Women's Leadership InitiativeQ&A with Melissa Barnett

Melissa works with a wide range of clients on both domestic and international trademark clearance, enforcement, and prosecution, as well as corporate brand management, protection and expansion.

Describe a pivotal moment that influenced your career path.

It wasn’t necessarily a pivotal moment but a pivotal person, my mother, who supported all my pivotal moments. My mother has always been, as most parents are, my biggest fan and support system. My mother always provided well beyond what I needed and strived to provide a better life for my sister and me– one of the most important things she preached was education. She sent me to the best schools and always told me to strive to be my best self. Becoming a lawyer was always something I had thought about in high school and early in college (I always loved a good Grisham novel), but I got side tracked with being a college athlete and went down a sports medicine path. Going into my junior year in college, I just knew in the pit of my stomach that this was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life and was scared of making the wrong choice. So after much discussion with my mom (some of which was not necessarily sunshine and rainbows), I added a more legal centered major and began preparing for and applying to law school. Attending law school was not always the easiest of times and I had my fair share of uncertainty, but my mother was never less than supportive of my choice throughout the entire process. Today, it gives her no greater joy than to tell everyone that her daughter is a lawyer.

What is the best advice you’ve received about how to be a successful attorney?

The best advice about how to be a successful attorney is not always about the amount of hours you bill or the complexity of the matter, but about being responsive, communicative and listening to your clients’ needs in order to find the appropriate course of action required for that situation. No two clients or situations are the same, and it is important to not only think about the legal choices but also the business choices a client can make. I would be happy to fight every single trademark enforcement issue because I truly get invested in my clients’ brand and the protection of those brands. But that doesn’t always make sense and I must be able to assess the situation and provide my clients with practical solutions to a problem that not only mitigates the risk and damage but accounts for their resources as well. Being able to approach their issues and concerns in this manner builds a solid foundation and trust amongst your clients, allowing you to be their go-to advocate.

If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would he/she be and why?

My grandmother Peggy; she died a while ago and I never felt like I got to say the goodbye she or I need – she, just like my mother, was one of my biggest supporters. I wish I could sit down with her today so that she could see who I have become, both professionally and personally. We probably wouldn’t have dinner though – we probably would get popcorn (when I was a kid she once popped “all” the popcorn in her house just so that I would stay an extra night with her and sent it home the next day in garbage bags with my parents – I’m sure they loved that).

Complete the sentence: “If I wasn’t an attorney, I would be a…”

I want to save every dog that has been abandoned or hurt, so if I were not an attorney I would be a doodle rescuer and try to place them with families who can care for their specific needs but most likely would need to buy a ten acre farm because I wouldn’t be able to part with any of them.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentorship has been very impactful in both my professional and personal life. I have had several mentors throughout my young legal career and each once has provided something different which has allowed me to meld into the attorney I am today. But the most impactful and meaningful mentor I have had has been at Porter Wright. Bob Morgan has not only been an exceptional mentor but has been an amazing friend and advocate. He has provided great guidance and knowledge in our area of practice, which has allowed me to obtain and build upon the tools required to become a strong advocate for our clients.