Reflections on WOL Symposium

On March 11, 2020 Women Owned Law hosted its first symposium on Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Law. The event included various panels, a variety of networking opportunities and a meeting of entrepreneurs from across the country.

Live and virtual attendees had the opportunity to hear tips for running a law firm or legal business, innovations in the law, partnering with corporations and “big law”, methods for scaling law firms and a key note address on “The Transformative Power of Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Legal Profession: Why Women Owning the Conference Room Matters More Than Just a Seat At the Table” by Carolyn Elefant.

The following are some of the key take-aways that resonated with me from the programs.

Tips from the Trenches

The first group of panelists represented various sized and types of women owned firms and business in the legal profession. The panelists reflected on their initial “leap” into starting their own businesses. Panelists highlighted the various types of support system which allowed them to take these “leaps.” Having both a professional and personal support system means having emotional and physical support, and also having cheerleaders, mentors, networks, and vision that prop you up along the way. In short, the pillars of a new venture are support and confidence in your own ability to achieve the goal you are pursuing.

Innovation in the Law

As an ever-developing field, law innovates and advances with other industries. Part of entrepreneurship is utilizing and acting on market trends. The second group of panelists utilized their specialized skills and market knowledge to fill in various gaps in the legal market, such as opening a niche practice group dealing with cyber security, providing capital backing to smaller firms post the 2008 Recession, and expanding the scope of their business to fit the larger needs of clients (e.g., long-term temporary legal staffing, conflict resolution services). Being successful in the legal market requires recognition of where there are gaps and how to best serve clients by filling in those gaps. 

Best Practices for Partnering with Corporations and Big Law

The third group of panelists focused on the communal aspect of the legal community and the concept of “the give.”  The legal community is a tight network. Working together to support and mentor fellow entrepreneurs allows the legal community to work together to the benefit of all. A positive and diverse legal community requires not only offering help, but actually giving help. A support network should include individuals who will help you when asked and you should help others when they ask you for help.

Scaling Women Owned Firms in the Law

The final panel focused on how one scales a business in the law.  Scaling a business is not the same as growing a business, but the capacity of your business for larger growth. A focus on partnership and reputation building can allow scaling with limited financial expansion cost. Facilitating partnerships with large firms allows clients to keep their relationship with the large firm while working and building relationships with a smaller firm at a lower cost. Understand that not every venture will push your name into the spotlight but will allow your firm or business to be recognized for the good work you do. Building a professional reputation free from ego facilitates partnerships and ultimately fosters business growth.

“The Transformative Power of Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Legal Profession: Why Women Owning the Conference Room Matters More Than Just a Seat At the Table” by Carolyn Elefant 

Keynote speaker Carolyn Elefant, author of Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be and the blog, has given a voice, platform, and model to many women entrepreneurs on starting their own practice and striking out on their own. The number of women entrepreneurs is greater that statistics show. The limited numbers of women in big law firms does not take into account the striking number of women running business and law firms. For these women, it is more than just getting a seat at the table, it is owning the building, the room and the table. When woman sit at the head of the table, they run the room. 

The Symposium left me inspired, empowered, and supported by a group of powerful women owning their own tables and ready to ask others to sit at those tables with them. 


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