Terrina LaVallee


Inspired by one person’s advocacy, she has built a career to advocate for others.

1. Are you from Pittsburgh? Now I am! My dad’s a Marine, so my childhood was a life-long field trip. I was fortunate to grow up in many places like my home island of Guam, Japan, the South, and around Baltimore. Can someone cheer for both Baltimore and Pittsburgh teams? Asking for a friend.

2. Why did you choose to make Southwest PA your home? The “Pittsburgh Pull”! It was tough at first living in a new city and not knowing anyone. But now I understand why everyone who grew up here often returns (and pulls someone back). The people, the innovation, the kindness, and the belief in supporting something greater than yourself are all reasons this city shines.

3. Tell us a little about your family. My husband and I are having fun raising our two little girls in Squirrel Hill. Our oldest daughter’s baking interest has us on a mission to bake 100 different cupcakes over the next year — yikes! And our toddler keeps us busy checking if she has rocks or flowers in her mouth. Kylie Minogue, our mini Aussie, just wants to be part of the mix!

4. How did you choose the career you’re in today? I never knew a lawyer growing up. But what solidified it for me was seeing a voter rights attorney advocate for a person to vote after they had been turned away. Neither the poll worker nor the voter were certain of the voter ID laws, but the attorney educated both individuals on the law, and the voter was able to cast their vote. This encounter showed me how the misinterpretation of the law or lack of knowledge of one’s rights can become a barrier for individuals to vote, apply for jobs, or enforce or terminate their rights. I’ll never meet that voting rights attorney again but will never forget how their knowledge of the law ensured everyone’s rights were realized. On that day, I charted out my path to become an attorney.

5. What do you love most about your job? I love that I can help problem solve and that I’m constantly learning about new areas of the law and different industries. Every problem seems clear cut on the surface until you dig into the case law or the facts and realize there are ways to be creative to move the ball forward.

6. What are some of your hobbies or favorite things to do outside of work? I recently picked up gardening and am trying to transform our city yard into a cottage garden.

7. Why do you think it’s so important to give back to your community? It is our duty to take care of our neighbors. I know that I would not be here today if it weren’t for the kindness of others. If one of us succeeds, we all do!

8. What is your favorite United Way memory? I was fortunate to fill school supply bags with my co-workers, and I loved seeing the smiles on everyone’s face, and the impact United Way and its staff brings to the region. It was evident that United Way listens to the unique needs of each community and finds a way to address those concerns.