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The opening party for Galldin Liew raised money for an exotic dancers’ advocacy group, the firm’s slogan claims to put “the gal back in legal,” and its two founders give workshops with names such as “What the Eff Am I Signing?” While more women may be starting their own firms, Galldin Liew of Ottawa has taken the unique step of calling itself a “feminist law practice.” The firm aims to provide a range of legal services for women outside the typical structure seen at law firms. The two founders, who say they hope other women lawyers follow their footsteps, will celebrate the firm’s one-year anniversary in August. Karin Galldin, 31, and Jamie Liew, 30, who graduated from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law in 2005, said none of their past employers embodied the kind of environment they wanted from a law firm. “We thought that rather than trying to create change in some of our prior legal employers, perhaps we could just think big and create a practice for ourselves that was aligned to our vision,” Galldin said. NO TYPICAL HIERARCHY That vision means avoiding the typical hierarchy and pay systems of law firms, such as secretaries, associates and partners, she said. The two lawyers do everything from answering phones to going to court. They share what they are working on in order to collaborate and make decisions together. They work evenings and weekends to accommodate their clients. The only person assisting them is a summer intern. Galldin focuses on civil litigation and human rights law, while Liew practices immigration and criminal defense law. They also handle work such as wills and estate planning and provide corporate and commercial services to small businesses and nongovernmental organizations. “We feel very strongly that we’d like to be an all-service shop as much as we can be for women in the community so they are not getting bounced around from lawyer to lawyer,” Galldin said. “We’d like to be able to get them a full and complete opportunity and appropriate representation instead of saying we only do X and Y. So holistic service is very important to us.” Both lawyers said they made a commitment to give back to the community, so they serve on boards of local organizations and conduct free workshops, such as “What the Eff Am I Signing? Clever Girls’ Guide to Copyright Contract Law.” Liew said they also collaborate with community leaders and agencies to alert them of any issues, such as housing problems or domestic violence. “We’re partnering with community agencies so the burden is not just on us,” Liew said. “We are not crisis workers, we’re not workers who help find housing or do counseling … . But these women have a lot of problems, so we feel it’s really important that we’re just one little link in the chain of help.” NO MALE CRIMINAL CLIENTS In order to be true to their feminist philosophy, Liew said she does not defend men in criminal cases, the exception being smaller infractions that do not involve violence. The firm’s feminist policy is included in its retainer so all clients understand the philosophy, Galldin said. There is no shortage of criminal defense firms in Ottawa willing to represent men in cases involving violence, but Galldin said her firm avoids such cases in order to avoid any conflicts. For example, the firm wants to avoid a situation of defending men in criminal cases in the event one of the firm’s female clients turns out to be on the opposite side of the case. “Because we want to use law as a tool for women, we have decided that, in particular areas of our practice, so as to never be in conflict, we won’t represent men,” Galldin said. Ann Bartow, professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law who runs the Feminist Law Professors blog, said today’s women lawyers are more likely to use their strengths to start their own practice. “I haven’t seen too many that identify as feminists, but definitely, there is a trend of women starting their own firms and trying to carve out a niche and trying to leverage gender as something that helps them stand out a little bit,” she said. One women-owned law firm, Buffalo, N.Y.’s Schröder, Joseph & Associates, recently created buzz by doing this in an advertising campaign with ads such as “Ever Argue With A Woman?” and “Labor Pains? Talk to us. (we’re women … we get it.)”

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