Nicole Grida, associate with Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC, learned the value of extracurricular activities while in high school in Hellertown, Pa.
Working hard at soccer, National Honor Society and student government association helped the oldest of four siblings win a full scholarship to Temple University, where she studied English and political science.
Grida knew all along that her interests and goals lay with the legal profession.
“My favorite show when I was a kid, strangely enough, was ‘Matlock,’” she said. “I just always knew I wanted to be an attorney, probably since the sixth grade.”
She attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville for her law degree and was recruited from there to work with the Memphis firm.
Grida had talked to other recent law school graduates who were spending their days behind a desk or solely doing research, but she had a different plan.
“I wanted to be somewhere where I was doing something,” she said. “I wanted to end up at a firm that I knew would allow me to get out and be in court fairly quickly.”
Having never been to Memphis, Grida moved here in the fall of 2006 and from the first day she was working on workers’ compensation cases, nursing home and medical negligence defense, car wrecks and general liabilities.
She also found herself sitting second chair on a case before her bar results were even in, and quickly began handling her own jury trials, bench trials and motions thereafter. Grida’s work with Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan has given her the opportunity she was looking for “to get out and do things and be exposed to things,” she said.
“To me, a lawyer is somebody who is in court advocating for their clients. … I guess my favorite part of being a lawyer is the show part, but maybe that goes back to my love of Matlock and Perry Mason and all that,” she said.
In addition to the exciting career and benefits of working with a multi-state law firm, Grida has found something else in her work with the Young Lawyers Division of the Memphis Bar Association, something that takes her back to her days of extracurricular activities in high school.
Sitting on the public service committee for the YLD board, she and co-chair Jonathan Nelson of Bass, Berry & Sims PLC are in charge of coordinating the Memphis and Shelby County High School Mock Trial Competition, which has run this week and continues next week, and includes 21 teams from around the city and county.
“If I wasn’t doing mock trial, I’d be doing something else because being a lawyer is more than just being in court.”
Getting involved is one piece of advice Grida would give to anyone in a new profession and moving to a new city.
“Just do that,” she said. “Get involved, volunteer for things and go to meetings, don’t just sit there, but say who you are and why you’re there and what you hope to get from whatever group it is that you’re trying to be a part of.”
And one advantage Grida has found with her involvement in the mock trial competitions is in its introducing her to the legal community in such a rapid way.
“I couldn’t do it without the volunteers, my co-chairs over the years and without the support of the whole YLD board and the larger Memphis Bar Association board of directors as well,” she said.
Though mock trial wasn’t offered at her high school (she would become heavily involved with moot court and mock trial during law school), the benefits to the high school students she works with, she said, are boundless.
“It’s an amazing program,” Grida said. “It gives these students the opportunity to get up and learn to speak in public, to respond to questions and formulate arguments on the fly. Even if they don’t end up becoming lawyers, they are at least prepared for the future and have a better shot at going on to college.”
Grida has been here for six years and is quick to say, “I love Memphis,” and as a valentine to the city, and to the legal profession, she works hard to make the mock trial competition run smoothly.
“If I wasn’t doing mock trial, I’d be doing something else because being a lawyer is more than just being in court,” Grida said. “Lawyers should be stewards of their community, they should be giving back in some way. We have a special skill set and we should be able to help those who can’t help themselves, or maybe can’t afford to help themselves, or just need positive role models to look up to.”