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A Philadelphia lawyer has organized a national organization to support women-owned law firms and the lawyers who lead them.

Women Owned Law launched nationally Monday, after a soft launch in the city that began in October with eight women. The organization aims to create networking opportunities and more visibility for women entrepreneurs in the law, while seeking to collect more data on women-owned law firms.

Founder and president Nicole Galli got the idea when she started her own firm about two years ago. As she looked to various lawyer and professional groups for support, she realized there was no organization dedicated solely to women-owned law firms.

Nicole Galli. (Courtesy photo)

Nicole Galli. (Courtesy photo)

“All the diversity issues you hear in the law that are focused on Big Law, we have all of those issues but are owning our own business,” Galli said. For instance, she said, many women start their own firms because they want to use a different business model in terms of diversity or compensation. But implementing that vision can be difficult without help or advice.

Since 2015, Galli has gathered a core group of volunteers and advisers, including a who’s who of women in Philadelphia law, as well as leading women lawyers from other cities. Galli said her goal is to achieve national reach, and eventually an international organization. The group currently has about 50 members, she said, and is reaching out to less formal networks of women lawyers.

The group’s goals are not just to provide networking and referral opportunities, Galli said, but to raise the profile of women-owned law firms in all practice areas. A large part of that is knowing where they are and what kinds of law they practice. Women Owned Law plans to start collecting that information through a pilot project in a single geographic region, Galli said. It will likely seek more funding to expand its research.

“There’s no place to get that information,” Galli said. “How do you talk about women-owned firms as a significant force if you don’t know where they are?”

While Women Owned Law is aimed toward law firms where at least half of the partnership is women, its membership is also open to any “person or entity who supports the mission.”

Joel Stern, CEO of the National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms, said his organization has stricter membership criteria, but he is supportive of other organizations that address the problems in the legal profession from various perspectives.

“I look at this as complementary and not conflicting,” Stern said. “Both women-owned law firms and minority-owned law firms are underserved.”

Stern said he has come to the opinion that unconscious bias, rather than purposeful decision-making, is the greatest obstacle for firms owned by women and minorities. Affinity groups cannot fix that problem, he said, but they can raise awareness and the visibility of their members.

Women Owned Law includes some NAMWOLF member firms, Galli said. In the future, she said, her organization will likely collaborate with others who have overlapping missions.