This week in our MHC Life Series, we hear from Emma Lawrence, a Senior Associate in our Corporate team, specialising in Charities & Not-for-Profit. Emma chats about everything from her experience of law in school to her time spent in Singapore.
Tell us a bit about you and your career journey to MHC – what inspired you to get into this career?
When I was in secondary school, I participated in a Moot Court competition in the Four Courts and I acted as the solicitor for my team. I really enjoyed researching the topic, finding out the laws that were applicable and trying to find arguments that would strengthen my team’s position. I found it fascinating to spend time in the Four Courts and to see how a court case works in practice. It was that experience that sparked my interest in law (even though my current role, thankfully, barely ever involves the Four Courts).
I studied Business and Law in UCD and was torn for my first few years between life as an accountant or a solicitor. I applied for the MHC internship at the end of my third year in college. I enjoyed the experience so much that I knew I had found my calling!
Favourite thing about your role?
As a solicitor in our Charities & Not-for-Profit team, I thoroughly enjoy working with clients who are pursuing a wide variety of purposes and missions and are having a positive impact on society. Every week, I am meeting people who work and volunteer in the education sector or the healthcare sector, who are involved in religious life, run a social enterprise or who carry out community-based activities. I particularly enjoy meeting clients in person, often in their offices or places of work (and increasingly via Zoom), which allows me to briefly see into the “world” in which they operate and to determine their particular legal needs. It is so rewarding to be delivering legal advice every day which I know will assist or support the purpose-driven activities of our clients.
Talk us through a typical day for you
I’m not a particularly early riser, so my day starts around 8am and I am at the laptop by 9am. My day involves a mixture of Zoom calls, preparing advices to clients and responding to ad-hoc queries. My “to-do” list is really varied, which is something that I particularly enjoy about my role. Twice a week, we have a team Zoom call, which is a great way to stay up-to-date with new matters and generally have a catch up.
I try to get a walk in every lunchtime– even if I am cajoling myself out the door with the promise of buying chocolate en route. In the evenings, I enjoy catching up with friends and family – whether on a walk, or by phone. One of my sisters is working in Japan at the moment, and the other is in Gran Canaria, so I am living vicariously through their adventures this winter!
What was your first job?
My first job was working in a bookshop. I worked in the Wise Owl bookshop each summer throughout my school and college years, firstly in Swords and then in Dun Laoghaire. While working in a bookshop sounds like an idyllic job, working there during the summer was quite hectic and involved a rush of students purchasing last-minute exam papers, long queues for schoolbooks in advance of September and also the odd Harry Potter book launch. Despite the busy days, it was a job that I loved, and I finished that job with an enviable collection of stationery, an unusually large collection of Harry Potter merchandise and excellent book-covering (or “wrapping”) skills.
“You can’t always be a hero, but you can always be a human”. I originally came across this in a “page a day calendar” and it has stuck with me since then. The work of our charitable and not-for-profit clients is outstanding. It can be difficult to try to emulate that type of impact in my own day-to-day life. So many of the things that I find actually make a difference, day-to-day are “human” things, like a chat or simply giving time to someone or something, but even those actions can sometimes get lost in the hustle and bustle of a busy week. So, when I think of this quote, I like to remind myself that I don’t have to set the bar for myself at “hero” (which will inevitably set myself up for a fall), but rather that being “human” is sufficient and impactful in itself.
What's your idea of a perfect holiday/favourite place you've ever visited?
Before joining MHC as a trainee, I spent one year completing a Masters degree in the National University of Singapore. It was a fascinating place to live for a year and I was really struck by the warmth of the Singaporeans, the safety and cleanliness of the country, and the inclusivity in relation to the mix of cultures and traditions. Every weekend there was a different part of the country to explore, from forest treks to beach walks, and different dishes to try at the “hawker centre” food markets. Being so close to the equator was also an added benefit! Having the opportunity to be present for National Day (which marks the country’s independence) and Chinese New Year, amongst countless other celebrations and festivals, was fascinating, so I feel very lucky to have been able to spend a year there studying, making lifelong friends, and experiencing the culture.