To say Gail Groy, a partner at Axley Brynelson, had some obstacles to overcome to get where she is today is an understatement.
For her eventual triumph over every hurdle that had stood in her way, Groy credits not only her own work habits but also the kindness of strangers.
Groy was born in England to parents who emigrated there from Trinidad and Tobago. Before becoming a lawyer in 2001, she had worked as an electrical and electronics engineer, as well as a high school math teacher.
Eventually she landed a job at a small software company that worked with Apple. It was around the time Apple was beginning to make its big comeback, which is what got her interested in pursuing a law degree.
Groy said all the higher-ups at Apple in the U.S. were lawyers. She said company officials asked her if she was interested in becoming a lawyer, too.
Groy eventually graduated from Kingston University Law School. But rather than return to Apple, she decided to move across the Atlantic with her then-husband, who had accepted a job in the U.S.
After taking some time off to care for her children — she now has five — Groy decided she wanted to return to the law. This time, though, she faced a big obstacle: The state of Wisconsin wouldn’t allow her to practice here.
Refusing to take no for an answer, Groy petitioned the state Supreme Court for admission to practice law in Wisconsin. One of things holding her back, she pointed out, was that she had not practiced law in several years.
“So I asked (the Supreme Court) politely and humbly if they could not penalize me” for taking time off for her family, Groy said.
“They said, ‘Absolutely, we’re not going to penalize you, a professional lady, for taking time to stay at home with your children,’” Groy said.
In petitioning the Supreme Court, Groy said she had to rely on people in Wisconsin who really didn’t know her as well as her former colleagues in Britain. She said she will always remember both the show of support that she received and the determination she had to display to win the right to practice.
“You apply that passion, it makes you … want to do right,” she said. “Because you’ve fought and won a difficult battle, and you didn’t do it on your own.”
Groy now tells young women to set up networks of people who are willing to help you, and to never forget what can be achieved through hard work.
Racine County Circuit Court Judge David Paulson, who knew Groy from her time working on personal-injury cases in Kenosha, described her using two words: Integrity and passion.
Even though they worked on opposing sides of the courtroom, Paulson said Groy was unfailingly honest and always eager to improve.