General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionSolo Newsletter

Filling the Empty Niche:

Practice Your Passion

By Georgia Lewis Leonhart

I wanted dogs since childhood and my desire did not wane in adulthood. Much of my life centered on my Alaskan malamutes that I trained and exhibited along the East Coast in shows, weight-pulling events, and sled-dog races. It was a fabulous time!

Then the rigors of my legal career overshadowed my passion. By 1986 I was an associate with a large insurance defense firm, on the road a lot, and working ungodly hours. My dogs thought their owner was the manager of the kennel. Finally, in mid-1986 I took my one preexisting client and went solo.

Though I knew what I didn’t want to do, I lacked direction. Still, I didn’t seek out dog professionals as clients. Discovering I had my own practice, they found me. My first new client was the Alaskan Malamute Club of America, Inc., which I successfully defended with a quick summary judgment. Soon, members of AMCA called, and then friends of members called. At first I rebelled against the onslaught of dog cases. I thought them small in comparison to the multi-million dollar cases I’d left behind. I quickly realized, though, that my specialized knowledge of the professional dog world and my national litigation experience allowed me to fill an empty niche.

Opportunities for growth and national recognition abounded. A query letter and a sidebar for the American Kennel Club Gazette resulted in a four-year stint as its "Legal Agenda" columnist; other national publications followed. A dispute in Virginia resulted in a successful defense of a nationally publicized ‘dangerous dog’ case in Pennsylvania. My reputation spread by word of mouth. Today, I’m known as the dog lawyer (sometimes the "bitch" attorney). With 90 percent of my practice gone to the dogs, I now represent top kennels, breeders, trainers, and handlers nationwide. It gets busy—with a daughter, two Rottweilers, active cases in seven states, and writings in progress—but if you can teach your dog to crawl across the floor when you say "bar exam" and roll over and play dead at the mention of constitutional law, well, you can do anything.

Georgia Lewis Leonhart specializes in dog-related representation, legislation, and litigation throughout the United States. She is a member of the Maryland bar and operates out of her office near the beach in Ocean View, Delaware. She can be reached at galaw@dmv.com.

 

 

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