Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
After graduating from University at Albany, SUNY, Laurie Poulos wasn’t sure what would come next for her. All she knew was that she liked to solve problems and that she liked to learn. To combine both interests, she did the most logical thing.
“I decided to go to law school,” she says. “While law was always appealing to me, it wasn’t necessarily a dream of mine. I majored in Criminal Justice in undergrad, and my dream at the time was to actually become an FBI agent. I was intrigued by investigating, solving problems, and forensics.”
While she didn’t go on to infiltrate crime groups or execute search warrants, she applied her analytical mind to a different place—the courtroom. She studied at Brooklyn Law School, took on a clerkship at a US District Court in New Jersey, and went on to build a successful private practice career at two Am 100 law firms where she specialized initially in white collar criminal defense and later in civil and commercial litigation.
From there, Poulos was offered opportunities to take on roles and responsibilities she hadn’t considered before, and at times, it was challenging. She had to educate herself on the health insurance industry to best serve one of her health insurance carrier clients. Then, she was asked to work in-house as chief compliance officer at TRANZACT, a leader in marketing and sales of health insurance.
But when the company tapped her to be its general counsel, she thought it was not an obvious next step in her career path.
“I was offered the GC role, which is more of a corporate legal role—different from litigation. My immediate reaction was, ‘Surely there’s someone more qualified than me for this role because I’m a litigator,’” Poulos says.
Never one to back down from a challenge, however, she decided, after some thought, to give it a go, reasoning, “Look I’m being offered an opportunity to take on a role for which I don’t necessarily have specific experience, but they know that. This is an opportunity that might never present itself again. They obviously have faith in me, so why not give it a try?”
Taking the leap turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. What she didn’t have in experience, she made up for in the values and problem-solving skills she brought to the table.
Today, she’s thriving in her multifaceted role as vice president, general counsel, and chief compliance officer. She built the company’s legal and compliance functions from the ground up. In addition to managing all legal and compliance matters, Poulos helped lead the company through a period of high growth, including a $1.2 billion merger with Willis Towers Watson in 2019.
Today, she is “proud to lead and support the company by providing legal advice in alignment with the company’s business and strategic objectives and its core values.” This is not always an easy task, but it can be rewarding. “TRANZACT operates in a highly regulated industry, and my job is to help ensure that the company remains in compliance with applicable laws and regulations while protecting the company from risk and offering pragmatic solutions to complex problems. I am a trusted advisor to the business, and they appreciate and respect me for the valuable contributions I make,” she says.
For Poulos, her career journey and her success illustrate the importance of taking on opportunities as they arise and maintaining an open mind.
What’s Special About TRANZACT?
“One of the mottos we have that really embodies the company’s culture is ‘Be Real.’ It’s a call to be authentic, to bring your whole self to work, to speak openly, ask questions, and provide constructive feedback,” Laurie Poulos says. That’s something I think is very special because it really encourages everyone to participate.”
“Sometimes things happen by circumstance, not by choice. That’s really how my career evolved,” she reflects. “You have to remain open-minded and explore different options as they become available to you. As opportunities arise, take them. Sometimes things you hadn’t considered end up being what works out the best.”
Poulos’s winding career journey also inevitably influences the way she leads at TRANZACT. She looks to lead by example while empowering her team to seek solutions to problems. She believes knowing how to find answers is a vital skill. While one does not have to know everything, they can be valuable by knowing how to go about the process of figuring something out.
Poulos also aims “to resist the urge to give them the answers.” In that sense, she says, her leadership style is similar to her parenting style.
“It’s funny because I’m like that with my kids, too,” she says. “It’s kind of a hands-off approach. For example, when my kids ask for help with homework, it would be doing them a disservice to just give them the answers. I challenge them to try to figure it out for themselves. If they have questions about how to approach solving a problem, they can come and ask me, and I’ll help however I can. I want them to understand that it’s OK to make mistakes. If we don’t make mistakes, there is nothing to learn from.”
For young people still finding their way, Poulos offers this advice: “Remain open to opportunities as they arise. Take chances. Building credibility takes time. Have patience. You don’t always have to know everything—[having] core skills like problem-solving will help you go far.”
Greenberg Traurig LLP has more than 2,650 attorneys in 47 locations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. The firm is a 2022 BTI “Highly Recommended Law Firm” for superior client service and is among the top firms on the Am Law Global 100 and NLJ 500. Our multidisciplinary team includes senior lawyers who have served as chief legal officers at major multinational companies and have spent years solving real-world problems in the business, political and legal environments of major commercial centers. The firm is known for its philanthropic giving, innovation, diversity, and pro bono.