BU Law alum’s new organization puts female legal entrepreneurs on the map.
A few years ago, Gabrielle Sellei (’95) planned to leave her law firm and start a solo practice. Around the same time, her friend Nicole Galli was making the same move. During this transition, they realized there was no real support network for female legal entrepreneurs. Seeking to fix this, Galli and Sellei launched Women Owned Law—a national networking group for female-owned law and legal services firms.
“There’s so little information, support, and opportunity for female legal entrepreneurs to come together and support each other,” Sellei says. “This is really the only organization that I know of that addresses the unique needs of this group.”
Sellei has always been independent. She hasn’t participated in many bar association activities or legal groups for women in the past. But Women Owned Law is different. Unlike other organizations for women attorneys, which are often focused on helping women advance through the ranks of big corporate law firms to partnership, Women Owned Law focuses specifically on the needs of women attorneys who own their own businesses.
The organization is a network for female legal entrepreneurs to support one another in their businesses, but the group isn’t exclusively for women who own firms. Membership at Women Owned Law is open to anyone who supports female entrepreneurs in the law, as well as to law students.
Sellei is a board member and chair of the Communications Committee at Women Owned Law. She works with Galli to create educational and networking opportunities for the organization’s members to connect and help one another grow their businesses.
The organization is also invested in understanding female legal entrepreneurs as a sector of the legal industry. Sellei and Galli are in the planning stages of a project that will analyze the demographics of this group. The project seeks to understand how many women own their own practices, how many female entrepreneurs are out there, and what types of female-owned firms there are. The data will help Women Owned Law more effectively serve the needs of community, but will also be as a resource for the public, the media, the academy, and the industry itself.
“One of the things we discovered when we started this organization is that there’s hardly any information out there on female legal entrepreneurs,” Sellei says. “This project will serve as a clearing house of information about us and who we are.”
Sellei says she envisions the next generation of lawyers breaking away from the traditional corporate practice and start to focus more on solo, small, and boutique firms.
“Big institutional clients may still need big institutional law firms,” she says, “but there are a huge number of clients out there that not only don’t need the traditional law firm model, but who actually benefit from smaller practices.”
These benefits of a smaller practice include more catered, client-based work. A boutique law firm usually focuses in a specific law area and will bring in additional expertise if needed. This focused approach often creates a closer lawyer-client relationship, which can sometimes be more difficult at a big, brand-name firm. Sellei’s own practice serves entrepreneurs and small-to-mid-sized businesses, including many artists and others in the entertainment world. But her firm isn’t limited in what it can offer clients. Women Owned Law provides Sellei a ready network of attorneys that she can call upon.
“I have at my fingertips an amazing number of subject-matter experts on anything,” she says. “It’s like being a member of a virtual law firm with members in almost every practice area and jurisdiction.”
Sellei says she hopes Women Owned Law will help make female legal entrepreneurs more visible. With so little information out there on who women in the law are, the organization is looking to be the first to address the particular needs of this group.
“Until now, it’s been an unfortunate cycle of what you don’t know you don’t study and what you don’t study you don’t know,” Sellei says. “We’re going to break that cycle by studying ourselves and putting ourselves on the map.”
Reported by Greg Yang (CAS’17)
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