Melinda Colon Cox is a commercial litigation partner at New Jersey mid-size firm Parker Ibrahim & Berg LLP.

Her practice focuses on the representation of a broad range of financial institutions in the mortgage banking industry in litigation, compliance and regulatory matters, including foreclosures and bankruptcy proceedings, in both state and federal courts.

As a passionate advocate for the law, Melinda has been very active in the New Jersey legal community for many years.

She was the president of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey in 2020 and served on its board since 2008. She also co-founded its Young Lawyers Committee. She is a member of the National Women’s Law Center Leadership Advisory Committee and serves on the Professional Ethics and Leadership Academy Committees for the New Jersey State Bar Association.

Learn more about Melinda in this Women Who Wow profile.

Why did you choose your profession?

I remember the day that I knew I wanted to become a lawyer. It was during my sixth grade career day. A woman walked into our classroom in a fierce pinstripe suit with such confidence and grace, and I just remember thinking, “Wow, I want to be like this woman.” I ran home that day to my mother and told her that my dream was to become a lawyer, and I never looked back.

I come from a very humble background. Both of my parents were born in Puerto Rico and had difficult childhoods and minimal education. When my parents separated, my mother primarily raised me, and I remember her working two to three jobs at any given time just so that we had a place to live and food on our table.

So while that woman dressed in her beautiful pinstripe suit on my Sixth Grade Career Day may have initially sparked my interest in the law, in reality, it was my mother’s pure grit, work ethics and strength that truly inspired me to become a lawyer.

My mother taught me to do better, to be better, and to challenge myself. Her struggles were my struggles, and I wanted to do better to make life easier for her and my family. As I grew up, I quickly learned that so many people in my community – the Latinx community – are disadvantaged or looked down upon simply because of the color of their skin, their “strong” accents, or their lack of education or a stereotypical belief that they are not educated. So I knew I had to become the person in my family to succeed, to make life easier for my family and to help those who may not always have a voice or a platform to express that voice.

I am inspired by my community on a daily basis, and I strive to empower others through education and equal and fair access to and application of the law.

What advice would you give women in your field?

Being a woman in the legal profession can be difficult, as we are often faced with obstacles and challenges that our male counterparts may be shielded from or are not otherwise facing.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been particularly difficult for women attorneys who are struggling to maintain their billable hours and producing their best work, while also being the primary caregiver, managing their children’s virtual classes, preparing meals and keeping their energetic children busy, healthy and active.

It’s nearly impossible to find enough time or to always give your 100% to any given tasks and, at times, it can feel daunting as the “mom guilt” sets in.

My advice for women feeling this way – know that you are not alone and it is okay to be perfectly imperfect. I am a firm believer that you need to keep things in perspective, be organized, and manage your valuable time wisely. It is important to be your authentic self and to recognize that it is okay to say “no” at times.

On the other hand, it is as equally important to make sure that you deliver on tasks that you agree to take on, that you take ownership of your work, and that you add value to your clients and employer when matters are assigned and accepted by you. It truly is about work-life balance and creating a schedule that works.

At the end of the day, don’t let others put you down or feel less important because you are a women, a mother, or in any way different from your colleagues. Find a mentor who can help guide you and who will provide honest feedback and advice in a positive manner, and surround yourself around women who want to lift, empower and elevate you.

And finally, always remember, if you are not confident in your own capabilities and knowledge, you can’t expect others to be confident in you or your work. So be proud and embrace the unique skills and knowledge that come with being a woman and use them to your advantage!