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Meet Melaney LaGrone

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melaney LaGrone.

Melaney, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Being a lawyer is a second career for me. I was a police officer in Detroit, Michigan for almost ten years before law school. Becoming a lawyer was never a life long passion of mind. My major in college was Criminal Justice Studies, and when I graduated, I wanted to go to the US Marshals. But they had a hiring freeze at the time. Because the University of Detroit was in the heart of the city, I met a lot of police officers while in college. When I graduated, I joined the police department because I knew I needed a job and had loans I needed to pay back. However, it was never my intention to retire from there. I still thought I would apply to the federal government. Well, life happened, and I got married. Time flies, I look up, and I am over 35, the maximum age to get hired by the federal government. So now I need to decide what else I am going to do. I did not want to climb the ranks of the police department, but I also did not want to stay working on the street. I spent five years in Gang squad and another three or so at narcotics. My husband at the time was not too keen on me going to law school because of the cost. I went back to school and got my Masters in Public Administration. I quit the police department and had various sales type jobs while still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I got divorced in 2006 and started law school in 2007 and never looked back. In my mind, the loans will be there, and they will get paid eventually, but I have to do something to secure my future. I attended Thomas M. Cooley Law School because they had weekend classes. I worked 40 hours during the week, packed up my suitcase, and traveled from Detroit to Lansing on Friday evening. I stayed in a hotel in Lansing and took classes Saturday and Sunday and traveled home to go back to work on Monday.

I did this for an entire year. After that initial year, I was able to transfer to a campus closer to Detroit. When I graduated in January 2011, I was hired by one of the largest Medical Malpractice firms in Michigan. Shortly after, I left the firm and hung my own shingle as a criminal defense attorney. At the end of 2012, I moved to Georgia to be close to family. I worked for a couple of years as Assistant District Attorney with the Fulton County District Attorneys’ office because I did not know anyone, and I thought it would be too difficult to be a solo in a new town. However, I realized that I did not like working for anyone, and I went back out on my own and have not looked back.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. It is scary when you take that leap of faith to become a business owner. You are constantly wondering if you did the right thing. Maybe you should get a job and have a steady paycheck. Additionally, law school does not teach you how to be a business owner. They teach you how to be a lawyer. These are two entirely different things. Not only do I have to be a lawyer and represent my clients to the best of my ability, but I also have to run a law practice. I had to learn marketing so my phone would ring. Leadership in managing a team properly. Business basics and financials to understand my numbers and where my money is coming from and going. It is a lot and often overwhelming.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
So I practice Immigration and Criminal Defense. My focus is on men, husbands and fathers because they are often the ones being taken away from their families. I have a huge passion and desire to keep families together. 50% of my business is crimmigration, which is the intersection between criminal law and immigration law. It is representing non-US citizen clients in their criminal case through their immigration case and deportation proceedings in immigration court. The other 50% is split between criminal clients and family based adjustment of status petitions for immigrants. I am known for my ability to get my non-US citizen clients favorable results in criminal courts so that their immigration status is not affected. I can use my background as a former police officer and prosecutor to my client’s advantage. I know how the police officer’s write their reports to get the results that they are looking for. I believe this sets me apart from others. I have knowledge of all ends of the criminal justice system. I am most proud of making a name for myself. People know who I am. I get results. I work hard, and people know that they can trust me with their loved ones.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was shy and introverted. I was a tomb boy. I loved sports, and I loved playing with the guys. I was always known as one of the guys. My parents got divorced when I was young, and my mother always taught me not to depend on anyone. If you needed to have 2 and 3 jobs to make it, then that’s what you needed to do.

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