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Valerie N. Butera, Labor and Employment Partner at Epstein Becker Green

published June 08, 2015

( 33 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
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Summary: We sit down with labor and employment partner Valerie N. Butera at Epstein Becker Green to learn more about her and what she does.

Valerie N. Butera, Labor and Employment Partner at Epstein Becker Green

  1. Where were you born and raised? "I was a bit of a nomad. I was born in North Carolina, and then moved to the suburbs of Atlanta when I was 3. At 14, I moved to the south side of Chicago and lived there until I left for college."
  2. Hobbies? Favorite sports team? "I love to run and have run several half marathons. I love exploring new music and going to concerts. And napping - I consider that a beloved hobby that I don't get to do nearly enough! Oh, and my favorite sport is ice hockey. Having lived in MI for several years, I cannot help but love the Red Wings, but coming in a close second are the Washington Capitals."
  3. Where and when did you go to undergrad and law school? What was your major? "I went to Hope College in Holland, MI for undergrad - class of '97.I was a psychology major. I went to law school at the University of Maryland School of Law intending to become a healthcare compliance attorney. I received my JD and a certificate in health law in 2003."
  4. Tell us about your most memorable law school experience."I had the most amazing civil procedure professor - Maxwell Chibundu- and I had the class for the entire first year of law school. Professor Chibundu called on the same people over and over again, including me, mercilessly. And if you did not know what he was looking for in responding to his questions, he would just let you sit there in humiliating silence. I spent hours preparing for his class, but still I found myself in that humiliating silence several times. I finally figured out that he was looking for truly comprehensive answers - you needed to think about more than just the case or the application of the rules - you needed to be prepared to talk about policy issues, practical ramifications of the cases and the like. Basically, you had to think like a practicing lawyer, which is rarely taught in law school. So I prepared for the next class with that in mind. The next time he called on me I was ready - I was SO ready. I cannot even remember what the case or question was about, but he actually started smiling when I was giving all of my answers - I'd not seen that before - and my classmates applauded when I finished answering his litany of tough questions! It was amazing. And I never stopped preparing for class that way, but he never randomly called on me again - I didn't have to say a thing the entire second semester if I didn't want to. It seemed as though I had finally proven that I got it and he was content not to bother me anymore. As tough as that was, I still look back on the experience, and Professor Chibundu, very fondly. And I REALLY know my civil procedure!"
  5. Why did you decide to become an attorney?"Like many other attorneys I know, I thought I was going to become a physician, but quickly learned that pre-med and I were not a good fit. When I graduated college I was still unsure of what path to take so I worked in marketing for a few years while I tried to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Ultimately I decided on law for practical reasons -the qualities that one needs to become a good attorney were things that came easily to me (in complete contrast to those required of a doctor!).I was not sure whether I would even like law school or being an attorney, but quickly after I started law school, a close friend remarked that it seemed as though I had found my calling - and I truly feel that I did. I freakishly loved law school and truly enjoy my career."
  6. How long have you been an attorney?"After graduating from law school in 2003, I clerked for the Honorable William D. Quarles, Jr. for two wonderful years. I then went into private practice in 2005, which brings me to just over 11 years now. I really can't believe it's already been 11 years!"
  7. What are your practice areas?"Just one practice area - Occupational Safety and Health (along with related workplace safety issues). Within that practice area I counsel, litigate, do policy work, etc., but everything I do is completely focused on workplace safety and health."
  8. Do you have your own practice, work in a law firm or work in-house?"I am a Member of the Firm in the Labor and Employment group of Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. /a>."
  9. What is the best part of your job?"I love the people that I get to work with and the variety of work that I do. On any given day I could be responding to a catastrophe, providing safety training, or drafting a brief. It never gets boring. And because of the variety of work that I do and industries that I work with, I have had the pleasure of developing relationships with many wonderful people."
  10. What is your most recent case that is big or noteworthy? What is the most interesting experience you have had while working on this case?"Most recently, my biggest case involved an employer that received multiple OSHA citations, many of which had the potential to be very harmful to the entire company - not just the facility that received the citations. The most fascinating part of the case for me was working with OSHA to amicably resolve this incredibly complex case - the process took months. Ultimately we entered into a regional settlement agreement with OSHA, meaning that the employer agreed to make safety enhancements not just at the facility where it received citations, but to all of the facilities that the employer owned in the same region. The case seemed impossible to settle, but we were finally able to pull it off thanks to creativity and a commitment to ensuring employee safety on both sides."
  11. What is the biggest case you worked on in your entire career? "I would have to say Secretary of Laborv. Delek Refining, Ltd. The case involves a number of matters of first impression regarding OSHA's Process Safety Management standard, successor liability, and the statute of limitations for issuing an OSHA citation. The case required a three week hearing and literally hundreds of pages of post-hearing briefs. The Administrative Law Judge's decision has been appealed, but the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has not yet issued an opinion."
  12. What makes you stand out as an attorney in your field? "The breadth and depth of my knowledge of the field and affected industries, my strength as a writer, and my approach to handling OSHA issues. I rely on my psychology degree quite heavily in my practice. I think that people often overlook how important the human factor is in working with clients, the agency, opposing counsel, employees, unions - everybody. I try to take all of those personalities into consideration when I work on any matter and have found it to be an invaluable element of my success in my field."
  13. What is the sexiest case you worked on? "Ha! There is no such thing as a sexy OSHA case, at least none that I am aware of!"
  14. What are you known for professionally? What do you have a knack for? "I am definitely known for my writing skills and have been called upon to write for various publications and even brought in to write briefs for cases that I was not working on because of my reputation in that regard. I've always been known as a hard worker - the judge that I clerked for affectionately referred to me as "the machine."And honestly, my personality - I have been told by a number of people - including opposing counsel - that I'm the nicest lawyer they've ever met. Taxi drivers always guess I'm a school teacher or a nurse, and I'm proud of that. I love that I've been able to succeed in this profession and stay true to myself. That's not to say that I'm not every bit as aggressive as other attorneys when I need to be, but I find that more often than not, I simply don't need to be aggressive or hostile to be successful."
  15. Do you have a case that stands out? "Really the case that I described above that I worked on most recently. It had an international component, the players were fascinating, and the issues incredibly complex. I also developed wonderful relationships with opposing counsel as we were all working so very hard to reach our common goal of amicably resolving the matter. It was a very rewarding experience."
  16. Do you do any pro bono work? "I must admit that I have not had the time to do much pro bono work lately. Over the past couple of years I got married, had a baby, moved, and switched law firms, all while working on business development activities and handling a number of OSHA matters. I used to do quite a bit of pro bono - primarily in the family law area, and hope to return to it soon."
  17. Are involved with any non-profit organizations?"Not in an official capacity yet, but I am involved with the Epilepsy Foundation of America and would like to become more involved with the organization in the future."
  18. If you were not a lawyer, what would you most probably be doing? "More than likely I would be a research psychologist."
  19. Where do you see yourself in five years' time? "I expect to be a very successful OSHA attorney and thought leader at Epstein Becker & Green, P.C., continuing to work with a growing number of industries and fascinating issues and people. As my now two year old will be seven by then, I also expect to be far more relaxed and well rested by then!"
  20. What motivates you to be an attorney everyday? "A combination of intellectual curiosity and the satisfaction of knowing that I have what it takes to provide excellent service to my clients."
  21. How do you want to be remembered? "Professionally, as a kind (yet fierce!), smart, hardworking, and incredibly determined OSHA lawyer and thought leader. Personally, as a nurturing and supportive wife, mother, and friend."
  22. What area of the law are you most passionate about? "OSHA, of course."
  23. Is there an area of practice you would like to develop further into? "I am learning more and more about environmental law both because it is a fascinating area and because it is closely intertwined with OSHA. Having expertise in both areas is often crucial to fully understanding OSHA cases in industries such as oil drilling, refining, and chemical companies."
  24. What are your goals? (Personally and professionally)"Professionally, I want to continue to grow my practice, continue educating people about health and safety issues through my writing, speeches, webinars, and podcasts. In addition, I would simply like to always feel this motivated, engaged, and satisfied in my career. Personally, and I know this sounds cliché, but it's true, I want to be more present. Outside of work I am a living, breathing To Do list. I'm not proud of that and am working to eliminate it. I want to focus more on my loved ones and much, much less on projects that can be put on tomorrow's To Do list."

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