The Lawyer Who Takes Your Temperature

Gretchen Colter moonlights as a nurse

Published in 2007 Michigan Super Lawyers — September 2007

From depositions to dopamine drips, Bowman and Brooke partner and resident registered nurse Gretchen Colter leads a double life—one that has made her the go-to attorney for product liability cases.

“There can be thousands of pages of medical records in these cases,” says Larry Mann, Bowman’s managing partner. “Some people read them, some don’t. Gretchen reads all of them, bad handwriting and all.”

The Birmingham, Mich., native began her professional career 26 years ago as a nurse at the University of Colorado Health Science Center. Ten years and a few awards for nursing excellence later, Colter moved back to Michigan in 1991 to attend University of Detroit’s law school. 

“I have always been very analytical, and I have a passion for assisting others,” Colter says. “I thought that would transfer well into law. But I had a hard time severing ties with nursing completely.” 

So Colter still spends her Saturdays in scrubs at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. But even without her Saturday shift, Colter finds plenty of ways to use her medical expertise when defending automotive industry giants such as GM in product liability lawsuits, including a 1998 case headed by Mann. A woman sued GM claiming a defective seatbelt caused a head injury. Colter read through the plaintiff’s medical records. At the end of a long trail, says Mann, was a big lie.

“It turns out [prior to the alleged car accident] the woman had been assaulted, taken from a highway rest stop and beaten in the head with a rock,” Mann says. “Defense verdict. I owe Gretchen. A lot of us do.” Since then, Colter has taken two more GM cases to favorable verdicts for the defense.

“I have an interest in both professions and don’t want to lose either,” she says.

Colter doesn’t intend to give up either job. “I continue to have the required energy and good stamina to do both.”  

For Mann, energy and stamina only begin to describe Colter’s nature. 

“She moves quickly. She walks fast, she talks fast,” Mann says, then chuckles and offers his impression of Colter: “Are we done here? Okay. Good. Later!”

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