A student at the SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas believes she is living proof that something good can happen when you put mind to it.
"I would say that lesson finally came in my fourth week of law school. The first few weeks are very rocky," Melanie Griffin said as she talked about her first year in law school.
"Law is like learning a new language. So when I was going to class every day I was like, 'I can’t do this.' I felt like SMU made a mistake in admitting me. I was like, 'I don't know if I can be a law student," she recalled.
Griffin pushed past the doubt by retelling herself over and over that she was capable. The self-talk along with prayer and a supportive community of mentors got her through year one.
She'll start her second year on Monday, Aug. 17, and she'll add to a very full plate with a coveted position of staff editor on the International Law Review Association.
"Well, the application process was very tough. So, I’m curious to see how this year is gonna go. But I know, being picked for the International Law Review wasn't a mistake," she said. "We all put in so much hard work to get here, and I think we’re all grateful to be here."
A couple of weeks ago, she announced the selection on her LinkedIn page. And to Griffin's surprise, her post generated more than 15,000 likes and comments of congratulations and encouragement. Many of whom were members of the legal community from lawyers to judges who she does not know personally.
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"It's blown up way bigger than I thought it would be," she giggled. "My hope is to encourage minorities and women, especially, that they could do it just as much as anybody else can. We belong here just as much as anybody else. So, I'm very grateful that it's gotten this far," she said.
Griffin grew up in Arkansas and went to the University of Central Arkansas. An internship in Washington, D.C. opened her eyes to new possibilities.
"My 8th-grade teacher told me I told her that I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up. I don't remember that, but I guess my desire to be a lawyer blossomed when I moved to D.C. for my internship," she said. "It was meeting all these people who have positions in companies that were very significant opened my eyes to the possibility of all the things I could do."
So, she set her sights on law school and Dallas where she's poised to graduate in 2022.
"I try to push people around me and let them know, you can do anything you put your mind to. We’re here for a reason. We got accepted into law school for a reason. So, if the law school believes in us, we need to believe in ourselves," Griffin said.
Griffin's challenges in her first year and those that have followed convinced her to be a voice of encouragement and inspiration for others. She's also paid it forward through online fundraisers for incoming minority students.
"I've been there before. I know the struggles of paying for all these different prep books or applications to get into law school. So, I wanted to help ease the burden," she said.
Griffin, 24, plans to get nonprofit status for a scholarship fund to do even more to support students with dreams of law school.
"Because it's hard being a first-generation law school student. We don't have the same access as other people, so that's one of the major reasons why I started the scholarship, just to give people access and an even playing field as much as possible is very important to me," she said.
Griffin has an interest in labor and employment law but is staying open to other possibilities.
"I want to go into big law, but like I said, I think God is intentional with my path. Wherever he leads me, I'll go and do it with the best ability I can," she said, "But I know for certain, I want to help people and I want to continue the scholarship I started. So, I'm unsure but I know I want to be an inspiration and help people."