Snapshot of an Almost J.D.: Melissa Gruchacz
March 10, 2014
“Melissa and I were in Orange Pod together. After having many classes together, I know Melissa is both intelligent and witty. I can’t recall a moment when Melissa appeared overwhelmed. Even if she felt overwhelmed or under prepared, she never let it show. She almost made law school look easy. Melissa will make a great attorney.”
Halah asked Melissa the following questions. Here are her answers:
What’s your educational background?
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Central Florida, Burnett Honors College.
I started out in Engineering, but quickly learned I’m not artistic enough for design. I decided on anthropology because it had math, science, writing, and I could study a huge variety of things. I can still name all the hominids in order. Homo Habilis is my favorite.
I attended an advanced high school program for pre-pre med students, but mostly just learned that I didn’t want to be a doctor. I also studied abroad at Oxford, so yes I use the Oxford comma. See supra. (And law review has broken me forever.)
What about your family background?
I was born and raised in Seminole, FL, just north of St. Petersburg. I do not have an accent.
My father is an auto mechanic and my mother is a homemaker, both originally from New Jersey. I come from a long line of Irish and Polish farmers who moved to the new world in the early 1900’s. There are less than 200 people worldwide with my last name and I am related to every single one of them.
I have an older brother, who works in advertising in Manhattan, a sister-in-law who’s a singer, and an 18 month old niece who’s adorable.
I’ve been married to my incredible husband for almost five years and we’ve been together for nine. Between the two of us, we have 20 sets of aunts and uncles, plus dozens of cousins, and now their kids. I’m pretty used to a crowd.
Why did you decide to go to law school?
I really enjoy helping people solve complex problems. With an anthropology degree and my feminist ways, a secondary degree was always a given. I took a few years after college to mull over my options and confirm that I disliked being a housewife. (It lasted 2 months.) I chose law because it seemed the most useful and had varied applications. I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of law I wanted, but no matter what, it would allow me to work on complex problems and advise people, which greatly appealed to me. The lack of job prospects never bothered me—I graduated college in 2008, so a good job market is not a thing I have ever experienced.
I know I made the right decision because I LOVE my job. I work in child welfare, which can be pretty gruesome, but I get to answer questions and help people out of a dark place which is incredibly fulfilling.
What is your favorite part about Lewis & Clark?
The other students. I have made some incredible friends at Lewis & Clark. We can be competitive AND supportive. People seem to understand that my success does not lessen theirs, and vice versa. It’s plenty competitive—as any place full of ambitious people would be—but no one wants to be successful at the expense of their peers.
What is your least favorite part about Lewis & Clark?
The heat, or rather lack thereof. I own a full winter wardrobe just for Room 2.
What are your future job and career goals?
I love all aspects of commercial law. Banking law especially, given all the exciting new things going on, but I also enjoy securities and transactional work. I like having a code to work with and I think agencies are really interesting creatures. I have no real preference for in house v. firm v. government work, I just really want to know my clients and enjoy my work.
What do you think prospective students should know about law school?
Know your own limits and stick to them, but don’t be afraid to push yourself if YOU want. This can mean asking for help when you need it or saying no when you’ve reached your limit. Life in general will try to overwhelm you, so start learning how to cope when the worst possible outcome is a bad grade. Law school is hard and overwhelming and miserable on a good day, but it can teach you a lot about yourself and the world, so pay attention.
Also, Always Be Networking. Being young and ambitious can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be.
What is an interesting part about your background? Or in other words, how do you contribute to the diversity of Lewis & Clark?
I suppose the easiest answer is that I am a woman in commercial law. The law school is a little over half women, but I’ve been the only lady in a couple of classes.
I think my real value is that I come from a very different place than a lot of other students, economically, geographically, and culturally. My parents are not professionals and never pressured me to become one. I’m a little bit older and have a little more life experience than average. I know my priorities, but also know how to change them. I grew up in a place with a lot of different people. My childhood neighborhood was African American/ Jewish/ Cuban/ Elderly. You could wear just a bathing suit around town, but people still wear gloves to church. I’ve ducked through race riots and been to more bar/bat mitzvahs than I can count, despite being raised Catholic. I grew up in a place where racism, misogyny, and bigotry are still very real things, but that means people are talking about them and facing them head on.
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