Founders Demetria Graves, and Merissa V Grayson, Esq., have created quite a name for themselves as leading law specialists in California. These ladies have been featured in some of the world’s top publication and featured on networks such as; NBC, Black Enterprise, Rolling Out Magazine, and Impact Magazine. I had the pleasure of interviewing the ladies last week to discuss one of their newest joint business ventures, The Elite Firm. The name pretty much sums up the partnerships and “culture” these two women have created; comprised of fourteen African American lawyers, specialists, and strategist. These women have no plans on slowing down; seeking to not only be the top law firm in the world, but one who cares about the overall development of their clients. Read what they had to say about this one of a kind firm.
Latoya Heyward: Thank you ladies for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this phone interview today. So, how did you first decide to go into law?
Demetria: You’re welcome Latoya. Thank You. For me, my cousin, raised more as my brother was convicted of killing his father when he was only 15 years old. I was so intrigued by the legal process and observing all of the moving pieces. I was hooked after that.
Merissa: We both have similar stories. I also had a cousin who was convicted of 1st Degree Murder when he was a juvenile. I sat through that trial and watched how it was publicized so much and some of the things that went wrong during the trial and in that moment I knew I would be a Lawyer. Though my path shifted from criminal law to what I do now, till this day, I’m still very involved in my cousin’s case and it’s still one thing that drives my passion for law.
Latoya: WOW! I couldn’t imagine what that was like for you and your families. So, tell me, what is it like being an African American women in the court room?
Merissa: Being a black woman is already a challenge. The number of African American attorneys is already low; so trust me it’s not always easy. We are often underestimated and mistaken for court staff or law clerks. It’s always so intentional too. We can be in a suit, with a brief case in our hands, and people will still “mistakenly” think we’re court staff. It’s important that we are on point at all times.
Demetria: I agree with everything Merissa said. What gets me is the shade that comes from our own race at times. They will file a motion against you, or do things that are increasingly frustrating. You’d think we would be in this thing together, but that’s not always the case.
Latoya: That’s so disheartening to hear. How did The Elite Firm come about? From my understanding, you both had your own practices, right?
Merissa: Yes! It all started in LA and we saw how so many people were misrepresented. We thought to ourselves, “There’s no way they are doing that and have an attorney.” So many cases were tainted by the individual’s emotions and their need to go on social media and talk about their cases or otherwise do things that could potentially damage their case. We decided that we wanted to change that and create a firm that will manage their social media and have a team of specialists who can help with the individuals personal development, mental health, and other things that would benefit them long after their case is over.
Latoya: When did you realize it was a need for a law firm of this kind and of this magnitude?
Merissa: In my individual practice, I was already using a communication strategist consistently. Once Demetria and I started talking about finally starting a firm together, we knew the communication strategist and crisis management aspect would be an important component for our firm, as we’d be solely representing celebrities.
Demetria: As Merissa and I continued to flush out the details of our joint venture, we decided, based on our experience, that other specialists would also be needed on a regular basis, so we thought it would be a great idea to expand our team to include them as well. Not only would this be beneficial to our clients, but it would also set us apart from any other Law Firm.
Latoya: What are your plans on improving law for minorities?
Demetria: We are really big on excellence and want to improve the barriers for our people. We also want to encourage others to focus on the holistic practice of law which includes, communication with the media during litigation, mental health, services etc. We also plan on creating better opportunities.
Merissa: Our goal is to ensure that minorities can have adequate representation that is above and beyond a traditional law firm. It’s one thing to have an attorney that is well versed in the law, but you receive a completely different level of service when your attorney also understands and is committed to our unique struggles, our language, and the advancement of our culture.
Latoya: Where do you see the Elite Firm in five years?
Demetria: (Laugh) Taking over the world! We want to see a shift in services provided and people adapting more to a holistic approach. We want to work closely with professional athletes, because they need it the most. I think more attorneys nationwide will adapt to this.
Merissa: In 5 years we will definitely be nationwide. But on a bigger scale, we plan to offer coaching/mentorship programs that will help other attorneys create firms that incorporate our business model, which will allow more people to benefit from this type of service.
As you can see, these ladies will not stop until they are one of the most talked about firms. With offices in Los Angeles, South Florida, New York, and Chicago, they are set to expand their footprint to Atlanta, DC, Las Vegas, and Central Florida. They both are very active in the community, offering free legal advice via their social media and local churches.
Be sure to check them out on social media: @elitefirmla