Alumna and Board of Trustees Chair Honored as “Winning Litigator”

Portrait of Grace Speights
October 02, 2020

Grace E. Speights, JD ’82, has been named among The National Law Journal’s “Winning Litigators” for 2020. Recognized as “conquerors of the courtroom,” these attorneys have successfully taken on some of the most widely watched cases of the last year.

Ms. Speights was honored for leading the team that secured a win for PBS in a landmark case involving former host Tavis Smiley. When Mr. Smiley claimed breach of contract against PBS, Ms. Speights and her team argued that Mr. Smiley violated the “morals clause” in his contract. The jury verdict resulted in PBS being awarded approximately $1.5 million in damages.

“I am very grateful to The National Law Journal for this recognition,” said Ms. Speights. “GW Law provided the legal training and support that helped prepare me for this case and so many others over the course of my legal career.”

Ms. Speights is Chair of the GW Board of Trustees, the first African American and the first woman nominated and elected to the position. She also remains involved at GW Law, where in 2017 she delivered the keynote address at the Law School Diploma Ceremony during Commencement weekend.

“Grace Speights is quite simply a superstar. The entire GW Law community takes great pride in her most recent of many professional and public service achievements,” said GW Law Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew. “Her leadership in the legal profession and fiercely loyal dedication to her alma mater has opened doors for many, including women and people of color; she is nothing short of inspirational.”

Ms. Speights is a Partner at Morgan Lewis and leads the firm’s global labor and employment practice, managing more than 300 lawyers across the firm. She handles high-profile and high-stakes workplace matters and is often called upon by clients for crisis management assistance. She is frequently sought out by executives and boards for her experience in investigating workplace misconduct claims and in examining the culture of companies and their workplaces. 

With recent national attention on issues of racial equality and social justice, Ms. Speights also helps employers navigate demands to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces, investigate allegations of non-inclusive or racist workplace environments, and advise on corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Ms. Speights has received numerous accolades over the course of her career. In 2019, she was selected as the recipient of the National Association of Women Lawyers’ M. Ashley Dickerson Award for her dedication and commitment to promoting and advancing diversity within the legal profession. She was named the 2018 Attorney of the Year by The American Lawyer for her pioneering work in leading internal investigations and counseling corporations on how best to navigate the new workplace paradigm in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

When sharing trial tips with The National Law Journal that have been key secrets to her success, Ms. Speights advises attorneys to be themselves and to tell a good chronological story using everyday common and simple words. “Being myself has never failed me,” she tells the publication. “Know your facts and share them using your own voice. You earn credibility and buy-in with judges, juries, defendants, and adversaries when you bring your true self to a trial.”