Perception is reality. If nobody sees things the way you do, then even if you are convinced you are right, that may not be the case.
Fran Griesing is the founder of Griesing Law, LLC, a woman owned law firm based in Philadelphia, with offices in New York and Cincinnati. A valued, strategic advisor to top executives and general counsel, Fran has over thirty five years of experience representing public and closely held companies, not-for-profit organizations, government entities and executives in complex business transactions, high stakes litigation, employment, and alternate dispute resolution.
Prior to launching Griesing Law, LLC in 2010, Fran practiced law at top tier firms in New York and Philadelphia and she also served as Chair of Litigation of Philadelphia’s City Solicitor’s Office under former Mayor Edward G. Rendell, who later served as Governor of Pennsylvania. Fran has been recognized by numerous legal rankings for her expertise including Chambers and Partners USA, Best Lawyers in America, Client Choice Guide USA, and Pennsylvania Super Lawyers. She has also been acknowledged as one of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Influencers of Law Lifetime Achievers, Philadelphia Business Journal’s Best of the Bar, The Legal Intelligencer’s Women of the Year, Ms. JD Sharing Her Passion Honoree, and Pennsylvania Super Lawyers’ Top 50 Women Lawyers and is the recipient of the Philadelphia Bar Education Center’s Excellence in Legal Education Award and the American Bar Association’s Excellence in Legal Writing Award.
Fran is a trailblazing entrepreneur, selected by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and Bank of America as the 2018 Woman Business Owner of the Year and by The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia as the 2018 Small Business Person of the Year. She’s also been included in Women’s Enterprise Magazine’s Top WBE CEOs, Philly Biz’s Executives of the Year, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year, Philadelphia Business Journal’s Women of Distinction, Business Philadelphia’s Women to Watch and one of the Governor’s Best 50 Women in Business.
Fran is a highly sought speaker and writer and is also featured in “The Road to Independence, 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Firms”, published by the American Bar Association. She has taught Business Law, Public Employment Law and Advocacy Skills at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and Fox School of Business & Management and has been a guest lecturer at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Thomas Kline School of Law at Drexel University. Fran is an honors graduate of Binghamton University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was an editor of the Law Review.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Throughout my legal career, I have often been one of handful, if not the only, female attorney in the room. Given this disconcerting trend in the legal profession, my goal has been to continuously advocate for the inclusion and promotion of women attorneys as I strongly believe that a more diverse legal profession is a more successful one. My goal in founding the firm was to combat the forces that keep women out of leadership roles and from staying in the profession at all. Griesing Law was created so that attorneys of all backgrounds and lifestyles could thrive and contribute their unique perspectives and expertise to clients. In the summer of 2009, I was contemplating two offers to join new firms but in my gut I felt that neither was the right next step for me. At that time, I went on a walk with my daughter along Kelly Drive and we’re talking about my hesitation and she says to me, “Why don’t you start your own firm?” I told her that I couldn’t do that because I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough clients. She laughed and said that was ridiculous because I already had clients. I kept insisting that is wasn’t doable and she stops me and says, “What kind of role model would you be for me if you didn’t do something because you were afraid?” In that moment, the light bulb went off in my head and I decided I was going to take the plunge and open my own firm.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There is no typical day, as the only thing that I can be sure of is that most days will not unfold as planned. Most days involve responding to an endless stream of communications- usually some from new clients or prospects. I spend considerable time advising clients in person, by phone or email and overseeing a broad array of client matters handled by my colleagues. Most days include some professional or civic activity such as writing articles, speaking to other lawyers or business professionals, serving on non-profits boards or committees and mentoring other women lawyers and entrepreneurs. As I can never predict what will cross my desk on a given day, I try to set aside specific times to focus and think about thorny problems without interruption. I prefer to limit my time in the office to the middle of the day. I set aside time in the morning and at the end of the day to organize, plan and review emails without interruption and I end every day making a to do list for the next day so I can clear my head.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My best ideas often come to me when I am in exercise class, hiking or walking to work. I frequently send myself emails or texts with ideas so I don’t lose the thought before I can follow up. Once I have an idea I want to pursue, I explore it with my team; testing the soundness and brainstorming how to bring it to life. Once we have the broad strokes, I enlist the best mix of team members to implement the strategy for achieving our goals.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The Marie Kondo approach to simplifying and paring down our possessions and keeping only the things that truly give us joy. In the past decade, I moved from a large home with lots of tchotchkes, to a city apartment. I proceeded to move three times since and with each move I left behind, donated or gave away more and more things I did not cherish. Having less that I value more has been liberating.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have always been a list maker and a planner. For most of my life, I have planned my goals for the next months, years, etc. and updated those plans regularly. I continue to assess my short and long term goals and how I can achieve them. When a strategy is not effective or a goal no longer makes sense, I re-evaluate and adjust my direction to a more realistic goal or a more effective strategy.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I wish I had realized earlier in life that I could go out on my own and build a practice without the constraints of conforming to others expectations or bowing to their demands. My advice would be that nothing feels better than being your own boss, so just go for it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Perception is reality. If nobody sees things the way you do, then even if you are convinced you are right, that may not be the case.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I try to exercise regularly and meditate as well. Taking the time to nourish my body and mind replenishes my energy and enables me to continue to bear the responsibility and constant flow of running a business. When you are on a plane, the flight attendants remind you to put on your oxygen mask before helping children or others who need help. The same applies to running a business; if you do not take care of yourself, you cannot protect your stakeholders – employees, suppliers, and customers, or your family. So do not neglect your own well-being.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
JFK’s famous quote, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” is at the root of how I do business. Griesing Law is a one of a kind law firm, locally and nationally, which focuses on a collaborative team approach and discourages internal competition that interferes with client service. With such a close knit team at our firm, I wanted to create a unique and open culture where the success of any one employee means overall greater success of the entire firm. Unlike traditional firms, we do not reward or compensate attorneys based on “origination credit” – the idea that whoever brings in new business gets credit for the work, regardless of the matter’s outcome or who actually works it. By removing this financial model at our Firm, it allows for greater collaboration and deters intra-office competition that is found at most law firms. This also assures that everyone on our team is invested in providing clients with personal service and achieving the best results.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We launched the firm as a subtenant in the penthouse offices of a large prominent law firm. We had barely opened the firm, established our presence and notified clients and referral sources that we were in business, when our landlord decided it wanted our space for its own expansion. However, having to devote time and energy to finding a new office that was as convenient, luxurious and yet inexpensive was not something I had expected or bargained for. It was stressful and very disruptive. My initial reaction was panic and frustration. I did not want to spend resources fighting with my landlord even if I had the right to stay and I did not want to stay in a location where we were not welcome. That was not good karma for our new business. But, after catching my breath and coming up with a strategy for handling this curve ball, we ended up with a win. We negotiated a payment to leave our lease early and moved into an even nicer space where we were not an unwelcome guest. To deal with questions about why we moved so quickly, we pitched this as having so much early success we had outgrown our initial space. Instead of a setback, we turned this into a win.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I travel frequently for business and pleasure and am constantly packing and unpacking. I think a service that could arrange to have a packed bag with clothes that are appropriate for the location and your travel purpose and the toiletries and comfort items you need delivered to your destination hotel and unpacked, then picked up when you check out, would be a great service. Busy people would just be able to fly on am a moment’s notice without worrying about forgetting what they need, losing luggage or being closed out of crowded overhead compartments..
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently had several trips around the country and was struggling with a tight back from all the time spent in the air. When exercise, hiking, yoga did not provide relief, I booked a massage in between meetings at The Now Massage Boutique in Spring Lake, LA, and it was the best $100 I had spent in a long time. The soothing setting at The Now and the skilled massage therapist provided a luxurious respite from a pounding schedule.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We have been using Filesite since we started our firm in 2010 to keep track on our client and firm files in a manageable, organized format. For me, the ease of use and the logic of the system saves me considerable time in finding what I need and sharing our files among our growing team. I have used alternative systems, and find that Filesite continues to enable us to work effectively as a team.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I think “Negotiating the Nonnegotiable – How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts” by David Shapiro is a must read for entrepreneurs. We all think we know how to make the best deal, but sometimes we face negotiation partners who are intractable or confront issues that are like a Gordian knot. Founder and Director of Harvard International Negotiation Program, addresses some to the toughest issues in resolving disputes. If you can handle the most challenging differences, then the others will easily fall into place.
What is your favorite quote?
“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion in being asked to dance.” Verna Myers, Diversity Advocate
- Start making a strategic plan early and update it often; setting out your short and long term goals and action steps on how you are going to achieve those goals
- Set up a compensation and advancement system that encourages team members to be their best selves, whatever that means for them
- Avoid processes that cause team members to compete with one another such as “origination credit” that causes your team to fight over clients rather than collaborating to serve them best.
- Take care of your body and mind by simplifying your life, exercising, meditating and other self-care so you are in the best condition to take care of your business and its stakeholders.
Twitter @frangriesing @griesinglaw
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.