Leila Melendez '16
“Goucher students an alum they can reach out to, especially when they think something hasn’t been done before. The door is always open.”
Leila Melendez ’16 knew she wanted to help women and children, but she just wasn’t sure what career path would best help her do that. She was torn between social work and law. After graduating Goucher with a psychology major and a minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies, Melendez attended American University's Washington College of Law.
She has managed to tie the work she wanted to do as a social worker—helping children and women from abusive homes—into her legal career. While she studies for the Maryland State Bar, Melendez uses her background in psychology to help her clients through the relational and emotional aspects of their trauma. “I just found that I have a way of talking and connecting with people that allows them to open up with me,” she says. “Having that kind of relationship with a client can make or break a case, I've learned.”
One of the experiences that helped Melendez choose a career in law was an internship at the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, in which she helped guide domestic abuse survivors through the legal process. The debates and explorations inside the classroom of Goucher largely impacted the style of lawyering she intends to practice. The close relationships she developed with her professors, who were easily approachable and welcomed classroom debates, made those experiences impactful and unique. “There’s a huge difference between being in a 100-person class and a five-person class," Melendez says.
Entering law school was daunting, partly because as a first-generation student she had no family who knew the application process. Because of her experience, Melendez hopes to be a support system for future students. “They have an alum they can reach out to, especially when they think something hasn’t been done before,” she says. “The door is always open.”