Attorney at Law Magazine recently spoke with attorney Nicole D. Galli specializing in commercial and intellectual property litigation. In addition to her own thriving firm, Galli also founded Women Owned Law (WOL), the first national network organization for women owned law and legal services firms and is a founding member of the new Sedona Conference Working Group 12 (Trade Secret) launched in 2018.
AALM: What drew you to a career in the law?
NDG: This is totally geeky, but I was inspired to be a lawyer by the Founding Fathers. The whole notion that you could essentially invent a system of government so completely different than anything that came before and that has endured all this time was amazing to me. And many of the Founding Fathers were lawyers.
AALM: What inspired you to open your own firm?
NDG: The same thing that drives all entrepreneurs I guess – a desire to control my own destiny and to build a business (law firm) the way I wanted it. It’s been five years and I am so glad that I did it. My grandparents owned their own business and my grandfather told me there was nothing like being your own boss – it took me more than 20 years to get there but he was right!
AALM: Why the interest in intellectual property?
NDG: Two things were really strongly emphasized when I was growing up – science and the arts. My parents were science teachers and my uncle was a theoretical particle physicist. My aunt was an art history major and my family spent a lot of time when I was growing up going to museums, concerts and the like. I loved invention and learning about science, but I didn’t want to do science. At the same time, I loved the arts but didn’t want to be an artist. And along the way I found out I was also fascinated by the psychology around marketing and branding (but didn’t want to go into marketing or research). All of those subjects are what I deal with every day as an IP lawyer. The other thing was that IP law is constantly changing, especially as technology and innovation changes. IP is the area of the law that has to keep up the most as society advances. So, both the facts and law in IP are super interesting to me and also challenging. I love challenges and puzzles!
I loved invention and learning about science, but I didn’t want to do science. At the same time, I loved the arts but didn’t want to be an artist.
AALM: What prompted you to create Women Owned Law (WOL)?
NDG: I started WOL because I believed women entrepreneurs in the law needed a voice and someone to advocate for them. Women’s entrepreneurship in the law needs to be recognized as not only a valid choice, but important for the legal community as a whole. I believe that entrepreneurship is key to changing the diversity and inclusion landscape in the law. Every large law firm in the world started as a few guys in an office – if women owned firms are properly supported and nurtured, the days of women owning only 20% of the largest firms will more quickly be behind us.
AALM: Can you tell us a little about the purpose and vision for this organization?
NDG: Women Owned Law was founded in late 2016. It is the first national networking group dedicated to women entrepreneurs in the law. Our mission is to connect, support and advance women entrepreneurs in the law. Our Vision is empowering women entrepreneurs to revolutionize the business of law. We support the growth and development of both women owned law firms and legal services businesses. We have about 180 members nationwide, largest concentration in the mid-Atlantic region. Our members firms range in size from 1-75 lawyers and everything in between. Many of our members are former Big Law lawyers and work with the Fortune 500; others work with individuals and smaller businesses. Members practice in all areas of the law – business, litigation, criminal, civil, specialty practices – you name it, they do it.
AALM: The Equity Project is certainly groundbreaking in addressing the gender gap. Can you talk about your involvement and what progress this initiative has gained for women?
NDG: My main role as an Equity Project Champion is to spread the word about the project and support the initiative in whatever ways I can. I am especially proud of the research project that the Burford Capital team just engaged in, which interviewed 77 General Counsel and other senior in house lawyers about diversity and inclusion in the law. The results are consistent with many other women in the law surveys but add additional depth to the existing data.
AALM: What do you believe are the greatest challenges facing professional women today?
NDG: There are so many, but if I had to pick one, especially in this time of COVID-19, I’d pick burnout. Women carry so many loads and burdens at home and at work – every study shows this. In fact, a recent McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn study showed that the “onlys” – women who are often the “only” woman in a room, which is true for so many women – are more adversely impacted by things like microaggressions than other women, let alone men. Taking care of yourself while taking care of everyone else is challenging. I’m also reminded of the old quote about Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire– Ginger did everything Fred did, only backwards and in high heels. That’s the life of professional women.
AALM: What is the most important lesson your parents taught you?
NDG: Be true to yourself. At the end of the day you have to live with your decisions and choices and be comfortable with them. No one else lives in your shoes and what’s right for someone else isn’t always what’s right for you.
AALM: What advice do you have for women just coming up in the legal world?
NDG: A lot of the advice I’d give is similar to others I think – be sure to get away from your desk and network – who you know can really be more important than what you know and doing an excellent job isn’t enough to succeed. Also be true to yourself.
But, I have a couple points of what I think is unique advice. First, as someone who is very goal oriented and focused, one thing I learned in college but didn’t really fully appreciate until later, is that sometimes, not all goals that seem appropriate at first are ultimately worth achieving – or they aren’t worth the cost. It is sometimes better to stop, accept that you aren’t going to accomplish the goal, and walk away. That was a very hard thing for me to learn, as I felt for a long time like I was just giving up – but as the years have gone by, it is one of the best lessons I’ve learned. Especially as a business owner it is critically important to be able to recognize when something isn’t working and pivot, rather than doggedly keep going.
Related to that, I also wish I took more risks earlier in my career – I started out pretty risk adverse for a lot of reasons, but things got way more interesting and fulfilling once I was willing to take risks, even if that meant stepping off the tried-and-true path.
Women’s entrepreneurship in the law needs to be recognized as not only a valid choice, but important for the legal community as a whole.
AALM: What are you most proud of professionally and/or personally?
NDG: Personally – my kids! Professionally – Women Owned Law.
AALM: Tell us about your life outside work.
NDG: I am working on that. There are a lot of things I really enjoy doing – spending time with my family, reading, going for walks, gardening, knitting or other crafts, seeing friends, yoga (and lately I’m trying Tai Chi), cooking or baking, making art, going to museums – I guess I do a little bit of each but I feel I could do better with this. I am busy growing my business, Women Owned Law and raising my kids – it’s a lot!
AALM: Finally, what keeps you motivated?
NDG: My family and a drive to succeed and to make a difference in the world.