In The Spotlight - Emily Lawrey

In The Spotlight: Emily Lawrey

Booster's Emily Lawrey chats to us about life as their Legal and Compliance Manager and why they have so many avocados in the office.

Can you provide an overview of your role at Booster and how it supports the work of the organisation?

I’m the Legal and Compliance Manager here at Booster, a New Zealand-owned financial services company. The role was created earlier this year after Booster recognised the potential benefits of employing an in-house lawyer.  I manage a small (but mighty) compliance team and provide legal support to the entire business, including marketing, investments, operations, and the leadership team. This role has all the great bread and butter in-house legal work, and then some!

What do you love about your job and what is it teaching you about yourself?

Like many in-house lawyers, I thrive on variety. Booster has a focus on innovation and everything Kiwi so, in addition to being a default KiwiSaver provider, it invests in NZ tech start-ups, wineries and orchards, and also has some exciting and novel projects on the go. This means that on any given day I work on a veritable raft of legal areas, from intellectual property to financial markets law. It also means that while the office is starved of pens, it is abundant with avocados from a Booster orchard!

Learning the ins and outs of the business is also something I love about working in-house. This understanding enables me to appreciate the specific legal risks, proactively support the company’s strategic direction, challenge the status quo, and look to make improvements. While I still have much to learn about Booster, I’m confident that I’m adding value along the way and I’m excited about the opportunities ahead.

This role has made me appreciate having a very diverse range of legal experience under my belt. This foundation has provided me with the confidence to be creative, fast-thinking, brave, and resilient under pressure. I’ve also reflected on how much I value having worked with many excellent lawyers over the years – I think it’s easy to underestimate how much you learn and absorb from these experienced peers. I started my career working in intellectual property at Baldwins and my mentor was a stickler for clear, succinct legal documents and communications. I still remember (and apply) her teachings to this day!

What is your biggest challenge and how are you tackling it?

Being sole in-house counsel has been a shift for me – it’s the first time in my career that I haven’t been in a team of lawyers. I sometimes get a surprise when I turn to my neighbour and start chatting about an interesting legal issue before I realise he’s an actuary (granted an entertaining and witty one). Fortunately, the board chair is an experienced senior lawyer and I take comfort knowing I can go to him when the need arises – which I’m sure is only a matter of time!

Another challenge that comes with this role, especially as it’s new, is to gain credibility and trust within the business. Whether it’s educating colleagues about how legal can support their work, or debunking a perception that lawyers are a roadblock, relationship building is key to tackling this. I think it’s important to be approachable, adaptable, and to provide relevant and valuable advice.

How are you staying well and connected at this time?

My husband and I both work full-time and we have three young children at home so it has been a juggle, and it can be hard to switch off from work when it’s so intertwined with home life. I try to set realistic goals and make peace with the fact that I can’t achieve everything I want to. I think perspective is important and I appreciate that we’re lucky to be able to walk to the beach, to have gainful employment, and to have wonderful friends over the back fence to enjoy an evening gin with (from a safe distance).

My team is very active on Microsoft Teams, with both work-related and informal messages and calls, so it feels like we’re staying connected. I think a big part of connectedness at the moment is being understanding of your colleagues’ home environments and supportive of their mental wellbeing during lockdown – it’s so much more than just the actual work. My manager is great at this, and it really does help to reduce stress levels and take some of the pressure off.