When clients come to family and civil litigation firm Griffiths Law P.C., they’re often going through the toughest time of their life. But, Senior Paralegal Melissa Simonton’s blend of professionalism and compassion helps clients navigate stressful situations.
Simonton brings 30 years of experience as a family law focused legal professional and approaches client relationships with a mix of professionalism and empathy. This approach makes a difference to clients navigating family law matters, her colleagues say, and that’s one reason why Simonton is an outstanding legal professional.
“When other people burn out on cases, Melissa runs in to help, because she recognizes that helping people during a critical time can have a lasting impact,” said Griffiths Law Shareholder Eliza Steinberg. “Melissa has a way of making the client feel comfortable and confident throughout the entire experience. She never lets the pressure of deadlines or uncomfortable situations get the best of her. She remains calm and composed through it all.”
Steinberg said Simonton’s strong professional relationships with coworkers and her compassionate approach with clients are what make her an exceptional paralegal.
Simonton is often the first point of contact for clients and she brings decades of experience to Griffiths Law. Before joining the firm in 2016, she worked with solo practitioners.
Simonton ended up working with family law attorneys by chance but has stuck with the legal specialty for years, she said. Simonton moved to Colorado from Los Angeles in 1990 and took a temporary job with a family law attorney while she was pregnant. “I thought I would just work at a temporary agency until the baby came because I didn’t think anyone would hire me,” she explained. But she was hired full-time, launching her career as a legal professional in family law.
“I wouldn’t do this job if I stopped caring. You have to care.” – Melissa Simonton, senior paralegal at Griffiths Law P.C.
It’s not always an easy practice area. The nature of many family law cases means many clients find themselves embroiled in emotionally charged legal proceedings. “You’re dealing with people who are going through a very difficult time in their lives,” explained Simonton. “I try to help them get through the process, help them move along and move forward in their life and to get past this painful part in their life, because it’s hard.”
“I wouldn’t do this job if I stopped caring. You have to care,” Simonton added. “I feel in some ways that [our clients put] their lives in our hands and it’s important.”
Steinberg noted that Simonton is especially talented at handling cases that impact children.
Cases that involve children can be the most difficult, said Simonton, but also the most rewarding. “We don’t get a lot of say in what happens to [the children], but I do get to help guide the client through that process with experience,” she explained, adding that she tries to advocate for children and ensure they’re taken care of throughout the life of a case.
Steinberg recalled a high-conflict divorce where their client called Griffiths daily due to stress, confusion and frustration over the opposite party’s behavior. Simonton took his calls every day, said Steinberg, which helped the client navigate the legal proceedings despite the extreme conflict.
“He was just struggling with understanding the legal system, understanding how it worked, understanding why her behavior couldn’t stop and why she was allowed to continue doing what she did,” said Simonton. “I would always try to explain the process to him, making sure he understood that we were advocating for him, advocating for his child and trying to get him to not react.”
Emotional intelligence, compassion and empathy, “it’s probably what I lead with the most,” said Simonton. “It’s really about trying to understand what they’re going through, whether you’ve gone through it or not.” Bringing that level of compassion to work can be difficult though, she added, noting that some nights she stays up late thinking about clients. But at the end of the day, “I like my job, I like what I do,” Simonton said.
In her more than 30 years of experience working with family law attorneys, Simonton says she’s cultivated strong relationships with court clerks and staff. “I always make sure to let them know how grateful I am for them helping and because they have a hard job too,” she said, adding that maintaining professionalism during difficult cases is essential. “I strive every day to be the best person I can be in this career, even sometimes when it’s hard.”
Outside of work, Simonton enjoys spending time with her sons, cooking, running and watching sports.
For 11 years, she volunteered at her son’s sports league in the south Denver Metro Area. The league included athletes from lower income families and Simonton said she enjoyed supporting their passion for sports. “I’m very proud of that and these kids — I still have a lot of contact with a lot of them and I think that I made a difference for them,” she said.
Steinberg added that Simonton brings her church’s “adopt-a-family” campaign to the office every year, has single handedly raised money for families in need and has helped Griffiths Law give back to the community. “Melissa always finds time to think of those less fortunate and sets aside time to ensure that she gives back to the community,” Steinberg said. “Melissa is a true caregiver at heart.”