Interview with Kristin Gray, South Carolina Labor and Employment Lawyer
Recently, it was our privilege to interview Kristin Gray of the Ford Harrison Law Firm, located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Gray specializes in employment and in this interview shares her journey towards this specialty and offers specific and detailed advice on time management and how her attention to each element and fact that is specific to a case helped her firm receive an affirmative decision in a notable employment case. Kristin Gray contributes to the blog, HR Daily Advisor.
What event or series of events led you to pursue this specific law as your specialty? Please elaborate.
I first decided to pursue a career in the legal field after my best friend and I were victims of a drunk driver shortly after I graduated from high school. That traumatic experience left me wanting to become a prosecutor, and I had a very fulfilling internship with a district attorney’s office. However, a college internship with my current firm opened my eyes to the world of labor and employment law, which is where I found my calling representing employers. I haven’t looked back since then.
Name 1 or 2 specific challenges you have faced in your law specialty and the steps you took to meet these challenges.
In the legal field, there are daily challenges which certainly keep things interesting. One of the biggest challenges any practitioner, particularly a new legal practitioner, faces is efficient time management. Your clients expect you to work efficiently and be mindful of their budgets. In addition, a heavy caseload means that you need to carefully schedule your time so that you can give each case the attention that it deserves. Some steps that I take are ensuring there are appropriate reminders on my calendar and making regular to-do lists. Anytime I receive word of a new deadline, I am sure to calendar: (1) the date the response is due to the court or to the opposing party; and (2) the date by which I need to provide a draft to the partner and/or client for their review and approval. My clients are busy professionals, and I make sure that I am respectful of their time.
How would you advise an individual entering the legal professions to proceed? What are the challenges or obstacles that may be faced?
I strongly encourage those entering the legal profession to keep an open mind when selecting a practice area. I believe that internships are very important because they allow you to learn about a variety of practice areas and to make a more informed decision about what is the best fit for you. There are so many different practice areas in the legal field, it is important to choose the one(s) that interests you and that you find most fulfilling. I also believe it is important to genuinely like and trust the people you work with each day. When you are pulling long hours on a case or tackling a difficult issue, those are the people you are going to need by your side.
Can you give us an example of an interesting case or project that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?
I recently worked on a case involving 60 plaintiffs who were suing a client of our firm for various claims arising from their terminations. I worked with a very dedicated group of fellow attorneys and staff members day and night to achieve a positive result for our client. Because it was not a class or collective action, it was very important that we knew the facts as to each individual plaintiff in detail. With so many plaintiffs and each one having a unique set of facts, my love for charts, lists, timelines, outlines, and organization in general, came in very handy. In the end, the court awarded us summary judgment on all the plaintiffs’ claims. We also won the appeal that two of the plaintiffs chose to file after their summary judgment defeat. We were delighted with these victories, especially after all the hard work that went into achieving them.
What is the best career advice you have ever received?
Some of the best advice I received was that you do not necessarily have to be a government or political science major to be a successful attorney. That wise individual told me to select an undergraduate major that truly interested me. My choice, therefore, was German. It may seem like an odd selection before law school, but the writing and speaking skills helped me to be a better communicator and, therefore, a more effective attorney. Also, German has been particularly helpful to me in assisting clients and marketing my skills in our increasingly global marketplace. Plus, it was amusing to be able to understand what Dwight Schrute was actually saying on The Office.
As an accomplished author of a blog related to employment law, what advice would you offer to the legal professional concerning the role of social media in their profession?
Social media has become increasingly important for marketing and also for discovery.
EntertainHR and our previous blog, That’s What She Said, has allowed my fellow firm bloggers and me to educate others about labor and employment law issues in a light-hearted and entertaining way. For our That’s What She Said blog, we analyzed episodes of The Office from the perspective of a labor and employment law attorney. We expanded that concept with our EntertainHR blog to cover a wider variety of pop culture topics, ranging from movies and television to books and current events. These blogs have offered me a fun and rewarding way to market my skills and share my legal knowledge in a new manner. Social media has also become an important discovery tool. The things that people put on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites never cease to amaze me. I have been able to use social media to learn more and more about opposing parties and to use that information to my clients’ advantage.
This is the last question and time for the inner lawyer or legal author in you to break free. What is the key strength you bring to your career, and how would you advise legal professionals to mine their own strengths to further their careers.
The key strengths I bring to my career are organization, legal research, and legal writing, which have allowed me to be an effective litigator. I think that creativity is also important for any legal professional, especially litigators. I recommend that aspiring legal professionals be honest with themselves about their strengths and their weaknesses. Choosing a career path that best suits your skills and interests requires that you be completely candid with yourself. It will serve you well in the long run.