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W&L Law Alumna Views Hearing Loss as an Opportunity

Melissa Pignatelli-O’Brien is many things: an attorney; a volunteer mediator; a former competitive diver; a resident of Park City, Utah; and a 1999 graduate of the Washington and Lee School of Law. She is also an advocate for people with hearing loss, talking about her own experience to help others.

Accordingly, Melissa is the subject of a profile in the Park City Park Record, “Local Lawyer Sees Hearing Loss as an Opportunity.” She told the reporter that because of her hearing loss, which was undiagnosed at the time, she found law school “a struggle. . . . could never find the right place to sit, where I could hear both the professors and students asking questions.” Once she began practicing law, the problem only magnified, and she found conference calls her “biggest fear.”

She and her father finally realized that a hearing disorder ran in the family. As you might imagine, after Melissa got hearing aids, her life changed for the better.

She met her husband, Marc O’Brien, at an Atlanta law firm. They have two sons, Ted and Cash. Her family has supported her every step of the way.  “My boys don’t think there’s anything wrong with me, they just want me to hear them,” she said. “So they’ve learned how to communicate with me. They look me in the eye, they speak slowly and clearly and they don’t talk to me when my back is turned.”

The profile is worth a read, with more details about her career and family. You might also take note of the name of one of her favorite authors in the “Vital Statistics” list at the end.

If you know any W&L alumni who would be great profile subjects, tell us about them! Nominate them for a web profile.