Alumna thrives in labor and employment practice with specialty in natural gas
Traci Martinez’ ’08 drive, motivation, and enthusiasm for the work she does in Squire Patton Boggs labor and employment practice group are just part of what have made her such an indispensable part of the litigation team. Coupled with her innate ability to develop new business, it’s easy to see why she had one of the fastest rises to partner in the firm’s history.
“I think that, for me, aside from just doing good work, it was also always being responsive and treating the attorneys in my office like clients as I was working on projects for their clients—putting in the hours that were required to make sure the assignments I turned in were of the highest quality,” she said.
Martinez is a labor and employment generalist as well as a litigator. She spends half her time working on such issues as race, age, and disability discrimination; retaliation; and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claims. On the litigation side, she represents clients in the utility industry, handling personal injury and property damage claims as well as mass torts. Part of what has made Martinez so invaluable in this area in particular is her specialization in the area of natural gas.
“Any time there is a utility line strike due to excavation, I defend utility companies and the subcontractors they hire to mark their utilities, with a special expertise in natural gas explosions. It has me on the road all the time. There was an explosion in Illinois two weeks ago and I got a call at 2:30 a.m. to get on the plane, get the experts out there, and to start the process. We do a ton of trial work in that space,” she explained.
In one case in particular, Martinez said she spent months in trial representing her clients after a particularly bad accident at a high-end restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. “There was death, a lot of personal injury cases, and hundreds of millions of dollars of property damage. We tried that case to a full defense verdict for my client. There are still numerous law suits in regards to that litigation, but representing clients in those sorts of situations takes up a lot of my time,” she said.
In addition to her day-to-day work, Martinez has also carved out yet another specialty within the firm as an expert on social media and the workplace. She has hosted numerous webinars and educational sessions on topics including, social media’s role in employment decisions, social media and the law in the healthcare industry, and best practices for creating sound policies concerning employees’ use of social media. She first took an interest in the topic when she started at Squire Patton Boggs in 2008, which also happened to be right around the time social media issues began to really start causing problems for employers.
“There were a lot more smartphones being used, there was a lot more communication between coworkers, supervisors and employees, laptops were being sent home, and just with the use of the data on the phone, having that ease of access to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I just really thought it would be a great way for me to add value quickly to the practice group,” she explained.
For her first presentation, Martinez partnered with a crisis management firm to hold a presentation on how to handle the blurred lines technology and social media have created between home and work. How do employers handle situations where an employee posts something inappropriate at home about workplace items? The event was a success and she’s continued to hold regular webinars and presentations on new developments in the area ever since.
“First and foremost, it’s not that you should ever prohibit the use of social media. I think it’s very useful whether you are the employer or you’re the employee; it’s just the way of our world and I think it’s important we engage in social media. But, from the legal side of it, if you’re an employer, you need to make sure that if you’re going to discipline an employee or discipline one of your workers for their use of social media, just to make sure that you apply what you’re doing just as you would if those things were said at the watercooler. Employers need to run the same analysis with regard to ‘are we applying these policies consistently?’” she explained.
“It’s about making sure you have a policy in place, and making sure it doesn’t violate the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA), and that it addresses all of those similar types of concerns you would have if the content was being said out loud or put in an email.”
While she initially was inspired to go into the legal profession after babysitting for several senators’ children in her hometown of Las Vegas growing up, she found her true passion for the law while summering at Squire Patton Boggs before her third year of law school. Now she said she enjoys helping current Moritz College of Law students find their passion by coming in to talk with them, sitting on panels about the current legal market and topics in the labor and employment law field, or posing as a potential employer in the Moritz Mock Interview Program.
“I’m still very active at Moritz and I am happy to help with just anything they need in regard to development of students about to enter the legal profession. I love working with the students, I was a teacher before I decided to go to law school, so I feel like it lets me still do that as well,” she said.
When she’s not at the office or her alma mater, Martinez is active with the Hispanic National Bar Association and the Delaware County Foundation. She also participates on the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, a national organization that focuses on legal issues facing the industry regarding different diversity initiatives.
When asked what piece of advice she would give to current law student, she replied—love what you do.
“When you love what you do, it’s contagious—whether that’s with the attorneys you’re working for or working with in your office—they’ll want to continue to work for you or with you. As you are doing business development activities for yourself, when you’re so enthusiastic and believe in what you’re doing, people want to give you work and they want to hire you. I think you just have to have the right attitude and be a self-starter, taking initiative and ownership over your profession once you enter it. It’s tough and there are a lot of hours, but it can be so rewarding,” she said.