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​Leaders With Ambition - Erin Lawler

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We see it again and again, professionals at the top of their game are invariably clear about the importance of keeping things in perspective. Or, as our guest on this episode of Leaders With Ambition simply put it “Take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously!”.

Erin Lawler, Head of Marketing & Business Development, Americas, at Hogan Lovells, explains to Host Nicky Acuna Ocana how she has found her way into exactly the right role in exactly the right environment. It wasn’t a mere coincidence. By playing to her strengths and embracing authenticity, Erin has evolved into a role model as well as a leading voice at one of the world’s premier law firms, cultivating and strengthening its workplace culture and global profile.

Erin takes us on her journey from the notion of becoming an Attorney (one she quickly cast aside) to finding within a legal context the perfect niche for her extroverted personality and aptitude for sales. All along the way, through a series of increasingly high-profile roles at a variety of firms, she has focused foremost on relationships. Whether as a mentor, leader or team member, Erin emphasizes the contributions everyone has to make and ways in which healthy, productive workplaces are built on a strong sense of community.

She reflects on the lessons of Covid, her approach to integrating (rather than balancing) work-life commitments and both highs and lows in a career she has loved. You’ll learn about the secret to longevity in the professional services sector and top tips for developing strong, resilient teams… while having fun! Finally, you will come away with a clear mandate: Have that next conversation. Take that unexpected opportunity – even if the timing is inopportune or it’s out of your comfort zone!

If you enjoyed this discussion, please click here to find previous episodes of Leaders with Ambition.

Starting Out

Erin’s traditional Connecticut upbringing and early work with a recruiting firm provided her first exposure to the world of sales and networking. She then found her career match - loving what she does is key, but Erin’s long-term professional success and satisfaction is rooted in the team and client relationships that she has cultivated.

She also discusses the period in which she “traded Lawyers for Brokers”, while working at the insurance giant AIG (and the valuable BD and mentorship lessons she learned). Erin reflects on the web of relationships that over time guided her into both the right job and the right law firm culture – one where she could shine.

She advises to stay open to conversations and relationships. You never know where a transformational opportunity will appear, however unexpected or seemingly ill-timed. She goes into the many lessons learned over the course of helping manage due diligence for the merger that ultimately became Norton Rose Fulbright. Erin explains why demystifying and providing clarity around both sides of a merger is key to smoothing long-term transitions and successful adoption. It’s not about work-life balance. It’s about day-to-day work-life integration, with the clear understanding that family ultimately comes first.

Why did she pick Hogan Lovells? When the timing was right, the challenge and opportunity to stretch further into the client sphere was irresistible. Overall, Erin builds Leaders and she has gone about supporting female team members through both formal mentoring as well as programs to reinforce and develop capabilities!

How Erin goes about building team cultures

  • Meets people where they are.

  • Plays to people’s strengths rather than around other people’s weaknesses.

  • Leads by example.

  • Presents in a genuine, authentic, transparent way.

  • Keeps the door open.

  • Makes herself a ready resource.

  • Emphasizes communication (whether remote or in-person).

  • Understands and highlights what each individual contributes.

As a role model, Erin tries to demonstrate:

  • Resiliency.

  • Adaptability.

  • Humour.

  • Balance.

  • Team work.

  • Building bridges.

Post-Covid lessons

  • The more things change, the more they remain the same: Relationships are still king and must be cultivated and honoured both remotely and in-person.

  • There is a shared humanity that we must embrace in each other.

  • People took a pause to contemplate: What really matters?

  • Trust is paramount when it comes to doing business.

Biggest challenges for the legal industry as a whole

  • Fast-paced technological advances (AI like ChatGPT).

  • Figuring out hybrid work conditions that fulfil demands all-around.

  • Finding a work-life balance that serves the entire firm’s best interests.

Career Highlights

  • Working through the merger between Fulbright & Jaworski and Norton Rose.

  • Attending her first partners’ conference at Hogan Lovells.

  • Supporting and witnessing her team members’ career advancements over time.

Career Challenges

  • Understanding the demands associated with global cultures.

  • Figuring out how to raise the local profile of a global firm.

  • Missing personal occasions/milestones (fortunately an infrequent occurrence).

Words of Wisdom

  • "Work seriously. Play seriously. Keep things in perspective."

  • "Commit to a career or sphere that you genuinely enjoy (at least most of the time)."

  • "Always have the conversation! You never know where opportunity will arise!"

  • "Be clear about your personal priorities – and lead with them!"

  • "Trust yourself. Your authentic self has a lot to offer!"

  • "Pay it forward. People are watching, learning and listening."


Key Quotes

  • “I was very fortunate early on to find the industry I liked and knew I wanted to be a part of, but also opportunities to develop a career that wasn’t of a fee-earning nature.”

  • “It tends to make Lawyers nervous when you talk about sales, but it is the fundamental basis of what we do in marketing and business development.”

  • “You needn’t be in a formal mentoring situation to be able to draw advice, guidance and talent from the people you work with.”

  • “It’s easy to stay in our comfort zone and many of us do that ... Often when the opportunity is there the timing doesn’t seem the best, but I would encourage people to look beyond that.”

  • “It’s not about work-life balance. It’s about work-life integration.”

  • “The people side of the house isn’t always easy … but it’s certainly the most worthwhile piece that I do.”

  • “It’s important in terms of development and mentoring that people feel they have a purpose in the organization. And sometimes, frankly, being part of the team is the purpose and that’s not a skill to be overlooked.”

  • “You’ll be able to accomplish more when you really, genuinely enjoy what you’re doing.”

  • “Fundamentally you should enjoy what you’re doing most of the time – or rethink what you’re doing!”

  • “It may not be a formalized role, but people are looking up to you, watching, learning, listening. Be there to support them because truly it’s not just about you personally but how you can help others deliver and contribute.”

About Erin

Erin Lawler is the Head of Marketing & BD, Americas at Hogan Lovells, an international law firm that operates at the intersection of business and government. She has over 20 years of experience in Am Law 100 firms, and this is her third leadership role at Hogan Lovells. Erin has established “best in class” client programs and increased collaboration in her previous role as the Global Head of M&BD Operations and Business Management.

Prior to Hogan Lovells, Erin worked in Business Development for Norton Rose Fulbright and WilmerHale, where she developed client retention strategies and other programs to drive revenue growth. Erin lives in Connecticut with her partner and their eight-year-old daughter.

About Nicky

Nicky has led high performing recruitment teams for over 20 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition US, Europe and UK, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas. With an extensive network of senior and board-level contacts, she is also heavily involved in Executive Search, focusing on Director level appointments across Business Services for a range of Professional Services firms.