In her busy and varied career, Mercer Law alumna Betsy Griswold has spent years working overseas, within the American banking system, for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and as in-house counsel to UPS Inc. Whatever her position, the threads that run alongside her working life are service and pro bono work.
“Service is kind of in my DNA,” says the attorney, who briefly flirted with retirement, then couldn’t quite stand the quiet: “After about three months I thought, ‘No, no, no — I need to use my brain to keep helping people solve problems.”
So, she returned to her alma mater during the fall 2021 semester as an adjunct professor, teaching business drafting. In March 2022, she accepted a position with the Intercontinental Hotel Group’s legal department and serves on the leadership team for the chief procurement officer.
“IHG is a great company with a wonderful culture of true hospitality for good,” says Griswold. “It has been such an honor to have another opportunity to serve and shape important outcomes for the organization.”
Giving back to Mercer over the years, she has served on Mercer’s Board of Visitors and now is involved with fundraising for the Law School’s sesquicentennial in 2023.
“We have a law school that’s been in existence almost 150 years,” she says. “That’s a heritage and a history that we need to make people aware of — a legacy of Mercer Law School producing some of the finest lawyers Georgia has ever seen.”
Service takes her deep into her community and around the world as well. At Buckhead Church, she’s been part of the 2 to 1 Program, mentoring young couples in the eight weeks leading up to their marriage, and with North Point Ministries she worked for many years with young people in Estonia, alongside her husband, Daryl.
Born and raised in North Carolina, Griswold majored in psychology and political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She chose to come to Georgia for law school largely because she wanted to reconnect with her grandmothers, one whom lived in Barnesville, the other in South Georgia.
“There were a lot of strong women in my family,” she says.
Near the end of her first year at Mercer Law School, Griswold — whose last name was Cross at the time — was thinking about returning to her home state to continue her education. But, like many of her fellow Mercer students, she was poor and lacking much in the way of resources.
“We had no money, so we all hung out at people’s porches and houses,” she says.
It was at one of these “hangs” that she met Daryl, and they struck up conversation.
“I said, ‘Hey, what are you doing for the summer?’” she recalls.
She and Daryl have now been married 38 years — it’s kind of a famous Mercer Law School love story. She wants to pass on to current Law School students what Mercer taught the two of them back then.
“I know we have to teach basic curriculum to give students a foundational base, but we need to teach them practical skills,” she says. “I designed my course to show them what it’s really like to be in the real world.”
On that front, she has plenty to share, not only her years spent working with a Fortune 500 company but the scrappiness and tenacity it sometimes takes to make a way forward.
Her own experience offers a colorful example. A freshly coined owner of a J.D. degree but with no employment prospects, she moved to Atlanta with Daryl, who had a job there. All she had was gumption and a uniform.
“I had the little blue suit and the floppy bow tie, which we used to wear in the ’80s,” she says.
And she had a stack of printed resumes. Recalling an Atlanta attorney who’d spoken to her property class, she tracked him to his office with no appointment.
“I went to 30 Pryor St. and said, ‘Is Mr. Johnson in?’”
He was, and agreed to see her.
“Bless his heart, he was so kind. He sat down and talked to me and took my resume.”
She figured he was just being polite.
“But I’ll be darned if two weeks later, he called and said, ‘We didn’t have a job, but I created a job.’”
Not much of one, but it was the start she needed.
“I literally knocked on doors,” she says.
And she encourages current Mercer Law students to do likewise but also to be flexible.
“In my first class, I ask my students, ‘What do you want to do?’” she says. “But you have to keep your options open. I ended up as a real estate lawyer, then ended up at a law firm for a short amount of time. But most of my career has been in-house.”
Sometimes, opportunities appeared that may not have seemed the perfect fit.
“I didn’t have the requisite experience, but I held up my hand,” she says. “If you’re smart and work hard and roll up your sleeves, those things are recognized.”
In her free time, Griswold loves to cook, and she and Daryl both love France. Before the pandemic, those interests came together neatly every April for six years. The couple got to know a family who were establishing a church about an hour outside Paris.
“They don’t have a lot of resources and time and income to kind of just step away from the day-to-day responsibilities of the church,” she says. “So we would take the pastor and the staff and their families, including all their children, on basically a week’s retreat.”
It would take place in a large country house the Griswolds would rent. While the church folks spent their days relaxing and having adventures with their kids, Griswold took to the kitchen with five or six assistants and cooked for everyone.
“That’s a pretty extraordinary accomplishment, to cook for 40 French people,” she proudly admits.
Though sometimes she would get polite criticisms — “The French are very funny because they’ll say, ‘Oh, the baguette yesterday was just a little more crisp than the one today’” — she always had a couple of secret weapons in her repertoire.
“There are two things I cook that they love: Brunswick stew and cornbread.”
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the 2023 edition of the Mercer Lawyer magazine.