Melanie Vartabedian is a partner of Ballard Spahr, LLP. She focuses on complex commercial litigation matters, including commercial contract and real estate disputes, securities litigation, and intellectual property litigation.

Melanie has litigated cases in state and federal courts across the country, and also has experience representing clients in arbitrations and government investigations. She represents real estate developers and private and public companies in business disputes relating to land use decisions, and she defends mortgage lenders and servicers in financial services disputes, including foreclosure-related lawsuits.

On November 12, Melanie will be recognized by the Salt Lake Chamber as a 2019 Pathfinder at the Women & Business Conference and ATHENA Awards Luncheon. This award is given to community leaders who “create new paths” and promote the development and recognition of women in business.

Here are three questions to get to know Melanie a little bit better:

  1. What is your most rewarding professional experience? I worked on a case where numerous elderly individuals had money stolen from their retirement accounts.  It was a heartbreaking and confusing situation for everyone, especially for those victimized.  On the legal side, it involved four years of legal work to deal with the fraud, numerous lawsuits filed to recover funds on the individuals’ behalf and countless phone calls explaining the situation to victims.  The conversations were difficult, but it was very satisfying when the victims expressed their thanks and appreciation.  In most instances, the individuals needed someone to listen to what happened to them, to answer their questions, and to take the time to explain the legal process and their legal options.  It was very rewarding to help sort out a messy situation.
  2. What do you see as the biggest challenge women face in business today? The phrase “you can’t be what you can’t see” comes to mind.  There simply are not enough women in higher echelons of law firms and businesses. In law firms, only about 20 percent of women are partners nationally, and in Utah, the number is even lower.  We need to educate employers to recognize that this is a problem—one that affects their bottom line. Our clients and customers are diverse. Having women in the workplace strengthens our work product and outcomes by including different viewpoints and perspectives. Every time an employee leaves the company, employers spend a tremendous amount of money to train the next person.  We need to strive to retain and promote valuable female employees and create a pipeline of women that we train to assume leadership roles.
  3. What does your organization do to support women in business today? I am extremely lucky to work for a law firm that supports women in various ways.  We have several policies including a generous childcare leave policy and a flexible work schedule policy.  I have taken advantage of both.  These policies are available to males and females, which helps to destigmatize parental leave and flex schedules as being utilized by women only. Additionally, we have an active women’s initiative called Ballard Women.  I have had the opportunity to co-chair this group the past seven years.  Ballard Women provides professional development programs and mentoring for our women lawyers. Outside the firm, we strive to support women business owners by hiring women and minority owned businesses as our outside vendors as much as possible.
  4. What motivates you? First, I am motivated by my clients who depend on me to represent their interests and to solve problems. Litigation can be one of the most stressful times of one’s life and I enjoy explaining the process to clients and helping them understand what to expect to help relieve some anxiety. This sometimes requires thinking outside of the box, which is one of the parts of the job I love most.  Second, when things are difficult, I remind myself how lucky I am and think of younger women who may need someone to pave the way for and inspire them.
  5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? The best advice I have been given is to think of your career as a marathon, not a sprint.
  6. What advice would you share with other younger professionals? Young professionals should build a reputation as a responsible, hardworking and talented employee early on in their career. They should look for people (male and female) to serve as mentors and not necessarily limit themselves to one mentor. Do not give up when encountering challenges or inequities. Finally, they should remember that it is their career, and they are ultimately in charge of their own professional development.