Combining an ambition to run her own firm and to chip away at gender inequities in the legal industry, the former managing partner of Freeman Mathis & Gary’s Philadelphia and New Jersey offices has struck out on her own.
Jennifer Ward has launched a new insurance defense boutique, bringing with her a team of employment law and professional liability lawyers. The new six-lawyer firm, Ward Law LLC, has offices in Philadelphia; Moorestown, New Jersey; Tampa, Florida; and New York.
Ward said her new firm “is about re-leveraging power” in the legal industry toward women and diverse lawyers. “Because I’m the decision-maker, I get to ensure there is no gap,” Ward, who is the only equity owner in the firm, said.
Still, other than Ward, the firm’s lawyers are all white men. She said that will change—she plans to hire more women lawyers and diverse lawyers as she grows the firm.
“I expect there are going to be a lot of women in our industry who are going to want to join,” Ward said. She said she has been consulting with other women who lead small law firms, and plans to become a certified woman-owned business.
Joining Ward at her firm are Philadelphia partners Barry Brownstein and Chris Curci, Florida partner Jeremy Rogers, of counsel Mark Stephenson, and associate John McAvoy, who all came from Freeman Mathis as well.
“The fact that my core team are all men and they support this vision” adds to the strength of the firm’s mission, she said, rather than taking away from it. “I’m not going to fire them because they’re men,” she added.
The group left Freeman Mathis in January, and have been working on launching the new firm and transitioning clients since then. There were four women lawyers in her office at Freeman Mathis, she noted, but they did not join her.
“You don’t find a lot of women out there with books of business,” she said. “That’s why I felt it was important to do this.”
As for herself, Ward said she has a book of more than $2 million to kick-start the new firm.
Asked how she will use her platform to advance diversity and inclusion, Ward says she plans to require that applicant pools are reflective of the population in terms of gender and race.
“That was not something I was able to control at my prior firm,” Ward said.
A spokeswoman for Freeman Mathis declined to comment on the group’s departure.
Freeman Mathis opened an outpost in Pittsburgh in January when it brought on two partners from business litigation firm Litchfield Cavo. It also announced new leadership of its Philadelphia office at that time.