Something Blue: Bringing Blue-Collar Roots to the Legal Profession - An Interview with Melissa Green
By Molly Timko • May 29, 2019•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence, Careers
For this month's post, I am thrilled to feature an interview with Melissa Green, an energetic, enthusiastic, and compassionate attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability law. Melissa is the daughter of blue-collar workers and the first person in her family to attend and graduate from both college and law school.
Could you tell Ms. JD blog readers about your background and what prompted you to apply to law school?
I grew up in rural Maine and was the first person in my family to attend college. After college I became a high school teacher for about six years, then applied to law school. I had always wanted to become an attorney but the prospect of going straight from undergrad into another three years of law school was daunting financially. However, I am glad that I had another career before law school as I think I was much more prepared to become an attorney.
What were your biggest challenges as a law student?
Time management was always a concern because I heavily involved myself in several activities. I really loved law school and was very involved in various aspects. However, there are only so many hours in a day!
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school (or when you first began practicing law)?
I wish someone had told me that it’s ok to pivot many times in your career. It is not a failure to say that something isn’t working for you professionally. It’s ok to take time in life to figure out what is and is not working for you. Law school tends to put people into a mindset that there is a “right” way to be a lawyer (get a clerkship, work in big-law, become partner, ect…) and everything else is wrong. Out here in the real world, it could not be further from the truth. Law is a profession, but it is also a trade. I did not realize that for quite some time.
How did your blue-collar or working-class roots shape your chosen career path?
For a long time, I thought I was running away from my upbringing by becoming an attorney. I won’t go as far to say that I was embarrassed about how I was raised, but I certainly didn’t volunteer much information about it to anyone professionally. If I told someone that I was from Maine and they assumed that I did a lot of skiing and spent a lot of time in Kennebunkport, I just let them make that assumption because that was their experience with going on vacation in Maine. I took a job out of law school doing commercial litigation and again, nothing from my childhood really related. However, I am now in a field (Social Security Disability) where having blue collar roots is very helpful for me to understand the challenges my clients are facing as well as to help those clients present the strongest possible case for receiving benefits. I think my clients find me very relatable and approachable.
What are your best networking tips?
If you become involved in activities or causes that you really love, you will meet a lot of people that way. Networking isn’t just accomplished a specific “networking event” but it can become a natural part of your daily life. Push outside of your comfort zone as often as you can.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a first generation law student?
You deserve to be where you are. You may need to look a little harder for mentors but they are out there. You don’t need to be the child or grandchild of an attorney to be an excellent attorney!
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
Playing with my dogs, working out, riding my motorcycle.
Could you recommend a book that inspired you or helped you in your career?
“Becoming Michelle Obama” is a really great book. Her experience of growing up with blue collar roots, becoming a big law attorney, and all of the various other career paths she has explored is just proof that it’s ok to pivot and not always take the path of least resistance in your career.
Melissa Green, Esq. is an energetic, enthusiastic and compassionate attorney who takes pride in helping her clients win the Social Security Disability Benefits that they greatly need. As the daughter of blue-collar workers (a heavy-duty diesel mechanic and a factory seamstress), she understands the value of hard work and how many years of strenuous labor can take a toll on a person’s body and mind. She gets great satisfaction personally and professionally from helping her clients (many who have become disabled due to many years of hard work and/or have suffered devastating injuries) successfully navigate the complex and bureaucratic world of federal Social Security Disability claims in order to provide once again for themselves and their families.
At the encouragement of her parents, Melissa was the first in her family to attend and graduate from both college and law school. Melissa graduated with her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Drexel University and was fifth in her graduating class. She was awarded the prestigious American Law Institute Scholarship and Leadership award as the graduate who best exemplified both of these traits. She has won multiple awards for her oral advocacy skills. Melissa also worked for several years as a high school social studies teacher prior to becoming an attorney and has a keen interest in education, including special education issues. Although she devotes her law practice to Social Security Disability cases, she also volunteers to represent foster children in Family Court proceedings through the Delaware Office of the Child Advocate.
Although Melissa is a native of Maine, she is now a permanent resident of Wilmington, Delaware and lives with her husband of 15 years, Dan, and her two Shih Tzu pups, Khan and Hazel. When not spending time at work or with her family, Melissa enjoys lifting weights and competing in local Crossfit competitions. ________________________________________________________________________________________________
If you're an attorney or law student with blue-collar roots and you would like to be featured in a future "Something Blue: Bringing Blue-Collar Roots to the Legal Profession" blog post, please contact me or feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading!