Taking the Plunge

Grace Mora has pivoted from her original goal of becoming a law partner to lead legal matters at the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel

Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Grace Mora always wanted to be a partner at a law firm because not many women or Latinas are in partnership roles.

The first-generation Cuban American earned her JD at American University’s Washington College of Law and found a passion for litigation. She stayed in Washington, DC, for four years, at Thelen Reid and Priest. During that time, she began building her commercial litigation experience in both state and federal cases focused on product liability, ERISA, construction, insurance recovery, and intellectual property.

Mora then returned home to Miami with her husband to work at Morgan Lewis and Bockius. She switched gears and began working on employment disputes in all stages of litigation. After two years, she moved to Hunton & Williams, where she represented Fortune 100 and 500 companies in the hospitality, airline, retail, and pharmaceutical industries on labor and employment matters.

Her goal of becoming a law firm partner shifted, though, when she got a call about a position as general counsel for Fontainebleau Miami Beach. The landmark hotel, which opened in 1954, features signature restaurants, two nightlife venues, a two-story spa, a virtually endless pool-scape, miles of pristine beach, and state-of-the-art conference and event facilities on its twenty-two-acre oceanfront property.

Mora didn’t think she was qualified for the general counsel position but applied anyway. When she found out she was one of three candidates, she really started to want the position. She would be working at an iconic hotel and overseeing all legal activities and functions.

She was offered the position and took the plunge in 2012. “Mora’s labor and employment background in the industry will be an enormous asset to Fontainebleau at this very exciting time,” said Philip Goldfarb, president and COO, at the time of Mora’s hiring.

The first eight months were difficult; her new role was very different from the ones she had held at the law firms she had worked for. She doubted herself a lot early on, and she says it took a year to earn everyone’s trust. But having a litigation and employment background was a big advantage.

As general counsel, Mora handles a variety of different issues for Fontainebleau: condos, alcohol licenses, employment, workers’ compensation, artist and DJ contracts, nightclubs, vendor contracts, and valets, to name a few. And it’s only her, plus a couple of paralegals.

It’s a fast-paced industry, but Mora loves it. She advises aspiring lawyers and general counsel to allow opportunities to come in and to not be narrowly focused on their goals. They need to give themselves a chance, have confidence, and take the plunge.

If she hadn’t done those things, Mora wouldn’t be where she is today.

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