Ashley Grace: Fighting for the little guy through law
Juris Doctor, 2014 | School of Law
Title: Attorney at Holman Schiavone, LLC
Hometown: Lebanon, MO
Tell us about your current position.
I am an employment discrimination attorney at a plaintiff’s law firm here in Kansas City. My parents owned a restaurant in Lebanon, Missouri, so I always thought I’d represent employers. But I had the chance to work at a plaintiff’s firm, and it was so much fun to work with people one-on-one, instead of working with corporations.
How did you choose your field of study?
I grew up knowing I either wanted to be a teacher or a lawyer. In my senior year of college, I started visiting law schools. I loved how friendly the staff and students were at UMKC, and that I could live in the city. I like to challenge myself, and law school was a way I could further my education while giving myself that challenge. During law school, I made the decision to practice employment law and I started taking all the employment law classes I could.
I actually thought I wanted to do employment defense work, because my parents owned a restaurant from the time I was in high school through law school. But I didn’t get a job at any of the defense firms, so when I finished law school I spent six months working at a plaintiff’s personal injury firm. I am forever grateful for that experience, because it opened my eyes to how rewarding it is to represent individuals. I landed my dream job in February 2016 working at a firm where we represent employees in discrimination lawsuits. It’s the perfect fit for me.
I loved how friendly the staff and students were at UMKC, and that I could live in the city.
Why did you choose UMKC?
I liked the people and the feel of the school overall. The law school has a great program where current students give tours to prospective students. The day of the tour I met with two different professors. Within a day of applying, the school contacted me. When I started, the professors who I’d met during my visit remembered me. It was great.
I didn’t know anybody, but I did a summer enrichment program before school started. It was great for those of us who were a little bit nervous and I made great friends right away. The law school does a great job to get you involved in student organizations. Quickly my law school friends became the people I spent a lot of time with. Even though I’ve been out of school three years, some of my closest friends are the people who I went to law school with at UMKC.
What are the challenges of your field?
Being an attorney often requires long hours and lots of deadlines. Sometimes I feel like I live my life going from deadline to deadline, and then suddenly the month is gone. And practicing law is always challenging – there are always new legal issues arising, new arguments that can be made, etc., so staying current on issues is important.
What are the benefits?
I’m a plaintiff’s employment discrimination attorney, so I get to work with employees who believe their rights have been violated. I love working with individuals, because they are the little guy. They don’t have the backing of a big corporation, but instead need me to step in and help. There is nothing more satisfying than getting a good result for a client and knowing that I helped him or her right some of the wrong that was done. I also like being a part of the legal community in Kansas City. We have a lot of smart, down-to-earth people who practice here and it’s really rewarding to be part of a great network of people.
Is it hard to keep your distance and not want to step in and try to fix?
Yes, sometimes, but I think it’s part of my job to step in and try and fix as much as I can. What’s harder is when I can’t. Sometimes the law doesn’t give me a way to step in and help.
How did UMKC help you reach your current position?
Attending law school in Kansas City allowed me to go to local networking events, even as a law student. Many successful attorneys who practice in Kansas City have gone to UMKC, so it’s nice to have that alumni connection when I meet people. In fact, all of the attorneys at my firm are graduates of UMKC.
What did you learn about yourself at UMKC?
Law school was the time where I really “grew up.” Although I worked at my parents’ restaurant in high school and college, I didn’t have any experience in an office or professional setting. I had to learn how to interview for jobs and make connections to advance my career. There were times where I felt like I was never going to make it through school or find a good job when I was done. I learned to be patient and persistent, and to believe in myself.
Who was the most influential faculty or staff member at UMKC, and why?
Barbara Wilson, who was my legal writing professor my first year of law school. She asked me to go on and be a research assistant for her and create special projects for the next year’s students. Barb saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at first – that with a little hard work and effort, I could become a well-rounded attorney.
I’d gone straight from undergrad to law school and my only job had been in my parents’ restaurant. It was good experience in customer care, but it wasn’t a professional setting. I’d never interviewed for a real job, and you could tell. I was not a natural, but Barb did a great job of helping me to polish those skills. She basically took me under her wing and worked with me on my interview skills, encouraged me to network with as many local attorneys as possible and pushed me to be a better writer so I could be a strong advocate. I really appreciate all that she did for me, and even though I’ve graduated from school and she no longer lives in Kansas City, we still keep in touch.
What are your lifelong goals?
To have a good career. Working with people who I enjoy, which I’m fortunate to do right now. Having that sense of fulfillment at the end of the day. That’s what I like most about my job, when I get that hug at the end of the day or an email that says thank you.
Do you have a motto?
Take care of yourself. It’s too easy to get caught up in work or social things and you forget to take a moment for yourself.
What is one word that best describes you and why?
Integrity. The practice of law, and in particular attorneys, get a bad rap sometimes. You won’t find me cutting corners or doing anything underhanded just to win a case. I really pride myself on being a person with integrity.