On the day she quit Greenberg Traurig and launched her own Philadelphia law firm three-and-a-half years ago, Francine Griesing knew what type of employer she wanted to be.

"I really wanted to create an environment where every woman or man who worked there could work without the fear you get in most traditional law firm settings," Griesing said Thursday during a panel discussion that was part of a daylong conference in midtown Manhattan focused on what it takes for women to succeed in the legal industry.

Griesing also knew what kind of office setting she didn’t want to create: the kind she repeatedly came up against over the course of a 32-year legal career that took her from associate stints at Sullivan & Cromwell and other firms to a position as head of litigation for the City of Philadelphia’s legal department to partner roles at various Am Law firms, including Greenberg. "At every stage," she told conference attendees, "I faced incredible obstacles that my male peers did not face."

Those obstacles included the struggles colleagues never saw, like late nights at home spent finishing legal briefs while putting in loads of laundry and preparing the next night’s dinner. More significant were the impediments Griesing pushed into public view in December by filing a proposed $200 million gender-discrimination class action against Greenberg in New York federal court that accused the firm of paying women less than men, in part because of a "boys’ club of origination" that made it difficult for women to bring in business and bill a competitive number of hours.

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