Grace E. Speights handles high profile and high stakes workplace matters for many clients and is often called upon by clients for crisis management assistance. She defends clients against employment discrimination claims—particularly class claims—and claims of discrimination in public accommodations. Grace represents clients in systemic investigations and litigation brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She also counsels on best practices for corporate diversity initiatives. Grace is the leader of the firm’s labor and employment practice, managing more than 300 lawyers across the firm.
The #MeToo movement has dramatically raised the stakes for companies facing allegations of workplace sexual harassment, which can quickly turn into a public relations crisis that needs to be managed. This course provides timely, valuable and practical advice for in-house counsel facing the many challenges associated with investigating, defending and managing crises arising from workplace sexual harassment claims
Grace leads the firm’s multidisciplinary workplace culture consulting team of more than 30 lawyers across offices and practices. Combining employment and workplace law experience with investigative expertise, this team helps employers effectively investigate, defend against, and develop advance plans to avoid or minimize workplace crises stemming from claims of sexual harassment.
Grace has worked with clients in the financial services, media and entertainment, sports, retail, nonprofit, and legal services industries to manage serious internal investigations, conduct workplace culture assessments, and advise on crisis management and remediation of potential workplace issues. Grace has also conducted independent investigations of allegations on behalf of special committees of boards of directors and is counseling boards of directors and high-level executives on their responsibilities in connection with providing a sexual harassment–free workplace.
In the legal services industry, Grace is recognized as the “lawyer to the law firms,” skilled in identifying trouble spots and implementing solutions, identifying areas of workplace risk for law firms before they reach the tipping point, and in defending law firms in employment related litigation.
With litigation and trial experience, Grace has represented clients before US federal courts nationwide and local courts in the DC metropolitan area.
As reported in The National Law Journal’s “Washington Litigation Departments of the Year” special report, which featured Morgan Lewis’s Washington, DC, office for its labor and employment work, Grace secured a “quick dismissal” of the harassment and discrimination case against chef and Southern cooking show host Paula Deen. After Deen’s deposition in June 2013, the Morgan Lewis team stepped in, resolved the case, and took it “off the front page of the newspaper,” Grace said in the article. “I think it was more or less about being able to see the big picture very quickly.”
Grace remains active in bar association activities and takes on multiple management roles for the firm. She serves as co-chair of Morgan Lewis’s systemic employment litigation practice and is a former co-chair of the firm’s Diversity Committee. Grace is currently a member of the firm’s Advisory Board, and has served on the Legal Personnel Committee, the Compensation Committee, the Washington Office Management Committee, and as deputy assistant manager of the litigation section of the firm’s Washington office. She also served as chair of the Washington office’s Recruiting Committee.
Grace’s involvement in professional organizations has included, among others, the District of Columbia Judicial Nominations Commission and the D.C. Public Defender Service. Grace has also served as a member of the District of Columbia Judicial Tenure Commission, the District of Columbia Federal Judicial Nominations Commission, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Committee on Admissions, which prepares and grades the essay examination of the District of Columbia Bar and makes recommendations to the court on the admission of applicants to the bar. Grace is currently the chair of the Board of Trustees of the George Washington University. Grace has served on the university’s board of trustees since 2013, including as secretary and as chair of the committee on governance and nominations.
The George Washington University Law School, 1982, J.D., Order of the Coif
University of Pennsylvania, 1979, B.A.
District of Columbia
Clerkship to Judge Aubrey Robinson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia (1982 - 1984)
Awards and Affiliations
Lawyer of the Year, Employment Law – Management, Washington, DC, The Best Lawyers in America (2020)
Lawyer of the Year, Labor Law – Management, Washington, DC, The Best Lawyers in America (2020)
Lawyer of the Year, Litigation – Labor and Employment, Washington DC, The Best Lawyers in America (2020)
Top 250 Women in Litigation, Benchmark Litigation (2018, 2019)
M. Ashley Dickerson Award, National Association of Women Lawyers (2019)
Rainmaker, Minority Corporate Counsel Association (2019)
Leading Lawyer, Labor and employment: Labor and employment disputes (including collective actions): defense, The Legal 500 US (2011, 2013–2020)
Leading Lawyer, Labor and employment: Workplace and employment counseling, The Legal 500 US (2019, 2020)
Recommended, Dispute resolution: Corporate investigations and white-collar criminal defense, The Legal 500 US (2020)
Recommended, Labor and employment: ERISA litigation, The Legal 500 US (2019)
Recommended, Labor and employment: Workplace and employment counseling, The Legal 500 US (2018)
Attorney of the Year, The American Lawyer (2018)
MVP, Employment, Law360 (2018)
Ranked, Labor & Employment, USA, Chambers Global (2018–2020)
Band 1, Labor & Employment, District of Columbia, Chambers USA (2018–2020)