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Graeme Ellis Sharpe

Partner - los angeles


From an early age, Graeme set out to understand others. He tells the story of being five years old and being asked what he wanted to be. Not a fireman or baseball player, but a counselor. More specifically, he wanted to be a psychiatrist. Fast forward many years, and it is client service that sets him apart. Practicing initially in big firms and spending the past decade or so in-house, Graeme comes recently from large multinational companies and institutions where client satisfaction across multiple departments, and often multiple Human Resources departments, was the challenge and accomplishment. “You still remain the best legal counsel I’ve had the pleasure to work with . . .” one HR Vice President wrote to him last year, and some eight years after she left one of the several affiliated companies Graeme advised. Others will recount the tireless drive to understand their business, the money saved, and the matters successfully, and many surprisingly, resolved by him. MSK attorneys will report that, as a client, Graeme was one of the most demanding, most aggressive they have serviced, and the results obtained were extraordinary and typically unexpected.

Graeme will tell you that there is an open secret about being an exceptional in-house attorney; something he intends to bring to the clients of MSK. “Always begin with the question, “what do you want to accomplish with this employee, with this situation?” “From this point,” he says, “the client and I can talk, and understand, options . . . and risks.” He’ll make one more point about advising a business. “While the final decision is not up to us, as attorneys, of course, we do a disservice to the client if, particularly when asked, we equivocate or do not speak clearly about what we think, and what we would do under the circumstances—based, of course, on the client’s needs and goals. Some think this too risky because they do not want the blame if something goes wrong. That can happen, but if done correctly we should not worry. The value and strength of this level of advice and counsel is in the analysis and its delivery. You must take sufficient time to do both.” This approach, this empathy, has made Graeme the employment lawyer HR professionals and attorneys wanted to take to their meeting with their CEO.


Legal Expertise

Graeme Sharpe represents private and public employers in all areas of employment and wage and hour law, appearing in state and federal trial and appellate courts, arbitrations, mediations, investigations, and other administrative proceedings. Graeme advises and counsels clients on restructurings and reorganizations, attendance and leave policies, incentive programs, employee engagement, worker’s compensation, and executive coaching, and on compliance with state and federal employment laws such as the ADEA, FMLA, ADA, Title VII, FEHA, FLSA, ERISA, and NLRA. He negotiates and drafts severance agreements, employment agreements, service agreements, and all other Human Resources agreements. Graeme has successfully tried civil jury and bench trials and arbitrations, and as in-house counsel has overseen the successful defense of two jury trials. Graeme also conducts training seminars that win wide praise for satisfyingly breaking the mold of the traditional lecture structure. Graeme’s background also includes extensive transactional or contract experience.

Other Career Experience

  • Senior Counsel, Employment, University of California, Los Angeles Health System 
  • Director II, Employment Law & Employee Relations, Hyundai Capital America
  • Managing Counsel, Hyundai Motor America
  • Deputy Attorney General IV, California Attorney General's Office, Employment, Regulation & Administration Section 
  • Associate, Litigation & Public Finance, Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe


  • California, 1991
  • U.S.D.C., Central District of California, 1995
  • U.S.D.C., Northern District of California, 2000
  • U.S.D.C., Eastern District of California, 1998
  • U.S.D.C., Southern District of California, 2021
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 2021
  • Supreme Court of the United States, 2002


University of Michigan Law School, J.D. 

Note Editor, Michigan Law Review 

Carleton College, B.A. 

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