Beth Mabe Gianopulos (’01) stays connected to Wake Forest Law by mentoring the next generation

When she was growing up in Danbury, Beth Mabe Gianopulos’s favorite saying was, “That’s not fair.”

“I wanted fairness and justice in everything,” she said.

As the primary legal counsel on employment issues for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Gianopulos (’01) finds that her work gives her the perfect place to pursue her hard-wired sense of what’s fair for all.

“I like being able to go in and say, ‘You don’t have to be held hostage by this person,” she said. “We can establish discipline and standards.”

Gianopulos entered Salem College as a chemistry major, and planned on either going to medical school or pursuing a career as a chemist. An internship helped her realize that she related better to people than test tubes, and that she liked a lot of variety in her work. Law school seemed a better fit.

She visited Wake Forest Law and liked what she saw on the Wake Forest campus.

“Being from a small town, going to a smaller school, I really liked the smaller class size,” she said.

She was drawn to Professor Sue Grebeldinger’s classes in employment law, and she found a role model in her professor, as well as a fellow animal lover who helped her adopt a dog during her 3L year.

“She’s extremely bright. She’s very logical in her thinking. She was so organized and very fair,” Gianopulos said.

When Gianopulos graduated, she served a clerkship with U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen Sr.

From the start, she saw how her practical experience at Wake Forest Law put her ahead of other graduates whose law school educations emphasized the theoretical side.

She wanted to stay in the area, so she took a job at a local law firm. She later moved to Salem Academy and College where she was general counsel and chief planning officer.

A string of connections from her Wake Forest Law days alerted her to an opening at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where she was hired as associate counsel in 2006.

She was one of only two lawyers in her department. Such a small staff meant that there was no chance to specialize, but her love of variety was an advantage.

These days she often finds herself correcting people who think her work is mostly about malpractice suits. Her work runs the gamut from employment matters to healthcare law, litigation management  tax law and  contracts.

“A lot of my job is to interact with people,” she said. “If I have to give them bad news they don’t want to hear, how do I do it so they will want to work with me again?  I also have to work primarily with people that are not lawyers.  This requires the ability to explain complex legal ideas in an easy-to-understand manner.  My job is as much about building relationships and trust as it is about the practice of law.”

Her interests in the human side of the equation have led her to look for ways to stay connected to the law school.   She brings in a student from the Litigation Clinic each semester, and she recruits two interns to work with her each summer. She has also spoken on panels regarding life as an in-house lawyer and employment law, and she has mentored students over the years.

“I like the idea of giving back and mentoring,” she said. “I think that’s something we can do better with each generation.”

Another form of outreach has come through her church, Main Street Baptist, in Kernersville. Gianopulos has gone on mission trips to Mexico City four times, and she has traveled to San Salvador, El Salvador, where she has worked with orphans and homeless women.  These trips also help nurture her desire to bring justice and fairness to those who may not be able to advocate for themselves.

As her department at the hospital has grown, Gianopulos has enjoyed the challenge of straddling the business, as well as the legal side, of healthcare.

“Lawyers tend to be risk averse and they’re thoughtful,” she said. “Business people are not. They want to move things forward and go fast. It’s finding that balance.”

Beth Gianopulos ('01)

Beth Gianopulos (’01)