More than 12 years ago, Rebecca Geller found herself in what appeared to be an unsolvable situation. She was torn between practicing law at a big Washington, DC firm and being available to her family.
At the time, she had a toddler and a baby, and she was working constantly. “My husband was chief of staff to a congressman on Capitol Hill, and I had no ability to work from home. This was long before Zoom,” Rebecca explains. Adding mounting pressure, Rebecca had a long daily commute, and her toddler son was having respiratory health problems, which necessitated a number of hospitalizations. “I knew it was not how I wanted to live my life,” she recalls.
But there were few options for women lawyers. All around her, she saw strong, brilliant and talented women fleeing the law profession once they had children, because senior lawyers showed little respect for their lives outside the law firm. “I knew there had to be a better way to do it. I wanted to be a lawyer, but I also wanted to be an actively engaged mom,” Rebecca explains.
Then, she had what she thought was a simple idea. In practice, it turned out to be quite revolutionary. “I believed it was time to stop making women fit into work environments traditionally defined by men.”
In December 2011, Rebecca founded The Geller Law Group. This new law venture would provide supportive working conditions for working parents while delivering high-quality legal services to clients at affordable rates. People questioned her immediately. Who was she to reinvent the traditional law firm that had existed for hundreds of years?
She was a woman on a mission, creating a new business model for practicing law that allowed room for personal lives with family commitments. Indeed, from the start, The Geller Law Group operated virtually, allowing employees to work from home, and in-person meetings to take place, as needed, in rented spaces.
It didn’t take long to attract top talent. Within six months, Rebecca had her first employee. Within the first 18 months, she had four more. “I told staff to build their schedules around the lives of their families and fit the clients in where they need to.” She found that a lot of business could be done at a play group as much as it could be done on a golf course. She carried business cards in her diaper bag!
Rebecca credits her gumption and success to the extraordinary supporters she has had in her life. Among them were her immigrant grandparents who were Holocaust survivors. Having lost most of their family, they fled Nazi Germany to make a new life for themselves here in America. They became very successful entrepreneurs, both running their own businesses. “They were self-made,” Rebecca says. “They showed me that you can create your own destiny and take something that is terrible and still be successful.”
Her other supporter and mentor is her mother. “My mother was the first woman in her family to go to college,” Rebecca says proudly. Her mother started a successful business when Rebecca was in high school. “I was always surrounded by entrepreneurs who understood the value of hard work and being self-motivated,” she explains. Rebecca was the first woman in her family to attend law school. Of course, she is now the CEO and president of her company.
Today, the firm has 35 employees offering legal services in family law; business law; civil litigation; and family wills, trusts, estates and probate. Employees are entrusted to get quality work done on time with the freedom to tend to their personal lives. Rebecca knows that when people at the firm are happy in their jobs and in their lives, that attitude gets passed on to the work the firm does for its clients. The firm has been featured in the New York Times and other reputable publications for its innovative business model and has received many awards and accolades as a top place to work.
Rebecca herself has been the recipient of numerous awards for her dedication to community, family and social justice. A tireless champion for women’s rights, notably, she played an instrumental role in helping to get legislation passed in Virginia allowing women the right to breastfeed in public.
Community service and social justice values are deeply embedded in the law firm’s activities. On a regular basis, the firm closes down to allow all the employees to participate in service events. In September, they volunteered at the Lorton Community Action Center food pantry, and they have an upcoming volunteer day planned at the Greater DC Diaper Bank.
Prioritizing social justice, the firm has proudly taken a stand on things that are sometimes controversial. “We were very open that Black Lives Matter, and we stand up for immigrant rights and LGBTQ+ rights. We’re probably one of the only law firms in the entire country—certainly of our size in our region—that has an LGBTQ+ outreach coordinator,” Rebecca explains. The firm’s community service also includes hundreds of hours of pro bono work each year.
Inspired by NAWBO’s mission, on her own accord, Rebecca regularly meets with a number of women she mentors to offer guidance and support their success. Being a finalist for the 2023 Woman Business Owner of the Year Award is extremely meaningful to her. “It’s inspiring to be part of a group of women who are really pushing the envelope of what women business owners can accomplish,” she remarks. Asked about a world with more women leaders, Rebecca believes it would be different with greater empathy and understanding of people’s lives outside of work.
In a way, Rebecca has already created a world of female leaders. She recounts a time when her eldest son, who wants to be a lawyer, was young. She had taken him to law firm events quite a bit. One time he asked her, “Do you think if I worked really hard that one day a boy could be a lawyer too?” It occurred to her that in his life, he had only seen female lawyers. It was all he had known.