July 23, 2019
Melissa Martinez portrait
Martinez is a Bankruptcy Associate at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP.

What drew you to law school, and specifically, Rutgers? 

I decided to go to Rutgers Law for a number of reasons. First, I grew up in South Jersey and knew I wanted to stay local, either in South Jersey or Philadelphia. Rutgers was the perfect location for me. Second, Rutgers has a great reputation and a strong alumni network, both of which were very important to me if I wanted to practice in the area. Third, Rutgers has a JD/MBA program which I knew I wanted to pursue. I received my undergraduate degree from Villanova University School of Business and wanted to combine both my passions for business and the law through a joint program.

What business law-related activities did you participate in at Rutgers Law?

While at Rutgers I was very active in extracurriculars, from student government to various pro bono projects. While I did not get involved in extracurriculars at the business school, I still felt engaged and a sense of community with the business students because my classes were small enough to establish relationships with everyone in the class and most classes involved a number of team-oriented projects.

What opportunities did you have as a result of the dual degree program that you otherwise might not have had? 

I believe my dual degree helped me get my current job at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr as a bankruptcy and restructuring associate. Corporate bankruptcy requires an understanding of business structures, operations, management and many other topics I learned about in my MBA program. My understanding of these concepts was critical to my being able to take on more challenging assignments early on and have higher-level strategy conversations with my peers.

How has your career been influenced or propelled by the dual degree? How do you use the knowledge or network gained day-to-day in your role?

The skill set I developed from the JD/MBA program continues to be valuable as I become a mid-level associate, building on those skills I mastered in the MBA program. This skillset has also helped me understand the business of a law firm. Understanding short term and long term goals of one’s department, office, and firm are necessary to develop a career at a firm. This understanding has led to my involvement in various firm committees early on as well as leadership roles in outside organizations in furtherance of achieving department, office, and firm goals.

What advice do you have for students interested in a similar path?

A few pieces of advice:

  • Don’t burn bridges. You never know who your next boss or business contact will be. And on the flip side, every opportunity is a networking opportunity. Get to know your peers. 
  • Mentorship matters. Be a mentor to the next generation of attorneys and business professionals, and do not forget what it was like to be in their shoes.
  • Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. This mantra came from my networking experiences early on. I had not done much networking prior to starting at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr so inevitably, I went to a number of networking events where I knew no one. Of course, this is a very uncomfortable feeling for anyone but it is important that that doesn’t stop you from continuing to do it. Like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets, but don’t let that fear of being uncomfortable hold you back.

Rutgers Law Media Contacts:
Mike Sepanic (Camden); Elizabeth Moore (Newark)

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