Becoming a Boss Lady

Welcome to my legal blog! We have been planning our website for over (6) six months and, from the beginning, I was committed to including a blog. I love writing and will be using this blog to communicate with present, former, and future clients.

Please check my blog often to learn how Gilder Law’s growth continues to help the wonderful hard-working people of Acadiana we are honored to represent. I will also be writing informative posts on many legal topics.

For this first post, I have chosen to share a condensed version of an article I wrote about my journey into solo practice. It tells how Gilder Law came to be a successful law practice that focuses on the needs of its clients. I am proud to say that it has been published in at least one legal journal and will be submitted to several others.

The link to the entire article will soon be posted on this blog.

After almost five years with a large plaintiff’s firm, I found myself in love with representing real people, whose lives I always strived to improve. Unfortunately, I also found myself frustrated by the lack of focus on the actual clients. Instead, the focus and the main goal was making as much money as possible. I also experienced, first-hand, an obstacle that female trial lawyers continue to face simply due to their gender.

My decision to get married and have my daughter was a fatal move regarding my position at a big firm. I was a victim of the myth that a woman could not be a great lawyer and a great mother and wife.

Despite my performance, I began receiving different treatment. When my family became an open issue, I knew it was time to go. I left that job determined to prove that being a great mother and wife made me a BETTER attorney, not a weaker one. Within a week, I legally changed my name to Gilder, my married name. I named my practice Gilder Law, out of respect for my family. My logo, Lady Justice, was chosen due to my strong belief in justice and the power of strong women.

I began with a handful of files, an exhilarating sense of freedom at being in control of my own destiny, and a determination so fierce, I refused to think about failure. Working from home and taking business calls on my cell phone was humbling, yet somehow I knew that I was on the cusp of something huge that would change both my career and my personal life on a large scale. The feeling of having found my place was exciting and I got up each morning to work harder and longer than the day before. After two years I looked around and realized that I had built a practice of my very own. My relationships with my husband and daughter were better than ever, for many reasons. First, they saw me much more since I made my own hours. They also saw how happy I was to be practicing law according to my own values. I had already proven the myth wrong!

I have dreamed of becoming an attorney since I was eight years old. I am not sure why I felt this way or what influenced me so strongly at such a young age. I only know that it must have been quite powerful, because the dream never left me.

I was prompted to write an article about how I began Gilder Law after a networking meeting with several fellow female attorneys. During that meeting, I received lots of questions about how I built a solo personal injury practice. How had I financed my cases, without the deep pockets of a larger firm or attorney, was the question I heard the most. The answer was simple. I reached out to people and began relationships with other business professionals. I didn’t have a bucket of money, but I didn’t need one. All I needed was the courage to ask and the confident to sell myself. I realized that every large personal injury firm had once been a small practice whose success grew with time. I considered myself no less capable than any of my competitors.

Today, I am able to provide my personal injury clients with any and all medical care they require. No one has to call my office to ask about their money because all bills are paid immediately. I don’t make promises lightly and have kept them all.

Building relationships and being a woman of my word was, and remains, key.

None among us, male or female, have hung out a shingle and lived happily ever after without a care in the world and I am no different. I pray each night, asking God to continue sending me people to represent and to allow me to take care of my family.

I never have and never will pray for wealth.

Some months were slower than others. In those months I prayed more and slept less, but never gave up. Inevitably, the next month, a case would settle unexpectedly and things would get better. What was important is that I refused to give up. Had I, even for a second, given in to the idea that I couldn’t succeed because I was a woman with a family or that I was in over my head in a practice area where only tough men survived, one of those tough months would have seen the doors of Gilder Law closed. I am proud to tell you that the doors not only remain open, but today are open to a large suite of offices, being remodeled to reflect my tastes, in downtown Lafayette. It goes without saying that it’s much more comfortable than my kitchen table of two short years ago.

I chose to become my own boss and this Boss Lady believes that the working other and wife becomes a better attorney by virtue of those added roles. Solo practice has brought out the best in me, as a person, attorney, wife and mother. I can prepare for trial in the quiet of my home office wearing pajamas or stay home with my ill child and return phone calls while she naps.

In a few short months, I will celebrate my 10th anniversary of being called to the Bar. For me, it is nothing less than a true calling. At the age of eight years old, I informed my father that I was going to be a lawyer. He often reminded me, before his untimely death at the age of 57 years old, that I never said I wanted to be a lawyer nor did I use the word try. I always said it with unwavering confidence as though a great prophecy had been revealed to me, which I found impossible to doubt. I continued saying it and, despite facing more obstacles that usual, I graduated law school and passed the Bar the very first time I took the exam.

I love practicing law and my childhood dream has never been tarnished in the harsh light of reality. My love of the law is a huge reason I succeeded.

I believe, without a doubt, that Gilder Law is blessed and will continue to grow in size and success. This is due to the commitments I made to myself and my clients when I first began. I vowed to always focus on the clients first. I am honored by those who choose me as their attorney and work equally hard for all of them. The clients with cases that will generate the largest fees are not given more respect than those with smaller cases. I treat all my clients with the same level of respect and dignity. I vowed to take care of my clients and knew that, by doing so, I would be successful.

Most personal injury practices focus on the amount of money cases bring in. As a result, the needs of clients, as people, are given little attention. My belief system, as a person and as a lawyer, is very different. When I opened Gilder Law, I was determined to return the person to personal injury law. I am proud to tell you that at Gilder Law, we accomplish that goal every day.

My decision to quote Estée Lauder at the beginning of this article was based upon the power of the quote and the power of the woman, who is one of my role models. Mrs. Lauder began her company as a single woman. Once married, she ran and developed her empire, hand-in-hand, with her husband and gave birth to two children along the way. She was a wonderful wife who insisted upon being called Mrs. Lauder, and raised two fine sons who, as grown men, run the cosmetics empire she and her husband built. Her success as a businesswoman was not diminished by her loyalty to her husband and her family was not compromised by her choice to run her business.

In my newly remodeled office, I have a wall with framed copies of my favorite quotes. Here are a few more:

“The big lesson in life, baby, is never be afraid of anyone or anything.”

-Frank Sinatra

“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules and build a life you’re proud to live.”

-Anne Sweeney

These and many other quotes I will share in future blog posts help tell the story of how Gilder Law came to be the successful law practice, focused on clients, it is today. I trusted my instincts, took a risk in pursuit of my dreams, feared nothing, and worked hard – really hard. It truly felt as though I woke up one day to realize that I had built something of worth. I have no desire to become wealthy, but I do love the law and love using my education, knowledge and training to better the lives of all my clients. Many hard-working people from all over Louisiana have honored me by choosing Gilder Law to handle the important legal matters in their lives and the lives As my very first blog post, I chose to share my personal story with them and extend my gratitude for their trust and support. They are the reason I was able to build a successful law practice and become my own Boss Lady. It is my hope that the honor of representing them will continue for many years to come.

The launch of this website is a huge step for Gilder Law. Further, it is something I have worked on and dreamed about for quite some time. I plan to use it to share knowledge and information with all my past, current, and future clients.

Please check it regularly for updates about our growth and new services. I will remain committed to our wonderful clients and continue searching for ways to improve the services we provide.

Tara F. Gilder