Giselle Ayala Mateus grew up in Colombia in a family of attorneys, with both of her parents and three of her cousins practicing law. She knew from a very young age that she wanted to follow in their footsteps and pursued her law degree in Colombia. After finishing her degree in 2017, she came to the United States, where she got her Masters of Laws (LLM) at Brooklyn Law School. To fulfill her pro-bono requirement to be admitted to the New York State Bar, Giselle worked at Good Counsel in 2018. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2019 and opened her own law practice in 2020. On March 27th, 2021, during the celebration event of Latin Women titled "Powerful Women," Giselle was recognized by the New York State Assembly with a Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Achievement as an Entrepreneur. Currently, she serves as a partner to the organization, where she often helps the organization’s entrepreneur clients.
What is her relationship to Good Counsel Services?
During the middle of her first semester at Brooklyn Law School, Giselle went to a talk held by an attorney, Elizabeth David-Dembrowsky, the founder of Good Counsel Services. Elizabeth talked about doing social good and business simultaneously. This talk interested Giselle as the attorney spoke about the different projects Good Counsel was working on and invited students to get involved.
During her time at Good Counsel, most of her projects focused on business law, trademarks, and intellectual property, which she found interesting because she researched a variety of topics and learned how to apply the law. “Not only is it important to understand a statute, but it is equally important to understand how entrepreneurs think and consider the coaching entrepreneurs need,” Giselle says.
What were some of the greatest challenges you faced as you started your law practice?
“When you are in the classroom, [ethical concerns] feel easier, and you think all the concepts are clear. In real life...you really get to know...and apply the law,” Giselle says.
After losing her job at a law office due to COVID-19, Giselle decided to open her own law practice. “It’s one thing to be an attorney and another thing to be an entrepreneur,” Giselle explains. “The challenge is to learn those other soft skills that you don't really learn in law school, such as how to be a manager, how [to] deal with conflicts...how to be a marketing designer when you have a short budget...all those other skills that you never thought that you were going to need.”
Establishing yourself as a real solutions provider
Giselle notes: “I think the first challenge is to really make your legal knowledge a useful tool to solve problems. You have to be really conscious about all the responsibility that you carry. People trust you because they hear the word ‘attorney,’ so you need to respond to that trust.”
What do you hope your greatest impacts will be?
Giselle aims to create a law firm that provides the same high-quality legal services that people in the community value and respect. Ideally, she would like to connect with universities in the U.S. and Latin America to give international students exposure to working in law in the fields of immigration, business, and intellectual property law. She has a project called FOCUS, which will be a legal clinic that provides legal guidance to Spanish-speaking, Latino entrepreneurs, to “give them [a] voice.” Eventually, she would also like to provide pro bono legal services for artists.
As part of her project ELA, she aspires to create a place where women artists and leaders, particularly Latin women, can go for legal advice. “My hope is that I can teach them something [and] at minimum, I want them to meet me and feel encouraged to achieve their own dreams, whether it is going to law school or open their own business,” Giselle says.
Giselle’s son inspires her every day. “He gives [her] that spark” during difficult times and is with her every step of the way. Giselle states: “He has always this different view of things, which is good. Because when you are alone, you're ‘perfect.’ You may feel you don't make mistakes...but then when you are with others, you have this interaction, [a] conversation of different ideas, which is so important to grow and develop. It is fundamental to hear people think differently from you.”
Are you an entrepreneur or know someone who is and who needs legal advice or services? Visit Giselle’s website to contact her further. On Wednesday, April 7th, she accompanied Good Counsel Services at their Lunch and Learn series in a talk about trademark registration titled “Trademark's Registration. Common Mistakes No One Talked to You About." In the presentation, Giselle outlined some of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make regarding trademarks, highlighted the importance of registration and good analysis of the product or service, and advised how entrepreneurs can plan to avoid refusals or denials. You can watch it here.