A Q&A Conversation With Elizabeth Griffin
For 10 years, Dallas Senior Attorney Elizabeth Griffin has ascended from summer associate to a rising leader for Clark Hill.
For her accomplishments in litigation and appellate work, and leadership in the firm’s recruiting and mentoring programs, Griffin was recently named Clark Hill’s Senior Attorney/Associate of the Year. She recently discussed her current practice and her involvement in firm programs.
When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
Ever since I was a kid. I grew up being around my grandmother’s law office. She was a paralegal and we lived in a small town. After she worked for an attorney in a real estate and probate practice, she opened up her own shop and would have attorneys come in to review her work and sign off on it. I stayed there during summers and was at the office with her for late nights, and I just enjoyed being there and playing with files, which turned into organizing the files and actually helping with things as I got older, and thought to myself, “this is what I’m going to do.”
How did you get hooked into appellate law and business litigation specifically?
When I got to law school, litigation was mostly what I saw, but I didn’t like public speaking, so I wasn’t really looking forward to the trial piece of it. When I came here to do my summer program, I asked to see some transactional work, just to be sure. I did two projects. One was a lease, and one was a company agreement. After that, I knew for sure that litigation was the right practice for me. I like litigation because it’s more of a set universe of facts (usually about something that already happened), instead of trying to envision and account for all possible scenarios that might occur in the future when you’re drafting or negotiating a deal.
Clark Hill has been your only stop in your legal career, what’s the significance of that to you now 10 years later?
It’s the only job I’ve had as an adult. I went straight through from college to law school and besides summer jobs at the mall, this is all I’ve known. When I was going through law school and interviewing with firms, one of the things that I said I wanted was to go to one place and retire there. I know not a lot of people want to do that anymore. But that’s what I want to do. Now it feels like this is my home. I’m very happy to have been here for almost a decade; one down, a few more to go.
One of the things you help with is the summer associate program, which seems to have been a success this year, why do you think that is?
We make a big effort to make people feel they’re part of everything and that we’re always available instead of feeling like they’re just coming here to do assignments or that attorneys are difficult to get a hold of. I think we succeeded in that based on feedback from the summer associates at the end of the program, they really noticed a difference in how welcoming and accessible we were compared to prior jobs or what they heard about how big firms work.
I also think the program is successful because we give summer associates firmwide the same work they’ll do as an attorney. When you give someone a chance to do something beyond just research, like taking a crack at the first draft and then working with them on edits, they feel more a part of the team and they’re learning substantively from interactions and examples instead of just trying to figure things out for themselves.
What’s your motivation for being so involved in the firm and mentoring newer attorneys?
The biggest things for me are recruiting, mentoring, and training for younger associates. That’s because I had such a good experience and amazing mentors like Jadd Masso and Tate Hemingson when I came up. They were my formally assigned mentors from day 1. They were, and still are, always available and very reassuring. People like Courtney Kieffer, Mike Walsh, and Earsa Jackson really helped me build confidence and pushed me to try new things and take on bigger roles. I had help from so many great people along the way, and I want to pay it forward to our younger attorneys in the future.
Associate recruiting and the pipeline from law schools are very important because we are looking for people who want to come here and stay. Ideally, they’re the people who will run the firm in 30 to 40 years, and that’s one reason I think it’s worth putting a lot of time into.
How would you describe your practice currently?
I do mostly appellate work in both commercial and noncommercial litigation. This includes traditional appeals and arguments in the appellate courts but also helping litigators with things like jury charges, dispositive motions, and thorny legal issues or procedural disputes. I’ve always wanted to do appellate work, and it took me a couple of years to start working on traditional appeals because it takes some time to get your foot in the door. I think it’s now more than half of my practice and my goal is to ultimately do appellate work full-time.
What’s topical with your work currently?
A hot-button issue for people is artificial intelligence and how it will impact litigation. Both appellate conferences I went to this year made it a focus, saying it’s essentially the next frontier like email, document review platforms, or Westlaw in that we’re all going to have to learn how to use it. It’s not very reliable right now, but if you wait a year or two to start learning how to use it, you’re going to be really behind and won’t be able to catch up.
With appellate writing, there’s a lot of focus on making your writing engaging and easy for the reader to digest. That quality of the writing really makes a difference. People are using AI to help with persuasive presentation, like helping to craft wording that creates visual imagery or edit a paragraph or issue they’re struggling to structure. Apparently, you can ask AI to take a list of facts and create a statement of facts that conveys specific themes, and structure in a specific writing style like a Taylor Swift or Bob Dylan ballad or Stephen King novel. It doesn’t spit out something useable as is, but it might be a good first draft or give ideas you might not have thought of for presenting that case. I haven’t tried that yet, but it’s on my list to play around with once we know what platforms are safe to use and what information we can put into them.
What does being named the Senior Attorney/Associate of the Year mean to you?
I’m just very grateful to the firm and everyone I work with, especially all of my mentors who have been here since before I started. I think it really speaks to our culture as a firm that so many people want to stay here for a significant part of their careers, and I hope to continue to play a part in creating that culture.
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