By Lindsay Podraza and Jay Nachman
When Nicole Galli C’89, L’92 opened ND Galli Law LLC in 2015, she wanted to join a network of other women who owned firms.
She quickly hit a snag: no such network existed.
A year later, Galli approached seven other women about starting a group, and they agreed to form a host committee.
“I thought it was brilliant, I thought there was absolutely a need for it,” said Laura Nussbaum Solomon L’92, PAR’25, who owns Laura Solomon, Esq. & Associates and became integral to the network’s launch. “I’d been mentoring women one by one because there was no such thing, and Nicole was the one who had the insight to create it.”
The network became Women Owned Law, a tax-exempt nonprofit trade association that today has approximately 200 members across the country.
Earlier this year, Women Owned Law held its third national symposium, attended by 100 women.
Study in recent years have shown that women struggle to level the professional playing field with their male colleagues in American law firms. A 2019 study from the American Bar Association, “Walking Out the Door,” found that female partners near the age of 50 have been leaving in droves for various reasons.
Galli said she’s witnessed women leave Big Law to start their own firms after making connections through Women Owned Law. “If women were satisfied, they wouldn’t leave. It’s not worth it if we’re not getting the appropriate recognition and compensation.”
Solomon said men have long benefited from more networking opportunities on golf courses and in eating clubs, providing them with the ability to swap referrals.
“This organization helps fill the gap, and also provides an established pool of successful female mentors and colleagues,” Solomon said.
Galli said women are not recognized enough for their entrepreneurship. She was also motivated to start Women Owned Law to challenge a persisting belief that women open firms because they can’t “cut it” in Big Law.
Here we examine how 15 alumnae — with backgrounds ranging from Big Law to government to in-house counsel — made a decision to open their own law firms, and why they’re not looking back.
“I realized life is short, and you can’t really wait forever to do what you want to do.”ROBIN COHEN C’83, L’86
ROBIN COHEN C’83, L’86
Cohen Ziffer Frenchman & McKenna LLP
New York, New York
Cohen had 30 years’ experience representing Fortune 500 companies in insurance coverage cases at big firms when COVID-19 hit. The pandemic, she said, was a wakeup call for her and her insurance recovery team at McKool Smith. “It was a time of reflection,” she said. “You got to stand still for a moment, and we decided we’d rather do it on our own, and we thought we’d be more financially and emotionally successful and able to forge our own path.”
Cohen formed Cohen Ziffer Frenchman & McKenna in January 2021, taking her team of 12 McKool insurance attorneys with her, along with 100 clients. “I realized life is short, and you can’t really wait forever to do what you want to do.” The boutique firm has grown to 30 lawyers, and Cohen said she prides herself on building a diverse partnership and an office where people feel valued and invested in the firm. The National Journal named Cohen one of the “50 Most Influential Women Lawyers” in America. “You really get to forge the path you want to go, based on your own values, and we’ve been able to do a lot of interesting, fun cases and can take on whatever pro bono matter we want.”
What advice would you give other alumni about opening a firm?
“Someone said to me, ‘It’s not rocket science,’ and it’s not. You just have to be bold and a little more entrepreneurial. What was holding me back a little bit is that I’m not great with logistics and computers and furniture. A friend said, ‘You can hire someone to do that.’ One of the smartest things we did was hire a COO who is really focused on the business side and logistics so we could focus on legal aid.”
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