Laila Ghauri is the Founder and Trademark and business lawyer at the Antares Law Firm located in Baltimore, Maryland and Austin, Texas. The Firm is a boutique law practice dedicated to providing innovative services to individuals and small businesses. She supports clients in building and protecting great companies and generational wealth. In particular, Laila is focused on trademarks, domain name issues, small business advising, and contracts.
Previously, she worked for large firms and government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Laila earned her Juris Doctor at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. She also holds two Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s degree from the George Washington University.
She devotes her time to her local community and is a dedicated contributor of the Maryland Pro Bono Resource Center and the DC Bar’s pro bono services for small businesses and non-profits. Over the past decade, Laila has taught as a university professor and is a published author. She has native fluency in English, Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi. She lives in Maryland with her husband. In her free time, she loves writing fiction, painting, dancing, spending time outdoors, and international travel. Follow her on instagram @antareslawfirm.
(Laila Ghauri pictured here at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.)
Did you always know you would become a lawyer?
Laila did not always dream of becoming a lawyer, instead she entered the legal field later in her career. “I’m lucky to have found an industry that’s a great fit.” She explains, “if you had asked 21-year old me whether she wanted to pursue a legal career, she would have said no. My desire to become a lawyer was not a result of any childhood dream or parental or societal encouragement.” Laila previously worked for and taught as a professor at several East Coast universities. During her time in higher education, she was involved in student judicial services that incorporated legal matters, which sparked her exploration of law as a career. “I came to the field because it was something that worked for me. I was good at it, it came to me with ease and brought me joy.”
Did you have any mentors? If so, how did they help you build your career?
“Of course,” she explains, “a mentor is an important ingredient in any pursuits, especially entrepreneurial ones.” Laila benefited immensely from having incredible mentors and resources, starting as early as law school, who helped her understand both the practice of law and the business of running a law firm.
What type of law do you specialize in and why did you choose this sector?
Laila focuses her legal practice in the world of trademarks and business because she loves creating things and enjoys helping other people do the same.
When she is not practicing law, Laila is an artist, who paints, dances hiphop and Bollywood, and writes fiction. Running her own boutique practice has allowed that artist to come out and play and create things. She emphasizes, “Once you overcome the fear, the process of being an entrepreneur can be a real joy and creative outlet.”
What made you decide to start your own practice?
Prior to starting her own firm, she worked for a larger law firm and was a small gear in a big machine. She had very little contact with people she served, her clients. She began to notice that in most firms, there were not many partners or leadership that looked and had life experiences like hers.
She decided to go out on her own to take a chance on herself, her skill sets, and her dreams. She wanted to see the impact of her work in the world, she wanted to know her clients. These past three years have been amazing and humbling for Laila at the Antares Law Firm. She feels incredible to see her work impact and change people’s live.
What was your biggest challenge starting on your own?
Laila found that the biggest challenge to starting her own firm was over coming the fear. It’s terrifying to start your own business when you know you can have stable employment elsewhere. It requires an emotional level-up. When Laila first started she took a pay cut. “Law school does not teach you how to run a business,” she explains. “There was a learning curve.” When she first started, she was the accountant, the marketing team, the intake team, the business strategist, the paralegal, and the lawyer. “It was a lot,” she says, “but it has been well worth the journey, as I’ve seen my dream come together and take life”.
What advice would you give yourself looking back?
For Laila, success means understanding what your true motivation is for doing anything. She believes that if your “why” is strong enough, you can weather any storms. “Understanding your why is a part of building a foundation in any career,” she emphasizes. “You’ll need your ‘why’ when you are out in the field and are met with challenges. You’ll need your why to get you up everyday and keep going. You’ll need your why to believe in yourself when you are struggling.” She explains that people often confuse their “why” with something outside of themselves, something like a salary amount or prestigious title. “Your why comes from you,” she explains, “it’s deeply personal. My why is helping establish a more creative, egalitarian, and open minded world, so that I can live peacefully, so that my future generations can live better lives than we do.”
How do you manage expectations with clients? With yourself?
“Transparency and good boundaries. I like delivering results to my clients, which requires being honest about expectations about what is possible in a given situation and what cannot be done. You need to know what you can do, and the humility to delegate or decline what you cannot do.”
What is your 5-10 year goal for growth?
Laila aspires to grow the Antares Law Firm into a national law firm focused in trademarks. “Trademarks and branding is the future, as we enter into a world where most storefronts exist on the internet and virtual realities become the new norm. Trademarks are important for any business owner attempting to grow on a national or an international level.”
(Laila and her husband, Amar, travel frequently. Laila and Amar pictured here on the streets of Rome.)
How do you stay grounded?
“When you are a lawyer and a business owner, your life can become chaotic, so you must find grounding,” which for Laila has two important components: “a wellness routine and a healthy relationship with stress. “
Laila meditates daily and does a great deal of yoga and deadlifting as a part of her wellness routine. “It’s mental hygiene,” she explains. She has also come to understand the concept of stress differently. “The legal profession comes with its share of stressors and unexpected deadlines,” says Laila, “and you often hear about attorneys accumulating stress that often leads to burn out. Many leave the profession, and numerous speak ill of it. That’s because few lawyers are taught the skills needed to navigate and understand the accumulation of stress. When you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and do not have resources to handle that, you are going to wilt under the pressure.”
She has come to understand stress as an indicator from the body and mind that something is over firing and that you need to either slow down or your mind and/or body will inevitably stop you. “Stress,” she explains, “is often is a silent message from your body and mind that says, the way in which you are either making decisions, delegating tasks, or setting expectations is not working. That’s an opportunity to reflect, grow, and make changes.”
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