Susan Crumiller was a successful trial litigator at a law firm for close to a decade, but when she decided to have children, her employer made it clear that they did not respect her decision. Susan’s employer eventually made her life so difficult that she decided to leave and start her own firm, Crumiller P.C., to fight gender and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Today, we interview Susan Crumiller to find out more about this incredibly inspiring woman who is making history with her dedication to advocating for the rights of female employees.
Name: Susan Crumiller
Company: Crumiller P.C.
Job Title: Principal Attorney
Currently based in: New York, NY
Originally from: Princeton, NJ
Honestly, my superpower is my ADHD. People with ADHD have super-speed brains; we are creative, energetic, charismatic, and unstoppably bold.
Quote that you live by:
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd
What inspired you to start your current venture?
I was a trial litigator representing tenants for about a decade before I had my two daughters. With my second daughter, I had negotiated a five-month leave with my then-employer. Seven weeks in, he notified me that he was very sorry but this wasn’t working, he needed me to return to work full-time, and that this was a requirement. He continued to harass me throughout my leave, and while I held my ground, I spent a lot of precious time those first few months crying and feeling angry. I had the financial stability to quit if I really had to, but I kept thinking about those women who didn’t have the same resources I had. I decided to quit my job and open a pregnancy rights law firm – so I did! My law firm fights gender and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, and we also represent tenants and small businesses in litigation (only because we’re so good at it. ;)) I now have a killer team of amazing people who are dedicated to excellence. Creating my firm has been more thrilling than I could have imagined.
What is your company doing to make history today?
There are not a lot of large and/or fast-growing law firms owned by women, and I think a lot of that has to do with gender barriers. Owning a successful, rapidly-growing business requires a lot of characteristics that are heavily discouraged in women. I’ve had to learn how to be unapologetic about turning clients down who can’t afford our services, firing people, and basically being a ball-buster on behalf of my own business. Being tough for yourself is much harder than being tough for others, like all litigators do.
What is one thing your company has accomplished that you are most proud of?
My firm recently obtained a large six-figure settlement for two clients who had been sexually harassed and assaulted by their boss. The next day, I received an email from one of the clients saying she had gotten a good night’s sleep for the first time in the years since the assault. I used to think nothing was better than the feeling of achieving justice. But achieving peace for someone feels pretty freaking awesome too.
What is one project you are currently working on that you are most excited about?
New York State recently passed a phenomenal Paid Family Leave policy which went into effect this past January. We’ve been giving some trainings and helping individual clients navigate the process, but I’m most proud to say that with my enthusiastic encouragement, one of my employees will be taking paternity leave shortly. I feel incredibly proud to have created a business where my employees are encouraged to pursue work/life balance and to take the uninterrupted time with their children that I was prevented from having.
What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest challenges facing your industry today?
Since my clients work in all industries, I’ll take the liberty of answering this a little more broadly. I truly believe that the undervaluing of women’s talents – especially women who are moms – is the most idiotic thing businesses can do. I’ve had countless clients who were phenomenally smart and driven women, but they were forced out of their jobs because their dumb-ass employers didn’t recognize their talents. It’s unbelievable to me that working moms still face very real financial penalties. As a working mom and as an employer, I can tell you there is nobody who is smarter, more effective, or more efficient than a working mom. We know how to get shit done.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other female founders & change-makers?
Invest in yourself. It’s easy to see that spending money on yourself is a solid investment that reflects a healthy self-worth. But I would challenge you to start evaluating your time in the same way. Each of us has only one life and bears the sole responsibility for how we choose to spend it. I’ve spent a lot of time and money both working on myself and learning how to be generous to myself. If you don’t value yourself properly, you can’t expect your clients or consumers to do so.
Are there any great resources you have discovered that you would like to share?
I’m very active with How To Manage a Small Law Firm, a/k/a the Happy Lawyers Club – a business management coaching and training community for attorneys. For other attorneys, I recommend getting involved without reservation. For others – find a similar group of positive, likeminded people to learn and share with (Shankminds is great for entrepreneurs).
Fun fact about yourself:
I was the first female wrestler on my high school wrestling team.
If your company is currently hiring, where can readers go to find more information?
I’m always hiring! Keep an eye on my website (link below).
Anything else you’d like to add:
One of my proudest moments was when I asked a judge if we could reschedule that afternoon’s planned trial because I had just been informed my daughter’s daycare was having their Mother’s Day party. (He said yes!) I think all of us could live happier, healthier, and more connected lives if we as a society decided that we can recognize individuals as both workers and family members, and challenged ourselves to work together to create space to value both endeavors. I like to think I’m moving the needle in that direction, and that my daughters will grow up in a world with a little more honesty and a little more authenticity.