Gruhlkey Found Community, Career in Move to Nebraska

By 
Molly Ashford
The Daily Record

From personal injury to public defense, Mandy Gruhlkey’s law career has always centered around helping others.

Gruhlkey, a personal injury attorney who’s now the president of the Sarpy County Bar Association, moved to Omaha in her early 20s from the small town of Adrian, Texas. Her hometown has a current population of 120 people, one of them being Gruhlkey’s mother, who is the mayor. 

A former fling brought Gruhlkey to Nebraska, as an ex-boyfriend had a job opportunity in Omaha, so she went with. After the relationship ended, she stayed in the city after beginning to view it as a second home.

“You meet the people here and they are just really good people,” Gruhlkey said. “I still go back to Texas, but I really love the Midwest.”

Gruhlkey completed her undergraduate career, which she had begun in Texas, at Buena Vista University in Iowa. To support herself while studying secondary education, she worked at the front desk of Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop PC.

With her heart set on teaching and a job as a law clerk, Gruhlkey had no intention of becoming a lawyer. Her decision to pursue law came after a conversation with an attorney at the office who encouraged her to go into the field.

“Coming from a small town, you don’t really think about all the possibilities,” she said. “He said: ‘Look around this office. If these guys can be lawyers, you can be a lawyer.’ And that just stuck in my head to this day. It really was a pivotal moment in my life, and I’m grateful to him.”

With new purpose, Gruhlkey enrolled in the Creighton University School of Law. She graduated in 2011 with her J.D. Soon after, she began working for the Sarpy County Public Defender’s Office.

“I really had a great time at the public defender’s office,” Gruhlkey said. “Public defenders get such a bad rap, but it’s just not true. These are people who care more about the case than, a lot of times, even the defendants themselves do.”

She gained invaluable experience in this position, including presenting to the Nebraska Supreme Court on two occasions.

In 2012, just a year after her graduation, Gruhlkey was second chair on a second-degree murder trial that was appealed by the state to the supreme court. The defense won.

After more than 6 years as a public defender, Gruhlkey was asked by the Sarpy County Attorney in 2017 to “change sides” and work as a prosecutor. For little over a year, she served as a deputy county attorney before leaving and going into private practice.

“I’ve always, in the back of my mind, thought about becoming a judge,” she said. “So, I thought maybe getting some civil experience would be good.”

While operating her own practice, Gruhlkey was approached by national personal injury firm Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP, where she continued to gain experience in civil litigation. For her, personal injury was a natural next step in her career, as it offered a further opportunity to help people.

“As a public defender, I felt like I was a voice for people who didn’t really have a voice for themselves,” Gruhlkey said. “People at the public defender’s office say that people are broken, in a certain type of way. In personal injury, you have people broken in a different way, but they’re still in a place in their life where they need real help.”

At the beginning of 2021, a classmate from Creighton who had moved home to Utah to work for personal injury firm The Advocates reached out to her to discuss the opening of another office in Omaha. After learning about the firm, Gruhlkey was on board and began the planning stages. As of Feb. 1, she is now a personal injury attorney with The Advocates.

“I got to really know their brand, and the vision and mission of their firm is really in line with what I want to do,” she said. “I myself have been in a car accident and had to have an attorney help me navigate the insurance and all that, so this was a great opportunity for me to give back, in a way.”

Outside of her law practice, Gruhlkey never gave up her love of teaching. She has worked at Bellevue University and Iowa Western Community College as an adjunct professor, teaching in the legal and paralegal studies.

Gruhlkey will serve as the president of the Sarpy County Bar Association for one more year. Her term was set to expire in 2020, but the election was held off due to the difficulty of holding an election in the pandemic.

“Being president has been wonderful,” Gruhlkey said. “We’re a social bar association, but we also really want to give back to the community. The success of the bar is because of the members, and the event chair and everyone else on the board.”

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