Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
April 26, 2022
Hannah Genton | CGL LLP
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Hannah Genton and I am the co-founder and managing partner of CGL LLP. We are a transaction-focused law firm with the mission to rewrite the narrative about how our team works. We’re very mission-focused in terms of being an empathetic work environment that provides great autonomy and flexibility for our employees. We really think that if we can do this with a law firm, we can really make an impact by changing the narrative about how people work on a grander scale.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
I was working at a Silicon Valley law firm when I had my first son. In the early days of his childhood, I wanted to continue to work but sought greater flexibility, but at that time there wasn’t an opportunity with my firm for that. I left the firm with the thought that there has to be a better way for people who are looking for that kind of flexibility. Our life is not stagnant, it changes. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a work environment that changed with our life? That was one of the seeds that started CGL. My co-founder is a good friend from Berkeley Law. She and I initially started CGL for ourselves, to create a law firm that worked on our terms as parents of young children. When we brought on our first contractor, she said as a single mom she’d been looking for something like this for so long, that there is not a firm that provides this flexibility.
We were completely remote before COVID which is part of our model. We tell our attorneys they can work as much as they want to work as long as they get their work done. We don’t care where people are working from, as long as they’re available when needed and complete things on their own timeline. So we’re really flexible there.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I feel like we live in a society that equates our value with the number of hours that we work. I have a lot of perspective in terms of what matters in life. Work matters, I love working and love the stimulation from that. But it’s also very clear that life is not stagnant. We have babies, people die, people get sick, we have moods, things happen with family and friends. It doesn’t make sense to me that the workplace is so rigid, that it’s not responsive and not empathetic to life and being supportive of the human component of your team. That’s really what we stand for at CGL. Of course, we provide high-quality legal services. Being a top-quality law firm is what I think really allows us to have credibility and push our mission forward. It’s really about creating a workplace that acknowledges the humanity of our team. We have people who take time off or take sabbaticals for a variety of reasons. We give them the time and space they need to handle those things. Our business has thrived. We’ve been exploding and growing since we started. Another thing that we stand for is showing that you can be an empathetic leader and empathetic employer and also run a successful and highly profitable business.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
We are making an impact by changing the narrative that attorneys are miserable workaholics. As empathetic leaders, we hope to provide a workplace that adapts to the lives of our team members and creates a healthy human-focused place of work.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
My kids are my biggest source of inspiration. When I had my first son while working at the law firm in Silicon Valley, I thought I was going to get a nanny and continue as a working professional. Then when he was born my whole perspective changed. Everything shifted. I fell completely in love with this person. At the same time, the grind of work was starting to wear on me. I was working every weekend, I was working all the time and I began to not enjoy the work. I started to recognize it’s my job and responsibility to tell my son to live a meaningful life, to do work that’s fulfilling. The only way I could guide him is through action and example. I now have three kids and every day I have to show them how to live. I think it’s also important for me that each of them sees their mother as a working professional, showing them that women can lead, especially in professions that are traditionally run by men.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
I envision CGL growing. I think the more employees we have, the more lives we can impact just through our employees. The more we grow, the more clients we have. Our message has impacted our clients as well. We have a lot of clients that are very conscious of how they run their business. That collaboration is really powerful. The bigger we are, I think the louder our voice can become and potentially impact others.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
One of them is reeducating folks on the narrative about value being connected to the number of hours that you work. A lot of our attorneys are former big-law attorneys, so we do a lot of reeducating and shifting expectations when they first start. Some are focused on the number of hours they work or are worried about leaving the office for an appointment. The biggest challenge is changing the societal belief that people’s value and importance are tied to the number of hours that they work. There’s also some reeducation on the client side. Our clients actually appreciate it, because our attorneys are really efficient. We’re not about billing as many hours as possible. We also have to have conversations with clients to remind them what we’re all about. Not only will the work be done well but it will be done efficiently. It just takes a lot of changing people’s belief systems. That’s obviously a very hard thing to do.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
If you have an idea to make things better or improve the status quo, go for it. It’s really hard to be a trailblazer, or do something that people have never done, but if more of us did that it would just be a better world.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
Steve Jobs said, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose.”
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Using CGL as your law firm helps with our growth. Also help us spread our mission, like by way of these types of interviews. Whatever we can do to get our mission and our voices heard is super helpful.
At Orapin, we believe those who are working for the greater good should be known, supported, and celebrated. We give do-good organizations the resources and support they need to increase awareness and grow their audience so they can maximize their impact. If would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.