragement from a mentor who owned the stable where she kept her horses, D’Angelo went back to school to pursue a master’s degree in business, leading to a job in brand management with Proctor & Gamble – she was on the team that conducted the worldwide launch of Pantene and developed Head & Shoulders’ selling line, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
One aspect of brand management that particularly fascinated D’Angelo was the role of the legal department, which analyzed the risks of the claims the campaigns were proposing. After a couple of years, she decided to pursue a law degree, and the University of Kentucky, with its proximity to the Kentucky Horse Park that she had grown up reading about, seemed like a perfect fit.
“I didn’t think when I moved here that I would necessarily be here forever,” she admits, noting that the transition of moving from one country to another, particularly leaving behind her family and college friends, was more difficult than she had imagined.
“Law school and the horse industry gave me sort of a base to meet people and really sort of engage with the community,” she added, also crediting her involvement with Commerce Lexington, where she has met lots of people in various professional industries, for giving her an anchor in Lexington and helping make the city feel like home.
Today, D’Angelo is a partner with a firm that has been voted one of the best places to work in Kentucky for five consecutive years. She lives in Chevy Chase with her 6-year-old daughter, and the two of them find the time to ride their horses (Billable Hours, Lanzer and a pony named Valentimes) as often as possible. She is grateful for the nonlinear path that has gotten her to this point and feels that the unlikely marriage of science, business and law education has afforded her a unique advantage in her field.
As for advising recent graduates who are trying to pave their own paths, D’Angelo emphatically encourages pursuing a law degree, if it is an option -
even if you have no intention to ever practice.
“Having done science, and business and law school – they’re all great degrees, but law school gives you a completely different way to look at problem solving,” she said. “If you go off and do business or start your own business or go into a completely different profession, it’s going to always help you when looking at any sort of problem.”