But in 2009, when the legislature attempted to eliminate Styrofoam litter from Missouri waterways and instead nearly banned Tupperware by mistake, Vaughan had a political epiphany.
“I realized I could make the laws just as well,” she said. “That led me to law school, for better, for worse.”
A Memphis native who grew up in West County, Vaughan graduated in 2008 from Meredith College in North Carolina, with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a study-abroad stint in Nairobi, Kenya. She returned to St. Louis to work for Nixon’s campaign, then signed on with Bierman and Carlson — with whom she spent two years as a legislative assistant — before heading back to school.
While at Saint Louis University School of Law, Vaughan worked for Carlson’s campaign in 2012 after redistricting forced Carlson into a primary race won by Stacey Newman. After graduating in 2014, she leaned toward returning to politics.
“I was waiting for the train in Jefferson City the day after I took the bar exam,” Vaughan recalled. “I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then I got a call from Brown & Crouppen for a contract position for three months.”
Her first thought: “This is great. I can do that, wait for my bar results and then start interviewing for a state or government job.” After beginning work at the firm, though, Vaughan said she realized, “There are great people here, and it’s a lot of fun.” When the firm decided to hire an associate a few weeks later, she said it was an easy choice to stay.
Vaughan’s work as an associate at Brown & Crouppen centers on products liability. Some of that involves automobile-accident cases, which, she cautioned, “are not cookie-cutter,” as she has found many people believe.
“There’s something different in each one. You have to sit down and comb through documents. The most challenging part is digging through all of the paper,” she said.
“But I feel my background in politics taught me that there are ways to shape the law,” she added. “Regulations under [the Federal] Motor Carrier Safety Administration are really shaped by attorneys.”
Vaughan finds her practice to be an everyday education. Whether her cases require her to delve into the mechanisms of seatbelts or the process of manufacturing fireworks, Vaughan said, ”I really do love how I learn — things that you often don’t think twice about.” Get into a car with her, and you’ll notice that she never clicks a car seat belt into place without first ensuring it’s a brand known to stay latched in a crash.
Out of the office, Vaughan is a member of several bar associations and serves with the St. Louis Metro Transit Advisory Group. And she doesn’t discount seeking office herself someday. The digging, the documentation, the rules to be written, passed, changed or upheld… it all still intrigues her.
“Yes, I do” see a potential run in the future, Vaughan said. “[At some point], I could be a legislator, an alderman or maybe one day a judge.”
“I’m not sure which is worse,” she joked from experience, “working on the campaign or being the candidate.”