Secret Lawyer

Vol. 42 No. 6

By

Leslie A. Gordon is a secret lawyer who has been working as a freelance legal affairs journalist for more than 10 years.

In her first career, Anna Gil was an academic research scientist specializing in molecular biology. She later decided to apply her science background to the legal profession, graduating from George Washington University Law School and practicing patent law for a Washington, D.C., law firm. A few years later, she moved to California, serving as a patent attorney at several prominent law firms. Eventually, Gil moved in-house at pharmaceutical and biotech companies, finally joining biotech powerhouse Genentech.

While working at Genentech, Gil struggled to find care for her basset hound, Truman, for those times when she worked late or was out of town. Specifically, she wanted dog care with a human on site at night to ensure dogs would be rescued during a fire, earthquake, or medical problem. She also wanted a place where dogs could roam in an open play area rather than being kept in crates. When she couldn’t find what she was looking for, Gil contemplated opening her own doggie day care business.

“I’ve never been one to stay in one career,” Gil explained. “I like traveling, experiencing different cultures, learning new skills.” That said, she wasn’t quite ready to leave Genentech; yet a perfect property became available and she realized she couldn’t pass it up. “I enjoyed my work and my colleagues were sharp. Leaving law was a little premature, but the opportunity was there.”

In early 2010, Gil welcomed her first customers at Dogpile Dogs in San Francisco’s (wait for it) Dogpatch neighborhood, a largely industrial area near AT&T Park. Since then, Gil has carefully managed the growth of the business, which she bills as “off-leash, cage-free fun for dogs.” She now has 20 employees who manage as many as 100 pooches. Divided into compatible playgroups, the canines romp around 22,000 square feet outside and 9,000 square feet inside.

Many of Gil’s customers are professionals, and having been an attorney enables Gil to cater to their unique needs. “They’re working long hours so I built flexibility into my business,” including allowing for late pick ups and early drop-offs and minimizing paperwork. Not surprisingly, her clientele includes many lawyers. Her former Genentech boss’s dog is a Dogpile Dogs VIP.

Although she now works seven days a week, Gil doesn’t mind the long hours because she’s able to be up and around instead of sitting in front of computer. “It has the flavor of the real world,” she explained. “I’m interacting with a community of people. It’s not so isolated. There’s a more diverse spectrum of people I’m exposed to.”

Yet Gil remains “very happy for the law background,” she said, noting that it has enhanced her business. “I’m always thinking about how the law might be applied and how to operate a business without being vulnerable to liability.” She also uses her legal skills when drafting enrollment forms and working with credit card companies. “Law taught me detailed analysis—about tracking details, crossing Ts and dotting Is, and being very thorough.”

 

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