This is part of an ongoing series titled How I Work, a look into how Charlotte gets things done at work. Learn how Lauren works.
At just 33, Lauren Lewis has earned an impressive list of accolades. She’s among Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite, a Leader in Law honored by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, a North Carolina Super Lawyers Rising Star (two years in a row), Charlotte Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and, most recently, Mecklenburg County Bar’s Young Lawyer of the Year.
Given her track record, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we met up at the Essex Richards law office on South Boulevard. Turns out she’s as approachable and sarcastic as she is articulate and serious.
We talked about Charlotte’s unstoppable growth (which she’s watched since moving here in 2007), the impossible-to-describe importance of a sister’s influence and staying close to home.
“It sounds bad but, given that I live and work so close together and so close to uptown, I have a tendency to stay in a little bubble,” she said of living, working and playing in her own personal world close to her neighborhood. But when it comes to her professional and volunteer work, she strives for more expansive connectivity.
“My thing is empowering people,” said Lewis. For her, that materializes in raising funds and awareness for domestic violence prevention and victim support, serving as a guardian ad litem for kids in need and volunteering with Girls on the Run.
“Just do things that make you feel good and connect you to your community,” she said. “It sounds cliche but, selfishly, I get more out of this than I put into any of it.”
It was that feel-good community connection she sought at a young age that snowballed into a lot of her involvement today. Her family moved every few years growing up so she was used to starting over. But a pivotal move her junior year of high school, the first one without her older sister who had left for college, left her feeling more lost than before.
“I needed to find a place to land,” she said. That sense of disconnection sent her running full-speed into volunteer and community activities that shaped her college and law school experience.
Today she works full time as an Attorney at Law and Board-Certified Specialist in Family Law at Essex Richards. “In my daily work I spend time advocating for adults and sometimes kids are involved in those situations,” she said. “But as a guardian ad litem in my volunteer work I get to be the voice and the advocate for the kids themselves.”
In a field dominated by men (66% male vs 34% female), getting to where Lauren is at such a young age can be a tricky path to navigate. I asked if she’d cleared any gender-related hurdles at work and her answer was refreshing.
“Honestly, no,” she said. “I have had the privilege of working under the guidance and under the wings of incredibly smart and powerful and encouraging women and men who advocate for a better environment. That’s not to say there aren’t problems in the industry, because I know there are and know other women colleagues dealing with those issues, but I haven’t experienced that kind of treatment personally.”
Below are Lauren’s responses. I didn’t record our conversation so these answers are paraphrased.
Attorney at Law, Board-Certified Specialist in Family Law at Essex Richards
4.5 minutes. I drive because I’m lazy. Just kidding. It’s because I need the car seat.
I just got the iPhone 6, but my husband is an Android user. We’re a house divided.
Software you use the most:
Outlook and Word
To-do list manager:
I use a combination of old school pen and paper, sending myself email reminders and writing things in the Notes app on my phone.
Go-to lunch spot for business meetings:
300 East. They have a great grilled shrimp BLT.
Everyday thing you’re really good at:
I asked my paralegal what I’m good at and she said “seeing the glass as half full”. I’ll take that!
I get as much sleep as I can after my son, Henry, is asleep, while hoping he stays asleep. Nights are the best time for laundry and chores, too. We try to play as much as possible on the weekends.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Granola w/ yogurt + oatmeal + apple w/ peanut butter
Social media habits:
I use Facebook but would like to avoid it more. I try to keep up with my sister’s Facebook habit of tagging pictures of me when I least expect it! I use LinkedIn for professional connections. I have Twitter but don’t remember the last time I used it and the last tweet is probably something embarrassing.
Where do you go to get away from the office?
We’re outside a lot. We like Freedom Park and the Whitewater Center.
Last book you read:
Life Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism by Ron Suskind
Last movie you watched:
What do you love most about Charlotte?
I appreciate the connectivity of the community and the vitality of the cultural events and parks.
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing?
I would likely be working with children in some capacity, maybe mentoring children in foster care or on the team of a non-profit focused on the health and well-being of children.
300 East photo via the restaurant’s Facebook page