Harris-Pero Legal Counsel, PLLC, NY and PA
“Farmers undergo business and family life transitions—there are many opportunities to plan.”
Megan Harris-Pero knew for a while that she wanted to work with agricultural clients. Growing up, Megan’s mother ran an edible landscaping business, which helped Megan develop a familiarity with and an appreciation for food. As an adult, she and her husband consider themselves “weekend farmers,” and often spend time working to restore agricultural land owned by Megan’s extended family. After finishing her degree at Duquesne University School of Law, Megan practiced at a large firm, focusing on real estate and business law. During her work here in “big law” in Pittsburgh, she had some exposure to estate planning, and the many legal needs of businesses. When she and her family moved to upstate New York, Megan was ready to work with small business clients and dive into the complexities of businesses that conduct work “at the kitchen table.” She started her practice to serve farms and food producers. Having spent summers in the Lake Champlain Valley as a child, Megan wanted to assist community members, and says that working with agricultural clients was a “natural fit” when she founded her solo practice. Megan’s client base has expanded to include other types of small businesses and families, in part in order to stay financially viable, and in part because her practice is growing. She has found and keeps her focus on the mission of “helping people plan and prepare for life transitions.” Most of the work Megan does is planning—things like small business set-up, estate and succession planning, and elder law.
In 2017, Megan completed a leadership program for food and agriculture professionals called LEAD New York, where she learned from and with many classmates with varied backgrounds, from bankers and service providers to cranberry growers. Megan sits on the board of the New York Small Scale Food Processor’s Association (NYSSFPA), which provides access to new regulatory information, technical help, and mentorship to its members. Those members are mostly food businesses making value-added products, and in that capacity, she’s able to offer her expertise in food safety and labeling regulation to benefit small processors in the state. She’s also a member of Elder Counsel, an educational resource for elder law attorneys, which has provided mentoring and networking opportunities that have been particularly helpful as she’s expanded her practice into elder law. In short, she’s followed the advice she would give to new lawyers interested in this field: “Find good mentors to help you when you get stuck,” and develop networks and support. Megan emphasizes that, especially as a solo practitioner, having people to reach out to for help is vital. She also advises those starting out to “figure out why they want to practice, and go from there.” Megan’s why is to help people through life transitions. If the work fits that scope, it helps her feel it’s worthwhile for her practice. Megan sees a strong need for planning in the farming community: “Farmers undergo business and family life transitions—there are many opportunities to plan.” Looking back on her career, Megan notes that she’s done different kinds of work, but being sure of her mission helps focus her practice and her energy.
The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems is an initiative of Vermont Law School, and this toolkit provides general legal information for educational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute, and should not be relied upon, for legal advice. Each farmer’s circumstances are unique, state laws vary, and the information contained herein is specific to the time of publication. Accordingly, for legal advice, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.