From Lawyers to Entrepreneurs

Montage LegalLaurie Rowen and Erin Giglia know a lot about unhappy lawyers.  They get at least one resume every day from attorneys looking for an alternative to law firm life with Montage Legal Group, the network of freelance attorneys Laurie and Erin founded in 2009.  Three years in, Montage Legal boasts over 60 attorneys from top law schools on both coasts, and provides legal services to over a hundred law firms. Next month, Laurie will be honored as the Orange County chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Entrepreneur to Watch for 2012.

Laurie and Erin met in the litigation group at Snell and Wilmer, after both had graduated from USD.  In a bizarre twist of friendship, in late 2007 they discovered that they were pregnant at almost exactly the same time. They decided to start Montage Legal a year after both of their daughters were born in April 2008.  At first, their goal was to change the way people thought of contract lawyers.  They soon realized that they were changing the way contract lawyers thought of themselves.  By providing law firms with high-quality attorneys, whose photos and impressive profiles appear on the Montage Legal website, Laurie and Erin created an attractive alternative for lawyers who wanted to do challenging work outside the confines of traditional firms. When they first started Montage, neither of them knew much about entrepreneurship, but they applied the skills they had used as lawyers to grow their business.  Laurie learned about accounting by taking a Quickbooks class and reading books about business plans.  At Snell & Wilmer, she had created trial preparation checklists that associates there still use today.  At Montage Legal, she creates detailed checklists and planning documents that she and Erin use daily to ensure that the business is meeting its goals.  As a litigator, one of Erin’s strengths was the ability to see the big picture; she now applies that skill to Montage Legal’s overall development.  Erin’s long-term vision and Laurie’s organizational skills combined to powerful effect.

Now, as successful business owners, their lives are only slightly less busy than they were when both were litigators.  The key difference: they are growing their own business, providing top-shelf legal services and improving the lives of lawyers across the country.  They spend their days meeting with clients, working with their attorneys, speaking at events, and growing their business, which recently expanded to the D.C. area.  They somehow also find time to mentor law students on networking and career development.  Importantly, they have more flexibility in the time they spend time with their young children, and they find genuine satisfaction in their work.

If you were going to start your own business, what would you do?  How can you start doing it now?

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