Jennifer Gumer pondered leaving law for good after six-plus stressful years at a large firm. But her thinking changed after learning about CGL, a growing virtual firm run by Hannah Genton ’13 and Noam Cohen ’13.
“Now I can use my hard-earned legal skills in a way that actually works for me,” says Gumer, an NYU Law graduate. “I work the hours I want from wherever I want, interact directly with clients, and use more of my own judgment and creativity to address their needs. Those are freedoms I could have only dreamt of in Big Law.”
Virtual law firms have been around for more than a decade. The advantages for practitioners are obvious.
No set working hours, no physical office, ample rewards. Hired on a per-hour or per-project rate, CGL attorneys enjoy greater work-life balance while saving time and money not having to commute.
“The ability to practice law on your own terms is an anomaly in the legal world,” Cohen says. “We believe working remotely and having control over one’s time is a recruiting advantage.”
With no costs for office maintenance and lawyers who have Big Law experience, CGL offers affordable, sophisticated services for clients such as early-stage startups with price-sensitive needs. CGL lawyers enjoy more flexibility than peers at big or small firms and can serve a wider base of clients while untethered to a single location.
Genton and Cohen worked at large national firms and recommend that first step for training, mentorship, and connections.
Over time, however, “we didn’t connect to the predetermined hierarchical structure, advancement based on seniority rather than merit, set compensation structures, or expected face time,” Genton says.
The final straw: parenthood. “That’s really when CGL was born, with the birth of our little ones,” she says.
In fall 2017, Cohen and Genton took a leap of faith to create their new reality—a practice where they control whom they represent, what services they provide, and where and when they do so. CGL focuses on corporate and commercial law, and recently expanded into cannabis compliance and regulatory counseling.
Genton (who lives in San Francisco) and Cohen (Los Angeles) signed 18 clients in just seven months.
“Clients are recognizing the value, and our growth is attributable, almost entirely, to word of mouth and the support of our former clients, colleagues, employers, and classmates,” Cohen says. “And there are many attorneys like us out there: people who studied at top universities and worked for top firms, but who felt compelled to leave their big law or in-house gigs in search of a more balanced, sustainable life and career path.”