By MELISSA CROCKETT MESKE
Before her junior year at Western Illinois University, Melissa Schopfer had never really considered a legal career. It was during her summer internship at a nearby bank that her supervisor there first planted the idea.
She went on to graduate from St. Louis University School of Law with her juris doctorate in 2005 after completing an undergraduate degree in economics and finance at WIU. She was drawn to her trial advocacy and tort classes at SLU and soon discovered litigation particularly suited her.
Schopfer, an attorney and shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy since 2005, has had many opportunities to speak at a national level as an expert in the field covering such topical areas as asbestos exposure among aircraft mechanics and resolving discovery disputes.
In November 2012, Schopfer became an asbestos trial team leader at the firm, where her responsibilities include managing a team of four attorneys, paralegals and investigators. The team handles cases across the country involving individuals and families impacted by mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases.
“I was attracted to this type of law because I believe individual client representation is so important to our justice system. It is rewarding to help my clients; they are hardworking people who had no idea that they were working with a toxin that could later cause a preventable cancer. As an idealist, I was attracted to this area of law because I believe it makes a difference,” she said.
Meeting amazing people and developing relationships that extend beyond the typical attorney-client ones are what Schopfer identifies as the most rewarding aspects of her work.
“I have clients that sent gifts when my children were born and whose birthday parties I have attended. Because mesothelioma has such a long latency period, I talk with my clients about their entire lives, learning the stories that shaped who they are.”
Two key pieces of advice Schopfer offers to aspiring litigators: “Always keep your client top of mind with a clear focus on the end goal, and be sure to connect with other professionals in your area of practice.”
Schopfer, grew up in Mount Vernon, Ind., now resides in the St. Louis area with her husband Hank and their twin 3-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, running, reading and cooking. She is also involved with Unbound as well as the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition and Queen of Peace, both in St. Louis.