Betty Graumlich is a seasoned labor and employment lawyer, with clients among the top brass of a variety of industries, including finance, entertainment, retail and manufacturing, defense, and health care. She brings this breadth of experience to bear in her practice, leading litigation teams, handling arbitrations, and providing counsel to employers and management. Her current practice involves a good many whistleblower and discrimination claims, as the larger practice trends in that direction. She is a partner at Reed Smith.
Lawdragon: Can you describe for our readers the mix of work you do within the employment arena?
Betty Graumlich: I lead teams defending employers in a wide variety of employment litigation cases, including all types of discrimination allegations and FCA and SOX whistleblower retaliation cases. I also represent management in labor arbitrations, assist with labor and employment due diligence on M&A transactions and counsel employers on a wide range of employment and labor issues.
LD: How did you first become interested in developing this type of practice?
BG: I have always been interested in studying workplace issues, starting with my focus in college in Political and Social Thought, which is an interdisciplinary studies major created at the University of Virginia.
LD: What keeps you excited about this type of work?
BG: Labor and employment work is “people law.” For that reason, it is never dull and boring. To coin a phrase, “people do the darndest things!”
LD: Out of all the work you’ve done in your career, what would you say is the most interesting matter you’ve handled?
BG: Defeating an attempt to enjoin a foreign client from bidding on a €1 billion government contract in another country based on an alleged theft of trade secrets in the U.S.
LD: Are there any trends you are seeing in your employment practice in terms of the types of matters keeping you busy these days?
BG: Yes, we are handling more and more whistleblower retaliation cases and discrimination cases with a retaliation allegation.
LD: Did any experience from your undergraduate work push you towards a career in the law?
BG: Yes. I took a course in legal philosophy and loved “issue spotting.” That course made me decide to apply to law school.
LD: Did you have any jobs between undergrad and law school that contributed to you going to law school?
BG: I worked as a paralegal for a year at Arnold & Porter and saw brilliant legal work and got to work on incredibly sophisticated matters. That year solidified my interest in pursing a legal career.
LD: Is there a specific reason why you chose your law school over another law school?
BG: I chose the University of Virginia because of its incredible reputation and the advantage of in-state tuition!
LD: Is this the type of practice you imagined yourself practicing while in law school?
BG: No, I can’t say I knew in law school what kind of practice I wanted.
LD: Was there a professor who was particularly influential in shaping your education or early law career?
BG: Charlie Whitebread, a UVA law school professor at the time, was both my undergraduate advisor and a mentor. He taught me to take good professors and high level, substantive courses of all types. One of the professors whose course I took, Dante Germino, fueled my interest in philosophy and led me to read a number of works that sparked my interest in the law of the workplace.
LD: What advice do you have now for current law school students?
BG: Take a wide variety of courses and do as many types of different assignments as you can get during summer internships and clerkships. You can learn as much from doing things you don’t like as you can from the things you do like.
LD: How has your employment practice changed since the early part of your career?
BG: We are now expected to do more for less, but to do it as well. For that reason, we have to continuously reinvent ourselves and how we approach the practice to meet the demands of today’s clients.
LD: How would you describe your style as a lawyer?
BG: I am assertive and a fierce opponent when needed, but also very practical and reasonable when opposing counsel approaches a case the same way.
LD: Are you involved in any pro bono or public interest activities?
BG: We serve as pro bono counsel to Everyone Home DC. They are a great organization serving the temporarily homeless population in Washington, D.C.
LD: Do you have a favorite book or movie about the justice system?
BG: My favorite lawyer movie is definitely “My Cousin Vinny”!
LD: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now?
BG: Playing golf and volunteering with non-profits that address issues associated with homelessness.