Ellisa Opstbaum Habbart started her law firm, The Delaware Counsel Group LLC (DCG), in 2004. She launched the firm to focus on a specialized practice of law that focused on personal service.
Delaware is a very sought-after jurisdiction for business entities operating around the world. DCG works to ensure their clients operate in a manner that takes advantage of Delaware corporate and alternative entity law and makes them as efficient as possible. Today, the firm is well-regarded noted for its high-quality counsel to national and international clients.
DCG is the only women-owned firm in Delaware that Chambers and Partners included in their prestigious ranking and Ms. Habbart is ranked Band 1 in her practice area. She is one of only 26 private-practice lawyers in Delaware to sit on the Delaware Corporate Council to gain a spot on the selective list, and among these Delaware practitioners.
In 2004 when Habbart launched DCG, the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses (NAMWOLF) invited DCG to apply as a certified women-owned business. The firm had to be certified as a women-owned business through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and on the state level as part of the application process.
Habbart doesn’t attribute her international success to her women-owned certification. “I don’t believe being a woman has secured business for me in the past. It will be interesting to see if the world’s new focus on diversity will change that.”
International Business Development is Key
Habbart has had an international focus for decades. “I started getting some matters from lawyers in London back in the ’90s. When we opened DCG, I made it a point to go to London several times a year to visit the people whose matters I was working on.”
Habbart planned trips to visit clients around the world several times a year. In 2019, Habbart was invited to join the State of Delaware on a business trip to Ireland. This trip was different — DCG participated as part of a cohort of lawyers led by Cynthia Kane, special assistant to the Secretary of State. Additionally, Export Delaware led a group of Delaware small businesses in meetings with potential customers to grow their exports in the UK and Ireland.
Export Delaware’s international trade representative in Ireland, Declan Barry helped to coordinate the trip. Barry and the Export Delaware team took care of all the trip logistics and even set up one-on-one business meetings with vetted, potential customers.
“It’s a treat to have knowledgeable people plan the trip for me,” says Habbart, “the team was invested in our success.”
Since then, DCG has participated in additional Export Delaware virtual trade missions to Scandinavia, France, and the UK.
Rewards Along the Way
When asked what advice she would give to other women in business, Habbart states that getting involved in international business development “may be one of the most personally rewarding things you can do in your career.”
When you can work with people from different countries, you learn from them, and it will broaden your horizons.
The world is small, and you never know where an introduction may lead. “Sooner or later, someone’s going to need your business,” says Habbart. “By engaging with Export Delaware, you have the opportunity to be introduced to potential customers so that when they are ready to buy, they’ll know they can turn to you and your business.”
When it comes to developing international relationships, simply emailing back and forth is not enough. Habbart prefers getting on a plane so she can meet in person. Zoom calls are the next best thing.
“Be patient, put your time in. Do the work to build relationships. This is part of the personal reward,” says Habbart.