Our 5th annual Geller Law Group client holiday party was fabulous! If you're interested in reading our annual update about what our firm has been up to this year, below is the full text of the speech delivered by Managing Partner Rebecca Geller at our holiday party. We are so grateful for the many people who refer us to your friends and family. Because of you, we have grown into the robust firm we are today!
Rebecca Geller's speech at 2017 Geller Law Group Holiday Party:
Thank you all so much for being here today.
Time has a way of surprising you and I can’t quite believe that it’s been six years since I founded the Geller Law Group. What started as a way for me, a working mother with young kids, to continue practicing law and spend quality hours with my family has grown into a 16-woman law firm with over 2500 clients today.
We love to talk about the power of innovation in this modern age. But we often think about innovation in terms of things – new cell phones, drones, and self-driving cars.
We don’t often think about how to innovate the way we live – how to build smarter models for our work and more sustainable realities for our families.
When I started this firm, I wanted to be a happiness innovator. I wanted to do the work that I love while having time for the people who I love. Once I figured out that that was possible – I wanted to innovate happiness for an entire company and extend this concept to employees and our clients. That ethos – happiness innovation – is reflected in everything we do as a firm.
It’s one of the reasons we have seen such incredible growth in our practice. For the past 3 years, we’ve averaged 8-10 new clients every single week, and 50-60% revenue growth every year. The past few weeks have been exceptional, we were retained by 26 new clients during the 10 days leading p to Thanksgiving! And we do this along with raising the 26 kids among our team members…and the average age of our kids is 6 years old.
It’s one of the reasons we get such amazing feedback from the people who work with us – feedback like the following from one of our family law clients who called The Geller Law Group a “Fantastic, first-rate firm. Women owned and operated, tremendous work-life balance but absolute and intense dedication to their clients.” The client went on to say that “They're doing both pre-nup and estate work for us and they're making a hugely complex endeavor easy to understand and actually enjoyable.”
It’s one of the reasons our firm was profiled by the DC Bar magazine this year in recognition of sentiments expressed by an employee who recently said that for the first time in her career, we gave her the professional opportunity to succeed combined with the flexibility to be a mom.
And it’s one of the reasons The Geller Law Group was named one of the country’s “50 Most Admired Companies of the Year” by The Silicon Review this year.
The spirit of happiness innovation has guided our efforts to evolve and change our practice. This year we expanded our family law work to include adoption – a happiness innovator if ever there was one – spearheaded by senior attorney Laurie Forbes Neff. We also saw an opportunity to innovate in the field of adoption law – recognizing a gap in legal options available to same-sex couples, relating to estate planning, same-sex adoption, surrogacy, and reproductive technology.
I have tremendous pride in the work that Laurie does along with senior attorney Chantelle DiLorenzo to make sure that the law is always expanding the ways we create and protect all kinds of families. Our clients love the work that Chantelle does to help craft wills and trusts that reflect their goals. Chantelle has an incredible ability to explain complicated concepts in a very easy to understand manner, while winning over a client’s trust at the same time.
Online reviews from her clients include statements like “What I felt would be a complicated and daunting process instantly felt manageable thanks to Chantelle…a very patient, competent and approachable attorney.”
Under Chantelle’s leadership we have drastically expanded our probate practice and were delighted to have Elizabeth Parks join our team this year. Elizabeth was a staff attorney for the Fairfax County probate court and brings a wealth of knowledge plus the empathy needed to assist with the legal process involved in settling a loved one’s estate.
One of the most important parts of our practice is the work Jennifer Gniady does for our nonprofit clients. There are so many people looking to do good in the world right now and one of our most fulfilling roles we do as a law firm is helping folks with big hearts and even bigger ideas navigate the legal landscape. She recently helped a client with a contract who went onto yelp and wrote “Jennifer took the time needed to review the contract and let us know of any recommendations she had as well as answering all our questions. After the meeting we were able to make our decision with superior confidence.”
We also help many budding entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams of launching their own business. Senior paralegal Crystal Martinez recently commented “the best part of my job is getting to send an email to a client saying Congratulations! You now have a business!”
Our business clients range from dental or medical practices, government contractors, yoga studios, hair salons, and everything in between. We are enriched by the rich diversity of clients we take on in this part of our practice. The happiness factor of our team spills over to the work we do for our clients who routinely express thanks for the work we do for them. Just last night, a business client emailed Crystal and Sophia to thank them for their work and he said “I would like to thank you for your timely and helpful work. Moving to your firm was the right choice.”
If you can’t tell by now – I’m incredibly proud of the team we’ve built at the Geller Group. We take a collaborative approach to our work and an “all in mentality” to getting answers for our clients. The law can be incredibly complicated and at times, completely byzantine, but it’s also a living, breathing thing that can be molded and shaped by our experiences and our input. We never start from “no” with our clients, unless of course it is illegal – we are always looking to find ways to bring you to “yes.”. When faced with complicated situations, our team’s approach is “I may not be 100% sure of the answer but we are going to figure this out.”
That approach is built by our people. Senior attorney Emily Halm Jenkins joined us just 6 months ago but she brought with her one of our firm’s biggest clients and has been a powerhouse growing our business practice.
Sophia Chase Munson first joined our firm as a junior associate almost 5 years ago and I’m proud to announce she will be promoted to senior associate this January and now supervises our junior associates in their trademark, business formation and estate planning work.
And I’m so thrilled to be welcoming a new generation of lawyers to our firm this year. The “Laurens” – Lauren Jancuska who has been with us for 2 years as a law clerk and Lauren Shapiro who recently joined us– both graduated from law school this past spring from my alma mater American University Washington College of Law and have both passed the bar exam on their first try. And we are delighted that legal assistant Hira Jamil continues working with us part-time after beginning law school this fall.
None of our legal work would be possible without the support of our paralegal and administrative team.
Our paralegal team has grown and we are so thankful to be joined by Kendall Clark – who continues to surprise us with hidden talents like speaking Spanish and building our new website which we JUST launched today – be sure to check it out!
Nothing would get done without Betsy Charlesworth – our administrative coordinator - and Megan Marzluff and Jennifer Ruff who joined our firm this year to help with the growing pile of work needed to run a busy business like ours. They truly make the trains run on time.
Of course, I am most grateful for my colleague, work wife, friend – and fellow partner – Maria Simon. Maria and I were both chosen to receive this year’s prestigious Top 10 under 40 Attorney Award for the state of the Virginia by the Academy of Family Law Attorneys. Maria is truly one of the most talented attorneys I have ever met. One of our clients said it best: “Maria Simon and everyone at Geller Law Group thoughtfully guided me through the very difficult divorce process. The combination of expertise and genuine personal attention is invaluable when life does not go as planned. Maria was my attorney and "therapist"!”
Part of the innovative approach of our business model is that we spend a lot of time thinking about how to spread happiness and well-being in our own community. While we may have replaced the shingled law office on main street of times past with telework and conference calls – we keep an old-fashioned mentality about being a neighborhood business and we strive to give back to this community that gives so much to us.
For each of the last 4 years, our firm has volunteered over 500 hours of pro bono legal work. Over the last two years alone, our firm has donated over half a million dollars in money and legal services to help community organizations that combat domestic violence, homelessness, cancer, hunger and many other challenges.
Earlier this year we saw lawyers flocking to airports to help families impacted by the immigrant travel ban and we saw a great need for help. Very quickly, we organized a free legal training with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) for over 150 lawyers in the DC-area to learn how to take on pro bono cases to help vulnerable immigrant children facing deportation and we have taken on several of these cases pro-bono as a firm. We work with community partners to help coordinate legal services to help undocumented immigrants complete the paperwork needed to ensure children will be taken care of in case their parents are deported.
This summer, as we watched TV coverage of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, we launched a diaper drive – pledging to match all donations we received. Our goal was to collect 10,000 diapers and wipes. We were blown away by your response. This incredible community collected over 80,000 diapers and wipes to send to the Texas Diaper Bank for families in need after the floods.
A few weeks later, we did another matching donation drive for school supplies to help low-income families in Northern Virginia – and again, this community responded in force helping us collect enough supplies to fill 25 backpacks.
We have two firm-wide volunteer days every year in which our entire firm shuts down and the whole team works to help soup kitchens and food pantries. In May of this year we spent our volunteer day DC Central Kitchenchopping vegetables, making pot pies and baking bread..some of these things we don't even do at home for our own families! Our office will be closed this coming Monday for us to volunteer at the food pantry for the Lorton Community Action Center (LCAC)....so don't email us on Monday!
And we are hosting our 2nd annual food donation drive to help the food pantry of the Lorton Community Action Center. Last year, through your help and our matching funds we donated over 2,000 pounds of food to the pantry. This year we’d love to beat that! We’re collecting cans today or if you’d like to donate for the purchase of perishable food, please see one of our team members at the table in the back with an ipad to donate through our Amazon wish list. Our firm will match EVERY donation made.
I truly love growing a business that reflects values embraced by our team. We see people from all walks of life come to us for help and my sincere hope with every single client is that our partnership restores a measure of happiness in your lives.
I was so honored to receive the March of Dimes Heroine award this year, in large part due to the work of this dedicated team to champion issues that need a champion. Ever since I helped to write and pass the new Virginia law providing much-needed legal protections to nursing moms, our firm has become a haven for breastfeeding women in need of legal advocates. One particularly special client we took on as a pro bono client this year was a woman who was told to leave her church while discreetly breastfeeding her child. She wrote to us after we helped with her case: “My experience working with The Geller Law Group and with Rebecca Geller personally was a pivotal time in my life. I'm in gratitude of Rebecca's determination, professionalism and dedication to the breastfeeding law and her swift way of upholding our rights.”
Happiness Innovation – after 6 years it remains the thing that matters to us most. People sometimes ask me what the “secret” to our success is – in these times I do like to note that maybe it’s the fact that we are completely women owned and women run and women… well we just get the job done.
But I think the truth is that we care about happiness. And we find that a firm that cares about happiness, attracts clients who make us happy to know them, to work for them and help create their own success. Work, business and the law should not be things we take on purely out of necessity – we should work to mold and evolve them to fit our lives, making us all happier in the process.
So we are so happy to celebrate the end of the year with all of you. Each of you are happiness innovators too – enriching this community we are all part of with your businesses, your charities and your families. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your many referrals, talking about us on social media, and sending your friends and family to our firm. Our firm is based on referrals which is the greatest compliment you could possibly give us.
We sincerely hope this holiday season and the next year is filled with much success and joy…and yes, happiness.