Grace E. Speights handles high-profile and high-stakes workplace matters for employers and is often called upon by clients for crisis management assistance. She is sought out by executives and boards for her experience in not only investigating workplace misconduct claims, but also examining the culture of companies and their workplaces. Amid national attention on issues of racial equality and social justice, Grace helps employers navigate demands to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces, investigate allegations of noninclusive or racist workplace environments, and advise on corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives. Grace's preferred pronouns are she/her/hers.
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 is the leader of the firm’s global labor and employment practice, managing more than 300 lawyers across the firm. She also co-leads Mobilizing for Equality, the firm’s task force committed to promoting racial equality and justice.
Grace has been repeatedly recognized for her pioneering role in leading high-profile internal investigations and advising on workplace culture as organizations traverse the employment landscape in the #MeToo era. This work earned her recognition as The American Lawyer’s Attorney of the Year in 2018.
Grace defends clients against employment discrimination claims—particularly class claims—and counsels clients with respect to litigation avoidance. She 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 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 proficiency, this team guides organizations in creating workplace cultures of safety, respect, diversity, and inclusion, and helps employers effectively investigate, defend against, and develop advance plans to avoid or minimize workplace crises stemming from claims of racist or noninclusive workplace environments, discrimination, sexual harassment, and other workplace misconduct.
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 counsels 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”—she is skilled in identifying trouble spots and implementing solutions, identifying areas of workplace risk for law firms before they reach the tipping point, and 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.
Grace was named among The National Law Journal’s Winning Litigators for 2020, recognizing her work leading the team that won the jury verdict in the landmark case for Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) against former host Tavis Smiley. When Smiley brought claims against PBS for breach of contract, Grace and the team argued that Smiley violated the “morals clause” in his contract, and the jury awarded PBS approximately $1.5 million in damages.
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, DC 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, DC office’s Recruiting Committee.
Grace’s involvement in professional organizations has included, among others, the District of Columbia Judicial Nominations Commission and the DC 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.
Recognized, Complex Litigation, especially Workplace, Class Action, Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators in America (2022)
Top Lawyers Hall of Fame, Washingtonian (2022)
Lawyer Lifetime Achievement, Washingtonian (2022)
Recognized, Lawdragon Legends (2022)
Labor & Employment Management Litigator of the Year, Benchmark Litigation (2022)
Recognized, Employment Law - Management; Labor Law - Management; Litigation - Labor and Employment, Washington, DC, The Best Lawyers in America (2022, 2023)
Recognized, Leading US Corporate Employment Lawyer, Lawdragon 500 (2020–2022)
MVP, Trials, Law360 (2020)
Litigation Trailblazer, The National Law Journal (2020)
Winning Litigator, The National Law Journal (2020)
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 (2018–2020)
M. Ashley Dickerson Award, National Association of Women Lawyers (2019)
Rainmaker, Minority Corporate Counsel Association (2019)
Hall of Fame, Labor and employment: Labor and employment disputes (including collective actions): defense, The Legal 500 US (2021, 2022)
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 (2019–2022)
Recommended, Labor and employment: ERISA litigation, The Legal 500 US (2021)
Recommended, Dispute resolution: Corporate investigations and white-collar criminal defense, The Legal 500 US (2020, 2021)
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 (2018–2022)
Band 1, Labor & Employment, District of Columbia, Chambers USA (2018–2022)
Labor & Employment Star, Northeast, Benchmark Labor & Employment (2018)
Member, Practice Group of the Year, Employment, Law360 (2017, 2019)
Ranked, Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business (2011–2017)
Charles Hamilton Houston Medallion of Merit, Washington Bar Association (2018)
Justice Potter Stewart Award, Council for Court Excellence (2017)
George E.C. Hayes Memorial Award, Washington Bar Association (2016)
Top Woman Lawyer, The Best Lawyers in America (2016, 2017)
Recognized, The Best Lawyers in America (2007–2011, 2016–2019)
Most Powerful Employment Attorneys, Human Resource Executive (2008–2019)
Power List, Lawyers of Color (2014, 2015)
Top 100 Lawyers in DC, The Washington Post (2014, 2013)
Top 50 Women Lawyers in DC, The Washington Post (2014, 2013)
Recognized, Who’s Who Legal (2016)
Recognized, Labor & Employment, Who's Who Legal (2012–2014)
Washington's Most Influential Women Lawyers, The National Law Journal (2010)
Recognized, Who's in Black Washington, DC (2010)
Washington's 100 Most Powerful Women, Washingtonian magazine (2009)
Recognized, Washington, DC, Super Lawyers (2007–2015)
Top 50 Women Lawyers in Washington, DC, Super Lawyers (2007, 2014–2015)
Litigation Department of the Year, Labor & Employment, The National Law Journal (2014)
Outstanding Contribution to Public Service/Social Activism (Private Practice), Women in Law Awards, Chambers USA (2013)
Champion of Justice Award, NAACP (2013)
Maben Haden Trailblazer Award, Washington Bar Association Legal Fund (2013)
Wiley A. Branton Award, National Bar Association (2013)
A. Leon Higginbotham Award, Young Lawyers Division, National Bar Association (2013)
Pathfinder Award, African American Managing Partners & General Counsels Division, National Bar Association (2013)
Women Who Mean Business Award, Washington Business Journal (2012)
Good Scout Award, National Area Council, Boy Scouts of America (2012)
Charlotte E. Ray Award, Women Lawyers Division, Great Washington Area Chapter, National Bar Association (2011)
Minority Business Leader Award, Washington Business Journal (2010)
Leading Labor & Employment Lawyers, Washington, DC, Legal Times (2004)
Recommended, Labor & Employee Benefits, PLC Which Lawyer? Yearbook (2008)
Chair, Board of Trustees, The George Washington University
Chairman, Washington, DC Chapter, American Bar Fellows
President, Jack and Jill of America Foundation (2005–2009)
Member, Advisory Committee on Local Rules, US District Court for the District of Columbia
Member, Order of the Coif, George Washington University National Law Center
Fellow, College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers