Gray I. Mateo-Harris
Barnes & Thornburg LLP
Labor and employment law
40 Under Class – 2019

Gray Mateo-Harris gets results consistently. It’s why she’s recognized as one of the top labor and employment lawyers in the Chicago region.

But how has this attorney with Chicago’s Barnes & Thornburg strung together such a successful list of verdicts and settlements for her clients? Mateo-Harris’ peers point to her deep knowledge of labor and employment law, her ability to craft winning strategies on behalf of her clients and her tireless work ethic. Her strong presence in the courtroom helps, too.

In short, Mateo-Harris is the complete package – particularly as she also represents clients in her native Spanish language.

“Gray is a thoughtful and zealous attorney who has exceptional business judgment that serves her clients well,” said Barbara Dunlop, an attorney with food product supplier OSI Group. “She provides sound counsel and has a depth of expertise in the numerous areas that comprise the labor and employment practice. She is a practical and accomplished negotiator who achieves great results.”

An example of Mateo-Harris’ courtroom skills? She first-chaired the defense of a breach-of-contract claim involving the clawback of a former mid-level executive’s vested and unvested restricted shares and stock options related to his purported violation of underlying restrictive covenants.

Mateo-Harris prepared a strategic counterclaim for declaratory judgment, negotiated with opposing counsel to limit ESI discovery and scheduled oral discovery to ensure that senior executives were deposed first to increase the pressure for a settlement. She also successfully first-chaired the oral argument of various discovery and procedural motions, including a hotly disputed motion to compel unredacted documents showing clawback efforts.

Mateo-Harris also deposed the plaintiff in this case, a department president and C-suite executive. The deposition was so successful, it prompted the plaintiff’s counsel to cancel the chief executive officer’s scheduled deposition and issue his first substantive settlement demand letter. In the end, Mateo-Harris resolved the litigation at a figure significantly below client authority.

This is far from the only successful result turned in by Mateo-Harris. This attorney has a long history of saving her clients both the expense and time of a trial – but also being effective and tenacious at trial if such was the client’s desired outcome.

Hanna Badmus at the Chicago office of Upwork points to a case in which Mateo-Harris counseled a major retailer regarding FMLA and state leave of absence processes regarding a legal department employee who took several absences. Mateo-Harris was able to convince opposing counsel that there was no basis for a lawsuit. That counsel eventually declined to represent the former employee. The case was then resolved with zero payment.

“Gray is an extraordinary, talented, hard-working woman,” Badmus said. “From the moment I met her, she has not stopped impressing me.”

Despite her long record of legal victories and the time it takes to record them, Mateo-Harris has found time to support her community and profession. She is vice chair of the National Bar Association Labor and Employment Section, co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Women’s Coalition and board member with the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation. Additionally, she is a former co-chair of the Personnel Committee and board member with Resilience f/k/a Rape Victim Advocates, former associate board chair and member of the Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms, and former Law School Committee co-chair of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois. Mateo-Harris is also a former hearing officer and board member with the Cook County Sheriff’s Merit Board.

Raven Akram, in-house counsel for retailer Macy’s, has known Mateo-Harris for four years. After meeting the young lawyer, Akram said, she immediately knew that Mateo-Harris’ future would be a bright one.

“I was immediately impressed with Gray’s passion for understanding business needs and her wealth of knowledge and expertise,” Akram said.