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The Trials You Can't Prepare For

By Laura Bender

As a litigator, Shannon Villalba knew what it took to win a case but nothing could prepare her for the trial she was about to face.

“I had to shut down my part of the practice and give up all of my clients because I didn’t know when I would be better,” Villalba recalls.

Villalba '10 was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2015. Her illness completely changed her life.

Before her diagnosis, Villalba had been working with another attorney in the areas of business, intellectual property, and civil litigation. It was what she felt called to do.

Villalba was a multimedia designer and video editor in the music industry, but in her mid-thirties she decided she wanted to dedicate her life to protecting artists, like herself.

For her, the best way to “be a knight in shining armor” for business owners and creative minds was to go into intellectual property law.

“A lot of times creative people get taken advantage of and I just want to be able to protect them and help promote their works,” Villalba says.

This led her to the University of Dayton Law School, because, simply put, “They had the best intellectual property program in the state.”

After making “lasting friendships” with her professors and her colleagues, friendships Villalba says she has for life, she graduated, feeling more prepared for life as a lawyer because of UD’s externship course.

Now Villalba needed those skills to face a new challenge.

She was declared cancer free in 2016 but had to rebuild her practice. While her connections in business and IP certainly helped her, “It has been a rough road to build it up from scratch again,” Villaba says.

But running her own practice allows Villalba to craft the way she practices law to her own liking.

“Now I’ve actually carved the niche of law that I practice, which is all types of law that I like to do.” Villalba says of her experiences. “I’m a lot happier. It’s less stressful. But the cancer scare definitely made me take a look at my life, the kind of cases I want to take on, and the kind of life I want to live. Even the types of clients I represent are intentional.”

Villalba says she looks at her cases more holistically after her recovery. She also runs her own health and wellness company and a non-profit.

“I’m considering all different aspects of what my clients are going through,” Villalba says. “I look at different perspectives to think about what I can do to help them with stress levels, especially considering mindfulness.”

Villalba advises students to remember life is all about a healthy balance despite the changes and challenges you might face.

“Set goals for your practice and reassess them all the time,” Villalba says. “Sometimes you might end up in an area of law where you might not want to practice, but it is lucrative, so you have to weigh what your heart wants versus what your wallet wants. Usually people find themselves there in the middle.”

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