Outside the Office
In her spare time, Melanie loves backpacking the Cascades (and beyond), reading science fiction novels, and enjoying good meals with family and friends. Her active beagle, Cheddar, keeps her on her toes.
My parents were born in the early 1960s during the escalation of the Vietnam War. My dad was the youngest of eight children and my mom the middle of ten. During that time, having more children meant more bodies to help support the family. So that’s what they did. Both of my parents completed school until the fifth grade and left to start farming. To sum up their teenage years, they grew up in a battle torn country, farming crops for work, surrounded by war and starvation. In the 1970s, many Vietnamese fled their home to escape the conflict. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that my parents boarded a boat with a few family members and immigrated to the United States.
I grew up in Section 8 housing in Everett, Washington. Growing up, I struggled balancing the clash of cultures – born of the East, raised in the West. I was acutely aware that my family and especially my parents were treated differently. I was bothered that there were few support systems in place for people in my community. An introspective child, I read a lot of fiction – including many crime thrillers and courtroom dramas. I was moved by the power that lawyers had and inspired by the difference it made to populations without power to have an advocate on their side. By the time I was in middle school I was convinced that I was going to be lawyer. My first job in high school was a legal assistant in a small law firm in Everett.
In college, I dedicated my studies and after school hours to learning about and working to dismantle our discriminatory social and legal structures. I became the President of UW’s Amnesty International chapter and focused on issues of human rights, policing, and poverty. After graduating from UW I took a break to work as a paralegal but returned to law school reinvigorated to serve marginalized populations. Throughout law school, I worked part time at DESC, an organization that provides housing, emergency shelter, and crisis intervention to vulnerable adults. I volunteered at the Housing Justice Project, assisting clients in preventing homelessness. I dedicated my third year to representing indigent clients as a Rule 9 extern at the Defender Association, a public defense agency in King County.
After law school, I served as a judicial clerk to Justice Charles W. Johnson at the Washington State Supreme Court. There I learned to analyze complex and novel issues of law recognizing how important litigation was to shaping the legal landscape. Now at Stritmatter, I represent clients in personal injury, discrimination, and civil rights cases. Most recently I was part of the Ride the Ducks team, where we represented over 40 plaintiffs in trial. The jury returned a verdict of over $123 million dollars. Our clients’ stories were told and heard. But just as importantly, our efforts have increased the dialogue to overturn discriminatory wrongful death laws in Washington. Which brings me back to why I wanted to practice law in the first place – to be a voice and to make some real change for underrepresented communities.
+ Memberships & Leadership
- Vietnamese Bar Association of Washington, President (2019), President-elect (2018), Member (2014-2017)
- Washington State Association for Justice, Eagle Member (2017-present)
- King County Bar Association, 2017-present
- Seattle University School of Law, J.D., 2016
- University of Washington, B.A., Law Societies and Justice, Political Science, Philosophy, 2010