Professionalism Spotlight: Laura Lazarczyk, Chief Legal Officer of Zurich North America

laura lazarczyk

Our Professionalism Spotlight series highlights Illinois legal professionals who demonstrate the ideals of professionalism and a commitment to advancing equitable, efficient, and effective justice in Illinois.

In this Professionalism Spotlight, we spoke with Laura J. Lazarczyk, Chief Legal Officer for Zurich North America, a commercial property and casualty insurance carrier in the U.S. and Canada.

Laura previously worked in Chicago-based international law firms and specialized in corporate and securities law, later adding specializations in data privacy and fraud detection. Her previous roles also included human resources, learning employment law, and compliance.

How has your practice evolved?

I have been Zurich’s Chief Legal Officer for almost five years. During that time, the legal function has been shifting focus to new and emerging technologies—both how we support our business stakeholders with quickly emerging legal and regulatory challenges and ensuring that our legal professionals have the technology skills to be “fit for the future.”

We expanded our pro bono program and were recognized with the Pro Bono Institute’s 2024 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award.

We also instituted legal department councils focused on diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging (we are working toward our Mansfield Certification); health and wellness; and sustainability, as these are all critically important topics for our legal professionals.

What’s one piece of technology you could not function without?

One indispensable technological tool for me is SharePoint. As a collaboration platform, SharePoint is a cornerstone of remote work. It allows for secure document management, sharing, and co-authoring, which is invaluable for team projects and communication.

Its integration with the broader Microsoft suite, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams, enhances productivity.

SharePoint also supports customization, allowing it to be tailored to the specific needs of a project or team.

Through its version control feature, it ensures that everyone is always working on the most recent document, preventing confusion and duplication of work.

Overall, SharePoint is an essential tool for efficiently managing and streamlining workflows in a remote working environment.

How do you manage your well-being?

Working hard on complex and challenging legal issues is what gets me up in the morning. I do remind myself to take well-being breaks throughout the day and to disconnect when I am on vacation or spending time with my family and friends.

My personality type wants to “know what’s going on” rather than disconnect and then catch up later, so I have to actively focus on work/life integration.

Activities that give back to others inspire me, and I enjoy pro bono work and Habitat for Humanity builds. There is nothing like a change of scenery and helping others to recharge the spirit.

How do you remain civil in tense situations?

Deep breathing exercises help me manage my immediate emotional response, ensuring that my reactions are measured and objective.

I rely on logical and fact-based communication to keep conversations grounded and prevent any deviation into personal or emotional territory. If the atmosphere becomes too strained, I use appropriate humor to lighten the mood and de-escalate tensions.

However, after challenging interactions, I might need personal time to decompress. Taking long walks with my two dogs, Henryk and Greta, provides a therapeutic outlet. These moments of quiet reflection help me process events, learn from them, and regain my equilibrium.

How can attorneys advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession?

Attorneys can advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession by advocating for fair hiring practices and workplace policies. They can champion diverse representation in all levels of the profession, from entry-level positions to the judiciary, ensuring different perspectives are included.

They can also create opportunities for the mentorship and professional development of underrepresented groups.

Additionally, attorneys can participate in or lead diversity training sessions to raise awareness about unconscious biases and promote an inclusive environment.

Finally, they can use their influence to address systemic barriers, fostering an equitable legal landscape.

Our legal department is on a two-year journey to achieve Mansfield Certification. Mansfield Certification focuses on broadening the slate of diverse talent considered for leadership roles, adding transparency to historically opaque advancement processes, and working together as a legal community to share knowledge to move the needle on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What is an attorney’s role in furthering public confidence in the rule of law?

Attorneys can uphold justice by ensuring that all parties, regardless of status, receive fair representation and due process. One way to do this is by volunteering for pro bono opportunities.

Attorneys should advocate for their clients within the boundaries of the law while emphasizing the law’s impartiality. Attorneys can also help clarify complex legal principles for the public, thereby promoting transparency and understanding.

By adhering strictly to legal ethics, attorneys contribute to the perception of the legal system as fair, reliable, and equitable.

If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?

For young lawyers, my advice would be to remain curious and dedicated to continuous learning. The legal landscape is dynamic, with laws and interpretations evolving over time. Stay updated with these changes and always strive to deepen your understanding.

Develop your niche but also have a broad understanding of various legal areas. Networking is equally vital. Building relationships with colleagues and mentors can provide invaluable advice and opportunities.

Lastly, always uphold integrity and ethical standards. Your reputation is your most significant asset in the legal profession. Remember, law is not only a career but also a commitment to justice and fairness.

What is the biggest challenge impacting lawyers today?

Arguably, the biggest challenge impacting lawyers today is adapting to rapid technological advancements and digitization.

The legal profession traditionally relies on face-to-face interactions and extensive paperwork. However, digital tools are becoming increasingly prevalent for tasks such as document review, contract automation, and virtual court proceedings. While this can enhance efficiency, it also necessitates lawyers to acquire new tech skills and adapt to changing modes of client interaction and service delivery.

Furthermore, cybersecurity risks have escalated, requiring lawyers to ensure robust data protection measures. These changes are transforming the practice of law, and adjusting to this new landscape is a significant challenge for many lawyers.

What do you do for fun?

Traveling with my family is a favorite pastime, as it allows me to experience different cultures, cuisines, and landscapes.

I’m also learning Italian, which is an exciting and enriching process. It not only challenges my cognitive abilities but also prepares me for future Italian adventures.

At home, I love spoiling my dogs; their unconditional love and joy are infectious.

Additionally, I enjoy unwinding with a good mystery novel. The intricate plots and suspense keep me engaged and provide a great escape from reality. These hobbies keep me balanced, continually learning, and deeply satisfied.

Our Professionalism Spotlight recognizes legal professionals throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews here.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *