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Francine Griesing is the founder and Managing Member of Griesing Law, a law firm based in Philadelphia. Founded in 2010, Griesing Law provides comprehensive legal services to the region’s leading government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations—including Fortune 500 companies. The firm’s services encompass practice areas ranging from employment and business transactions to government and regulatory affairs to intellectual property, higher education, telecommunications, real estate, and much more. In 2013, Griesing Law received the annual Law Firm MVP Award from the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms. The following year, the firm was selected as SmartCEO Magazine’s Philadelphia Law Firm of the Year.
Francine Griesing spoke with Jeff Mack, of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, for this interview.
JEFF MACK: Tell us about founding the firm and your vision for Griesing Law.
FRANCINE GRIESING: My vision for the firm and the launch are intertwined. I’ve been a lawyer at this point now for 35 years—at the time it was nearly 30—and I had practiced at many big firms, and I saw a lot of opportunity for a different kind of law firm that I thought could be successful, where people could be very happy practicing law—particularly women.
I was contemplating starting my own firm but was really hesitant. My daughter, who is now 26 but was then 19, kept pushing me and saying, “Mom, why aren’t you starting your own firm?” I said, “I’m afraid. I’m concerned I won’t get clients.” She started laughing at me and saying, “What do you mean you won’t get clients? You already have clients! Why wouldn’t you get more clients?”
She kept encouraging me that I should start a firm for women, which was my vision, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to do it. When I kept insisting that I was hesitant about doing it, she said, “What kind of role model will you be for me if you do not do this because you’re afraid? You need to do this.” Frankly, that was the thing that tipped it for me. Lots of people had pushed me, but she was the one who convinced me that I should do it.
My vision was to create a law firm particularly for women, initially—although we now have men working at our firm as well, and I think this applies to them as well: I wanted to create a law firm where everyone could reach their best potential, whatever that was for them. They didn’t have to fit into the traditional big firm model. They could be their own person and still succeed, and particularly when they were raising a family, because historically when people start to have families, particularly women, and they need to take time off because their children are sick or they have to go to a school play or anything like that, there was a perception that they weren’t committed enough to their careers, and often, even worse, it was perceived that maybe they weren’t even good lawyers because they had to take time off. I wanted to create a setting in which people could attend to their personal needs, whether it was children or parents or spouses—whatever that might be—and still be successful as lawyers. That was the vision for the firm.
Q. What were you doing before you started the firm? Can you tell us about your experience working with Ed Rendell?
A. I was the city’s lead litigation attorney, under Mayor Ed Rendell before he became Governor, for the last three years of the Rendell administration. That was a stunning opportunity because my responsibilities included representing the mayor, the city as an entity, members of City Council, all the commissioners—anyone who had a high-level position in the city, and often the people on the street: police officers, firemen—you name it—if they had a problem, or were sued, my department defended them. I supervised 75 trial lawyers, all defending the city, as well as the support staff that went with that.
We handled the most incredible matters—every possible thing you could think of. It was a very interesting job, but also a very intense job, because it was before the time when people carried cell phones all the time—not that I didn’t have a cell phone, but most people did not actually carry them as routinely as they do now—so everyone in my position or in similar positions carried a pager. If your pager went off, you had to then go find a pay phone—they still existed then—and call the mayor’s office, or whoever was calling you, to respond to whatever the emergency might be.
Q. What kinds of legal issues did you work on then, and what lessons did you learn?
A. Some of the fascinating things I got to work on included preparing for the Republican National Convention, the implosion of the sugar factory that is now the casino and other implosions of major buildings around the city, dealing with fear of terrorism attacks—which wasn’t as big a concern as it is now—but also simple things like defending a single police officer who was accused of maybe using too much force. I got to see all different kinds of projects around the city, got to meet amazing people, and even got to tour underneath the Veterans Stadium after the Army–Navy game collapse of some of the stadium seats. It was a wild ride.
While working for Ed Rendell and working at the city, I learned how to deal with high-profile matters, intense public scrutiny, being interviewed by newspaper reporters and being careful about how something might be perceived if you’re not thoughtful about it. I learned how to work well with a very diverse constituency, meaning not only ethnically diverse, but age- and gender-diverse, and also just geographically diverse. I wasn’t born here and I didn’t grow up in Philadelphia, so I did not appreciate until I worked for the city how much everyone’s neighborhood meant to them and how people really identified in Philadelphia with their neighborhood. That’s been very helpful in understanding the different dynamics of my growing team here in Philadelphia as well.
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