Always outspoken, Vanessa Locicero was told she should be a lawyer from a very young age.
Instead, after high school, Vanessa enrolled in Political Science and Religious Studies at Queen’s University. She had always been fascinated by paradigms — the idea of subjectivity and how people view the world. To her, politics and religion were the biggest lenses.
It wasn’t until much later that she realized that there was a third lens that fascinated her most: the law.
“Laws are human made,” she said. “These things are just human constructed rules about how people should see the world and what they should do.”
Today, Vanessa is the principal and CEO of Soul Attorney Inc. and Locicero Legal PC, and describes herself as the “hippiest lawyer you’ll ever meet.”
But the journey to this point wasn’t so straightforward.
Back at Queen’s, Vanessa did write the LSAT in her third year, but she spent more time playing the tenor sax in a jazz band than she did studying. Needless to say, she bombed it.
“From the bottom of my heart, I will never be a lawyer,” Vanessa said at the time. “Mark my word.”
However, she didn’t really know what she wanted to become. But one thing she did love was cooking. Throughout her undergrad, Vanessa would come home after a long day at the library and start cooking all these extravagant feasts. A second-generation Italian, she was a natural host, and she loved cooking comfort food for friends and family. Evidently, one night over a late dinner together, Vanessa’s roommate suggested she become a chef. So, after graduation, Vanessa took off on a backpacking trip through Europe and when she returned, she went straight into a diploma in Culinary Business Management at Humber College.
The program taught her not only how to be a chef, but the business side of the industry as well. She did her placement the following summer at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and she fell in love with the mountains — and with the idea of being a restaurateur.
“I rediscovered a whole new part of myself being there,” she said.
In reality, she learned pretty quickly that it was quite the grind.
Her second placement led her to a small startup with an Italian man who was selling his grandmother’s tomato sauce. He needed someone who knew the business side as well as the food side, and the process opened Vanessa’s eyes to all of the legality that surrounds food and food regulation — she was fascinated.
So she decided to become a food lawyer.
It wasn’t until she started law school a few years later that she learned there actually wasn’t such a thing. But, she started to take a whole bunch of other courses that really interested her, specifically contract law and all the components of the business side of law.
Being the keener she was, she also took a Canadian Securities course on the side. When it came time to apply to firms to article at, she wanted to boost her resume so she joined a moot court team. She competed in Canadian Securities law and absolutely crushed it, placing second over all.
“I slayed,” she beamed. “I felt like I was on TV.”
The performance secured her an articling position as a barrister at a downtown Toronto law firm. She moved into a condo right downtown… And hated it with every fibre of her being.
“I had dreams of being Miranda of sex and the city,” Vanessa said. “It wasn’t glamorous like that. There was no Miranda happening.”
Every Friday she would race out of the office and head north to her family cottage in Wasaga Beach, waiting until the last possible minute on Monday morning to drive back down. Her family has had the cottage for over 30 years, and Georgian Bay was a big part of her upbringing. It was a tough year, and it took everything she had to leave the cottage to go back to the city every week.
Then, in late June 2018, she got called to the bar.
The previous year taught her that she hated the “downtown lawyer vibe,” so she decided to officially move to the cottage and cut her teeth in Barrie instead. She ended up working for a small law firm run by a solo practitioner, which allowed her to see that there were other ways to practice law without being a part of a big firm.
“I didn’t realize it then but it taught me how a lawyer runs a legal business as a small team,” she said.
However, the firm dealt with personal injury, and as time went on Vanessa started to realize it really wasn’t filling her up. While she was in law school, she had taken a trip back to the mountains she loved so much, and it was there that she really started connecting with energy and her spirituality. Because her job was draining her, she started working with an energy coach, and said “it was life altering.”
“She stirred up this thing inside me,” Vanessa said. I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I would talk about it in law school, going solo, but I got caught up fitting into the peg in the hole.”
She started to feel more aligned and as soon as she started to envision what else could be possible, Covid hit. With the extra time on her hands, she started reading about entrepreneurship and really thinking about new ways of lawyering.
“My mind was blown about the way that lawyers provide legal services past, present and future,” she said.
By the winter of 2021, she started to really think about going off on her own, so she connected with the Small Business Enterprise Centre, where Tim Newton told her to go meet the people at the Foundry because those were “the cool kids in town.”
“I wanted to be part of the cool kids,” Vanessa laughed.
She started a podcast to discuss energetic principles and bringing it into the law, and began to develop her personal brand: Soul Attorney. She wanted to start a business that explained how she was a different kind of lawyer — a lawyer for the soul.
“The traditional way kept me in a duality. To be a lawyer that wears a button up shirt and a suit is a part of me, but it’s not the whole part of me. I was really shushing a lot of myself, trying to be that kind of lawyer,” she said. “I was tired of pretending that I wasn’t all these other things as well.”
In the meantime, she was headhunted by a law firm downtown Collingwood, which offered her the perfect stepping stone to move away from her position in Barrie and start making connections locally, all while developing the Soul Attorney brand. She incorporated the business and, through The Monarch & Co.’s Launch With Impact program (now the Monarch Business Academy), she launched her legal education program, Legally Lit, where she works with her clients to teach them all the legal components that go with running a business.
This past May she took the next step, and officially went out on her own and founded Locicero Legal PC.
“Traditional law, the bespoke service, it was as if that was the only way to provide a legal service. But really, there are so many other ways,” she said. “I had to go all in and say I was all in. I was one foot in and one foot out for a while and it didn’t work for me.”
She is currently in the process of finding an office space in Collingwood as well as building out a digital storefront of legal masterclasses and templates. Her focus is on helping small business owners understand the law and use it to their benefit in their business.
“The educational piece is so important. Instead of being reactive to the law, calling your lawyer when there is a problem, you can be proactive, and preventative,” she said.
Her ultimate goal is to eventually build out a business transformation retreat centre, coming full circle to incorporate her industry experience and natural-born host tendencies, that would help people bring their dream of building a business to reality and do it all in one place.
“It gives me goosebumps to think they will be able to become the most expressed version of themselves,” she said, “That has been a dream of mine for a really long time.”