When sitting down with Erika Louw (Managing Director of LGR Incorporated)), one immediately gets a sense of calm and ease. Perhaps it is because Erika herself has a sense of ease about her.
She is, without a doubt, self-assured. But not conceited or arrogant in the least. It feels like she simply doesn’t have the time – or patience – for feelings that are trivial or preposterous.
She oozes confidence and peace and is serene but with an underlying passion that is unmistakable – Erika absolutely loves what she does.
And all of these qualities immediately makes one think of the quote by Italian playwright, Ugo Betti –
“There is always a certain peace in being what one is, in being that completely.”
And that could not be more accurate when speaking about Erika.
Perhaps this sense of calm, ease, and peace comes from knowing who she is. Exactly. And living her life completely in tune with her core beliefs and values.
Right from the get-go you feel like you are talking to someone who has been there, done that and not only bought the t-shirt but wrote the slogan herself – Veni Vidi Vici. Adeptus sum omni tempore (I came. I saw. I conquered. I enjoyed every moment).
And to us, there is nothing more reassuring, nothing more intoxicating, nothing more motivational than being around someone who is at complete ease with herself and all those around her.
It’s for this reason that we say – Consentimus!
We agree! We enjoyed every moment.
The Self-Assured Lawyers
Erika’s journey started out a little differently to where she is now.
Whilst LGR Inc is a practice that specialises in Financial Recoveries and Property Law, Erika began her career at a Criminal Legal practice –
“It was extremely interesting on good days. And terrifying on bad days.”
And because of the terrifying days, she could not see herself remaining in criminal law. Not in the long run anyhow.
It was only after two years in a civil practice and as a newly married woman (at the time) that she realised that working for a dismal salary, for long hours and very little flexibility was not going to suit her needs – or meet her values. Especially when she and her husband decided to someday start a family.
So, instead of “sticking it out” and seeing what happens, Erika “bit the bullet” and “took the plunge” by starting her own practice – Erika Louw Attorneys, together with her personal assistant (who was working for her at the time). That same personal assistant is still working for LGR today. Over 22 years later. That speaks volumes about who Erika is at her core.
Erika involved herself in every aspect of her new practice – she was the messenger, the IT person, the clerk, the practice manager, the cleaner and the practising lawyer. Everything. And it was through this take charge attitude that Erika gained her confidence as someone who could (literally) do it all.
It was in 2002 however, when she decided to go from what was once a “two women show” (Erika and her personal assistant) to LGR Incorporated. She grew the practice to where it is today, with 6 partners, 3 branches and a still growing staff contingent.
And LGR Inc has grown– organically and naturally – ever since. 280 staff members strong and still going strong.
Empowerment and upliftment of Women
The empowerment and upliftment of women has been key in propelling the firm forward.
As Erika puts it –
“Whilst we all strive for equal opportunity and equality within the world, the challenges that women face are substantially different to that of a man in a man’s world.”
And it is perhaps because of the different challenges that the idea of having a shared journey came into fruition.
For Erika, as well as her partners – Joannie Genis, Shalene Rajoo, Nicolien Minnaar, Karien Coertzen and Linell Erasmus – experiencing the same journey was crucial when creating a harmonious working environment.
This idea of a shared journey has become core to the reason behind LGR Inc. It is extremely important for all staff members. And this perhaps speaks to LGR Inc’s strong female staff compliment. Strong in the sense of personality. For sure. But also strong in the sense of ratio of women to men.
Sort of like a collective consciousness of women.
A collective understanding that speaks, not only to how the team wants their practice to operate but an understanding of the importance of balance. Balance between a healthy career and a healthy family life. Balance – at least to the team at LGR Inc – is tantamount to creating a healthy workspace.
But balance doesn’t just stop at a healthy work-life balance. When LGR Inc talks about balance it speaks to the understanding that being supportive and helping one another also comes with pushing each other’s boundaries, healthy debate, having opposing views on a subject and continuously challenging one another. And that’s all ok because these healthy challenges are part and parcel of balance.
LGR Inc believes that lively debate is important for a well-functioning team. It helps with progress and progression within your career because it “stimulates the part of your brain that makes you question how you think about the world.”
And it’s because of this collective understanding that there is an undeniable shared vision and shared desire to be the best that they can be.
It’s perhaps this balance between work and family, debate and understanding that has led each and every staff member to not only find their groove and their place within the legal profession but to also discover their inner voice.
A self-assured inner voice that resonates with the entire team and their award-winning services.
Self-assured but also caring, nurturing and kind
Erika describes the partnership between herself and her other partners like being married. Full of love for one another, good times, happy memories, lots of laughs and also (unfortunately) some tough times too.
Just like any married couple they fight, they argue, they debate – especially as they have differing points of view. But having said that, Erika cannot imagine her life without them. They are her work family.
And they have weathered the storms. Together. Supporting one another through the difficulties that life presents them with. Getting stronger with each bad turn. They know one another’s hearts and intentions and that only serves to strengthen their bond.
Whilst divorce may be an option for some married couples, it is not an option for Erika and her partners, in life and in business. They are in it for the long haul. Happily, so too.
This almost family like, caring attitude towards one another has also encouraged the larger LGR Inc team to speak up and speak out about issues they may be facing – whether it is within the law firm (so that the issues can be fixed) or at home (so that the team can assist them with their troubles).
Erika encourages her team to say exactly what they feel – because LGR Inc has created a safe space for all those that work there. A place free of judgement. A place of support and encouragement.
LGR Inc are acutely aware of the struggles women face on a daily base. South African women – especially – facing some of the worst cases of Gender Based Violence worldwide. It is for this reason that Erika and her partners have consciously employed women from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds within the firm. Single mums, women in abusive relationships, all having to make do on their own. Some without support. Except from the team at LGR inc.
The stories of some of the women within LGR Inc are so horrific that it is hard to imagine that they are true. Let alone are happening to strong women within the legal profession. And yet they are. The extent of Gender Based Violence within South Africa has reached astronomical proportions. So much so that the public en masse do not know how bad it has actually become.
There are immense challenges that are faced by women on a daily basis. And some of those women work at LGR Inc.
But there is a passionate protection that encircles LGR Inc. It is very tangible. Very real. Erika speaks about the employees within the firm with such care and love that you can almost imagine her wrapping her arms around her entire staff compliment in a protective and supportive embrace.
The upliftment and empowerment of women has become a focus for Erika as well as the larger LGR Inc team. Through all the stories of abuse, there is a belief that if you can help someone else, if you can lift them up, then it is your moral obligation to do so.
The COVID pandemic was a huge wake-up call. It served as a stark reminder that instead of freeing women from their abusive relationships – they were instead, locked them up with their abusers. Without a way out, many of these women felt trapped, isolated, and desperate. The respite and refuge many women got from their situations whilst at work was taken away from them. And the result? The abuse continued and often escalated.
Erika admits that there was a massive mental health shift within LGR Inc because of this. The management team at LGR Inc became increasingly worried about some of their employees who were experiencing escalating issues at home. So, they offered – through Momentum – counsellors that their staff could call if they needed support, advice or if they needed help.
Mental health and the protection of mental health became (and has remained) a top priority within LGR Inc.
Ultimately, it’s not just about work at LGR Inc. There is a human element that is very hard to ignore. It’s about helping, empowering, and uplifting others too.
Erika’s biggest lessons so far?
“The legal profession – for women – has been emancipated.”
With these words in mind, Erika continues –
Ø While there are growing opportunities for women, it is up to each woman to reach out for them and grab them when they come along. Don’t stand back expecting for an opportunity to be handed over to you. Grab the moment and make the opportunity work for you.
Ø Keep in mind that it is the value that you can add and what you can bring to the party that is important. Not your gender.
Ø Having a support structure is crucial. As Erika said –
“If you are not surrounded by the right people, you are going nowhere. And you are going nowhere fast. There is only so much you can do on your own. So, whether it is your life partner or partners and colleagues at work – the relationships you have with them – gets you to where you want to be. It takes a lot more than only one person to get a business from point A to point B. Surrounding yourself with the right people enables you to excel.”
Ø Sometimes and on some occasions, you will be called upon to be a support structure for someone else. When that day arrives – step up and be it for them.
Ø Starting your own practice is immensely fulfilling. It’s about planting a seed and watering it little by little every day, having faith that one day it will blossom and bloom beyond your imagination. But planting that seed – with hope of course – needs to be done with realistic expectations. Because nothing – including your practice – will bloom overnight. It takes guts. It takes patience and most of all perseverance to reap the rewards of your hard labour.
Ø Don’t get so lost working in your business that you forget to work on your business. Make time to consciously work on your business. Whether it is marketing or social media campaigns – whatever it is – push your brand forward and secure more clients.
Ø Don’t forget what your vision was when you started out – stay true to your beliefs and your vision. This will help you when you go through tough days (which happens).
Ø Save for a rainy day – and start saving early on.
Ø Do not place yourself at the bottom of your own priority list. Prioritise your own physical and mental health.
Ø Practice self-care. Check in with yourself and ensure you are ok – you cannot ensure others are safe, secure, and ok if you cannot do that for yourself first.
Ø Spend quality time with yourself. Sometimes it’s in the quiet moments when you learn the most about yourself.
AJS is immensely proud to not only be providers of legal tech solutions to, but also be true business partners of LGR Incorporated. A firm with self-assured women that are compassionate, kind, caring and strong.
Women that care for those around them and really want to be vehicles of change for women within the legal profession.
Women that are proud to be Women.
Women that are proud to be Women in Law.