As a student majoring in political science at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Amy L. Lawrenson interned with the legislature in her home state of South Dakota.
“For the first time ever, I met a female attorney,” Lawrenson recalled. “I was 20 and I had never met a female attorney. That blows my mind in retrospect and shines light on why I was impressed with her. That
started me down the path to law school and the rest is history.” In 2004, she would receive her Bachelor of Arts degree. Three
years later, Lawrenson would earn her Juris Doctorate from Creighton University School of Law. Today, she is a partner at Baird Holm, LLC.
With a family rooted in farming, Lawrenson said real estate was a natural path for her.
“Like my grandfather and my uncles before me, I ‘work’ the land, albeit in a different fashion,” she said. “Being familiar with acres as a measurement has definitely come in handy in my career.
“My specialization is renewable energy. It also allowed me to marry together my practice specializations of leasing, land use, permitting and construction.”
Lawrenson can see how the renewable developments infuse much-needed tax monies and infrastructure improvements into rural communities — like the one she called home as a child.
Lawrenson found transitional work was typically “less adversarial and more collaborative.”
“I liked that,” she said. “Today, I love that most of my projects are about achieving common goals that all parties can get behind and celebrate when completed.”
Additionally, what was initially a gloomy time to embark on a career (the not-so-great recession of 2007), ended up being a rather fortuitous time for Lawrenson, in retrospect. She would go on to exit the legal industry and enter the world of retirement and large-scale institutional investment products while working with Mutual of Omaha.
“I loved my time at Mutual and planned to stay there for my career until a prior colleague convinced me to talk to Baird Holm,” she said. “As the economy rebounded, there was a shortage of real estate attorneys, which presented an opportunity for me to re-enter the field. When I met with Baird Holm, I could instantly tell it would be a great environment for me to advance my career, something I believed would take much longer in a corporate position.”
She joined as associate attorney in Baird Holm’s real estate practice group in 2012. Since that time, she rounded out her real estate experience with finance and corporate law work, eventually focusing on leasing, sales and acquisitions, construction and renewable energy.
She advanced to partner in 2017 and has been recognized as a leader for a range of community, industry, nonprofit and business organizations. These include Nebraska State Bar Association Leadership Academy graduate and steering committee member, the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Leadership Omaha (Class 40), and a 2018 Midlands Business Journal 40 Under 40 winner.
“While [the downturn] caused me to exit the industry for several years, my time away actually ended up providing me some exceptional transactional and corporate experience to re-enter the field once the market started to rebound,” Lawrenson summed up.
INSPIRED BY AND empowering OTHERS
In Lawrenson’s office hang two pictures by the artist Dee D’Amico.
“She drew one in the early 1990s and the other in the late 2000s,” Lawrenson said. “It is a picture of all of the parties to a real estate transaction in a boat trying to row in the same direction to bring a deal to close.
“In the earlier picture, all of the parties are white men. In the later, the parties are diverse in gender and race. I love these pictures and what they represent for the changes in the field.”
Naturally, Lawrenson is also a member of the firm’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee — alongside her chairing the women’s initiative, agribusiness and renewable energy industry group.
“I’ve been lucky to follow in the paths of some incredible women in both the real estate and legal fields,” she said. “Baird Holm has the highest percentage of women attorneys for a firm our size in the region, which gave me multiple women with 30 to 40 years of experience to learn from.”
Likewise, she said of the local Commercial Real Estate Women’s group, CREW Omaha: “Provided great women contacts with extensive experience.”
Lawrenson underscored the notion of “empowered women empower women.”
“A prolonged issue for the advancement of women is some women treating success as a limited resource; that there is only room for one woman at the top or that another woman’s success reduces or limits their own opportunities for success,” she explained. “That’s just not the case. For women to truly be successful, we have to help, mentor, and sponsor other women.”
As well-rounded as Lawrenson’s career has been, her life outside of the office and practice is also multi-faceted; she graduated from the Institute for Career Advancement Needs Influence Leadership Program (Class 58) and Women’s Fund of Omaha Circles (Class 8).
“Those who know me know there is nothing I’m more passionate about than, one, the advancement of women and girls and, two, cats,” she said.
In fact, to the latter passion, Lawrenson currently serves on the board of directors at Felius Cat Café.
The former passion also reflects Lawrenson’s near-term goals: This January, she’ll be stepping into the role as president of the board of directors of Girl’s Inc. of Omaha.