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Law360 interviews Melanie Mitchell about her leadership with Mississippi Bar’s Lawyer in Every Mississippi Classroom program

Melanie Mitchell, attorney in the firm’s Gulfport office and member of the Litigation Practice, interviewed with Law360 about the Mississippi Bar’s Young Lawyers Division (YLD) Lawyer in Every MS Classroom program. She discussed her plans to expand and enhance the program during her tenure as chair, a position she was appointed to in August. 

In the article published September 14, 2023, Melanie shared why she believes community engagement is critical for lawyers and the impact she hopes this program will have on children across the state. 

The Lawyer in Every Mississippi Classroom program offers classrooms throughout Mississippi a visit from a lawyer during the school year. Any teacher, Kindergarten through 12th grade, is invited to have a lawyer visit. The program offers students the opportunity to learn about the legal system, their rights, and the importance of understanding the law in their daily lives. It can also introduce students to the legal profession as a potential career path.

Melanie explained there are numerous ways for teachers to use the program and they should feel free to employ it in a way that will be the most beneficial for them and their students. 

“Maybe it's a history teacher who wants a lawyer to speak to a history class about the U.S. Constitution, and we can provide that service,” Law360 quoted Melanie as saying. “That gives the curriculum something that might not otherwise be available and provides the child with someone who can provide professional expertise.”

She continued to elaborate on how the program can not only be utilized for educational purposes, but also provides students with information about working in the legal field. 

“Another example might be an environmental lawyer who talks to an AP science class,” Melanie was quoted as saying. “Or we also have a lot of 12th grade students who are interested in studying pre-law and are applying to college. So lawyers might visit those classrooms to talk to them about law as a career path.”

The program has been shown to increase awareness around safety issues, with Melanie saying “I know from my predecessors that we've had prosecutors talk about the dangers of drunk driving. That's been very effective — and highly effective — especially in high schools.”

When asked how she would like to grow the program, Melanie described her hope to focus more on underserved communities. 

“My plan is really to target some of the underserved communities in Mississippi, because my understanding is that in past years, a lot of the program's reach has really been in some of the major counties, like Hinds County, Forrest County and Harrison County.” 

She continued, “Whenever we're talking about some of these smaller schools in some of the more underdeveloped communities in Mississippi, there may be students who have never met a lawyer. I really want to bridge that gap in some of those underserved communities and let the public in those areas, as well as in the areas with larger school districts, meet the legal community as well.”

Melanie concluded the interview with why she is passionate about community involvement. 

“I think the earlier in their legal careers lawyers get involved in their community, the more likely it is that they're going to stay involved,” she was quoted as saying. “I think it does bridge that gap in between the public and the legal community, and I think that's so important to educate the public about what legal resources they have.”

Melanie represents corporations and individuals in a variety of litigation areas. She serves as the go-to legal advisor for matters related to labor & employment, product liability, construction, real estate, and business contracts. Melanie dedicates herself to finding personalized, thorough solutions for her clients and building lasting relationships with them.