Women of Influence

Melanie Gray, B.A.’78

Partner, Winston & Strawn

Committed to the Law and the Community

By Carol Olechowski

At age 7, Melanie Gray decided she wanted to become a lawyer. When the Parish, N.Y., native arrived at the University at Albany a decade later, “my intended major was political science. But I fell in love with philosophy – the exploration of knowledge, the journey of understanding what we know, how we know it and what it means.”

Her teachers gave Gray the confidence to excel. A visiting professor who taught advanced logic “inspired me,” while another encouraged her passion for philosophy and “made me believe that I could take upper-level classes and do well.”

Gray’s UAlbany studies provided a sound foundation for her post-graduate plans. She went on to earn a J.D., with honors, from Syracuse University, and then started her practice at a Chicago law firm. Gray relocated to Houston in 1985.

She has built an enviable reputation as a litigation attorney with expertise in complex bankruptcy cases, contract and business disputes, and corporate internal investigations. As one of the lead attorneys in Enron’s Chapter 11 reorganization, she “made certain the company’s value was maximized and fairly distributed to creditors.”

Gray, whose other clients have included American Airlines, General Electric and General Motors, joined Winston & Strawn’s Houston office as a partner in October 2013. Her work has earned her numerous accolades; last year, Gray was named a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America. She is also included in the “Bankruptcy and Creditor/Debtor Rights” section of the 2015 edition of Best Lawyers in America.

Gray likens lawyers to “the directors and the actors of the [courtroom] play.” She loves being in the courtroom and explains: “Law is very mentally stimulating and engaging. Advocating for a client and getting ready for the trial are also very creative.”

She also enjoys community service. In keeping with her “particular areas of passion: women’s issues, education and health,” Gray serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including Baylor College of Medicine; Girls Inc.; Houston Area Women’s Center; the Greater Houston Community Foundation; the Society for the Performing Arts; and Teen & Family Services. As trustee and campaign co-chair, she aided Syracuse University in raising $1 billion between 2007 and 2012.

Gray is married to attorney Mark Wawro. They have three children: William, 26; Chris, 24; and Allison, 19.