Tiffany Graves '06 Keeps Employers on Track, Stays Involved in Pro Bono
Where are you working and what kind of law do you practice?
I am an associate at Corlew Munford & Smith PLLC in Jackson, Miss. Our firm handles administrative, environmental, products liability and employment law matters.
What is a typical day like for you?
Most of my days are filled with written discovery, drafting motions, conducting depositions and otherwise working up our cases. Outside of practice, I’m busy with pro bono cases and local and state bar association activities.
How did your time at Virginia Law prepare you for your career?
With a practice so varied, I am constantly facing new legal issues. Virginia Law armed with the analytical and research skills necessary to quickly respond to issues in a way that will most benefit my clients.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your work?
It is always nice to achieve a successful result for my clients. I also appreciate the small victories, too. Getting helpful testimony from a deponent, winning a dispositive motion or engaging with opposing counsel in a way that will move my case forward are all examples of times when I feel fulfilled by my work as an attorney.
What surprises you about the kinds of issues you confront in the employment law field?
I am often surprised at how unprepared employers are for employee issues. A lot of my work in this area has been helping employers become proactive by developing clear policies, ensuring that those policies comply with state and federal laws, revising employee handbooks and otherwise trying to prevent workplace issues before they arise. The "he said-she said" nature of employment discrimination litigation is also intriguing. The cases are never dull and emotions are often at very high levels.
What advice would you offer to current Virginia Law students interested in working in employment law?
I would definitely encourage law students to take an employment law class. I did not and, while I have been able to learn as I go, having some foundation would have helped me a lot in the beginning.
What advice do you have for students trying to juggle working in the private sector while volunteering pro bono?
You can do it and, more importantly, you should do it. The opportunities to participate in hearings and trial are far and few between anymore, especially for young lawyers. Pro bono cases often allow young lawyers those opportunities early in their careers. I am constantly enriched and fulfilled by my pro bono work. The rewards from it are truly mutual and long-lasting.
What was one of your favorite Law School classes, and why?
My favorite Law School class was the Child Advocacy Clinic. My section was taught by Professor [Richard] Balnave. I learned so much from him about what it takes to advocate for children. The issues that affect young people are vast. Professor Balnave was able to draw on his own experiences in practice to bring those issues home to our section in a very tangible way. I constantly use what I learned in that class in my pro bono work and as a member of the Auxiliary Board of Mississippi Children’s Home Services.