May EO Chicago Member Spotlight: Uma Bansal
EO Member: Uma Bansal
Company: The Oracle Legal Group
Years in Business: 7 years
This month, the spotlight is on EO Chicago member Uma Bansal, Managing Partner at The Oracle Legal Group, a law firm that provides a comprehensive range of legal services to small startups and established businesses. Though she once wanted to be a writer or philosopher, Uma would go on to graduate from Johns Hopkins as an Electrical Engineer and then Boston College Law School. Learn how she went from patent law in Chicago to human rights law in India to starting her own law firm right here in Chicago. Plus, she’s looking for restaurant recommendations!
How long have you been a member of EO Chicago and why did you join the organization?
I’ve been a member for two years. A friend of mine is an EO member and told me what an incredible community EO was. I could tell he really got something special from the organization and wanted to experience that connection and collaboration myself.
What was your first job?
At Johns Hopkins as an Electrical Engineering undergrad I was a Research Assistant for the Mechanical Engineering department. I was given the fun job of zapping railroad wheels with lasers to study the best method for crack detection. We were able to find a method that uncovered defects in the wheel by utilizing and observing the acoustic waves generated by the laser.
Can you describe your entrepreneurial journey? Where did you start and where do you hope to go in the future?
I did not imagine becoming an entrepreneur when I first graduated from law school, but I was always interested in taking on unique problems. I started off working as a patent attorney at a few large firms but did not feel wholly fulfilled. So, against everyone’s advice, I took a leap. I left my practice in the U.S. and moved to India to do human rights legal work. It was an amazing adventure where I got to tackle large institutional problems and attend Indian Supreme Court cases on a weekly basis.
Over time, however, I realized I wanted to live near my immediate family in the U.S. I returned home and started working for a small firm as a civil rights attorney in Chicago. We went to trial on some difficult and eye-opening cases at a time when police misconduct cases were underreported. After a few years in that field, I realized I wanted the freedom to practice law on my own terms and take on cases and legal problems that interested me. The only way I saw that I could build a practice that I loved was to start my own law firm. I found myself listening to Stanford Entrepreneurial lectures a lot and knew it was time to venture out. Not long after, I took the plunge and formed my company. At the time, I had no clients or employees but the thought of building something was thrilling. Over time, we were able to build a meaningful practice specializing in the areas of business, employment, intellectual property, and healthcare law.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Helping people in ways I never imagined and working with my colleagues to solve difficult problems. Developing meaningful long-term relationships with our clients is very rewarding, and we strive to be partners in helping their businesses grow and thrive. I also enjoy the close relationships I have with my team. Their happiness and professional growth means a lot to me and provides meaning.
What daily challenges do you face at work?
Our biggest challenge is refining our outside marketing efforts. We are very lucky in that many of our clients refer business to us, but outside marketing is the key to scaling the firm. I’m working to improve this part of the company and find the right formula.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
To be open and take risks without paying too much attention to potential outcomes. I am trying to follow this on the business side of the firm and in my other entrepreneurial pursuits, but it’s something I’m constantly striving to thoughtfully implement.
What are your goals for the future of your business?
I would ultimately like to grow the business, innovate, and expand into other areas of law. I would love to see the personal investment our firm puts into our clients and our team grow and for that personal touch to become the new normal for more people working with legal counsel.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
I am currently working to create a legal tech company that helps to connect clients to attorneys. The legal field is quite traditional, so we are excited about the opportunity to innovate and move the field forward to reflect the world around us.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by individuals who have excelled in their fields against all odds. No matter the subject, I am amazed when a person has the follow through and drive to pursue their passion, even when it seems very unlikely they will succeed. Seeing others beat the odds is a powerful reminder of what we each can accomplish if we let ourselves.
If you could go back in time five years and share advice with your past self, what advice would you share?
I would tell myself not to worry. Things develop organically and as they should.
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
Figuring out how to navigate managing business volume. During COVID, we discovered that when our largest clients experience downturns, our firm could also take a hit if we don’t have enough diversification across multiple industries. We worked hard to create more diversification, which has been an interesting challenge.
What brought you to Chicago?
I always loved the city of Chicago and the lifestyle it offered. It had the right mix of cosmopolitan energy, humanity, and happiness I was looking for.
How do you find work-life balance?
I create an atmosphere where it is possible. I set expectations with our clients about realistic timelines. I work a lot, but at the same time, I keep firm boundaries on the time I spend with my family. If I say I will be done by five o’clock, I make sure I am home by that time. It’s really important to me that I am connected with my family no matter what is going on at work.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer or philosophy student, but at some point I realized mulling all day long over big unanswerable questions would not be good for my sanity. Now I mull all day long over big answerable questions instead.
What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
I love being outside and running around like a kid. Now that I have a three year old, I have a great excuse to do that. I also love the arts, so anything creative like painting, writing, or improv brings me a lot of joy.
What’s one thing still left on your bucket list?
I would love to learn about climbing and conquer my first mountain.
What are you currently reading?
I am reading a book called Long Walk to Freedom, an autobiography by Nelson Mandala.
If you could recommend one podcast, what would it be?
It’s not a podcast, but I absolutely love the software application called MasterClass. It has some awesome lectures from some very interesting people.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
I loved Vong’s Thai Kitchen which was a fusion of French and Thai that unfortunately shut down. If anyone can suggest some unique restaurants to try, send them my way!
What is your favorite part about working in the Chicagoland area?
You can never say there is nothing to do. There are always so many interesting places to visit and new experiences to seek out in Chicago, especially when it is above 50 degrees.
What is your top Chicago activity?
Going to Montrose Beach with my son when it’s warm, grabbing dinner with my friends, and attending live concerts with my husband.
Where’s your favorite place in the world to visit?
I would love to visit the Himalayan mountains again and really explore the area. I went once when I was a kid, but we only went to one of the villages. I never forgot that and dream about going back.
Thank you to Uma for sharing her story for our May member spotlight. The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a global business network of more than 14,000 entrepreneurs in 198 chapters and 61 countries. EO is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.
If you’re interested in becoming an EO Chicago member, check our membership requirements and submit an application to join today.