Q&A with Melissa Hamer-Bailey, associate
Why did you become an attorney? Who or what inspired you? I became an attorney for two reasons. The first is because I really love working on complex environmental matters, particularly with redevelopment and reconstruction. After more than 20 years of work, I still get excited to “solve the puzzle” and to have the opportunity to clean up the environment in a way that also makes sense from a business standpoint. I see this as my nerdy way of hugging trees, so to speak!
I originally had the “seed” planted by an environmental attorney, Tommy Lavender, back in my home state of South Carolina, when I worked for the SC Dept. of Environmental Management. After an enforcement meeting, he asked me why I hadn’t gone to law school. Of course, I had thought about it, but… I guess I’m a late bloomer. And so, after many years working with, for, and around attorneys, I finally took the plunge and have loved every minute of it (except for billing!).
My other reason for becoming an attorney was to show my boys our family’s value of being a lifetime learner and that a woman could be both a nurturer and support for them, but also powerful in business. My proudest moment came when my sons had the opportunity to watch me in hearings during the pandemic, when we were all working from home. My oldest looked up at me after one and said, “Mommy, don’t be mad at me for using a bad word, but you’re kind of a bada**!”
Practice areas at KGR: Primarily environmental and construction.
Where are you originally from and where have you worked previously? What did you do there? I was last an associate at the great firm of Norris Choplin Schroder LLP, and had a similar practice, though more insurance defense work in those areas. Before law school, I had an organic path through environmental consulting, regulation, and technical support. I also earned my CHMM pre-law, which I consider to be my “nerd credentials” for a lot of the environmental work I do!
What do you enjoy about your job and the law? What motivates you? I absolutely love two aspects of my work: 1) getting to figure out what happened – either construction defect or where contamination originated – which often requires a lot of analysis and data and historical records and is like fitting pieces of a big puzzle over time together; and 2) being able to help a lot of clients, particularly those in insurance defense, be able to solve problems and resolve disputes that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to themselves, or even often afford to deal with without having insurance. I particularly enjoy getting to represent the professionals themselves, like engineers, architects, and consultants. I get to meet a lot of fascinating business owners and industry professionals and create interesting relationships.
Favorite activities outside of work: Gardening (especially my roses), sewing and learning to program machine embroidery (step up from 3D printing for me!), going to falconry hunts with my son, debating the big issues of the day, and I seem to remember a pre-pandemic love of traveling…
Favorite book or podcast: I do love to geek out on NPR podcasts (even re-runs), like PlanetMoney, This American Life, Way with Words, etc. As for books, the last I read that I really appreciated was “Exposure.” This book might be for some like reading Moby Dick, and about instead of whaling we’re talking grueling discovery during environmental litigation… but I really identified with it. And I do love to root for the underdog! It also brought a lot of attention to an emerging contaminant that affects almost every single person on the planet. I also have been reading the Boxcar Children books with my youngest, and still enjoy solving those mysteries, too!