Asking Marissa Meli '14 who her favorite professor or class from Illinois Law is, she says, a difficult question - like asking what her favorite flavor of ice cream is.
"Not a fair question! Seriously, though, I was very fortunate to have so many great professors. It’s really hard to decide. A lot of people have been amazing in and out of the classroom. I check in with Professor Thomas’s Sports Law class from time to time via Skype – she’s the best."
Marissa felt a connection with Illinois early on, which led her to pursue her degree at Illinois Law. She was no average student - her favorite memory of law school demonstrates the kind of impact she had in her time here.
"Being elected graduation speaker was an incredible honor. I was President of the Corporate and Business Law Association, served on student government, and also really loved being an adjunct instructor at the College of Law the summer after graduation."
That same work ethic led Marissa to reach out to the Green Bay Packers a couple of years into her legal career. The call led to her current job with the Packers. She credits, in part, classmates and faculty from the College of Law for her early success.
"I was interested in maybe moving back to my home area and reached out casually to the Packers to make some connections and perhaps learn if there were any opportunities, and it fortunately progressed from there.
"I got this job in large part because Rebecca Myhr Szajna spent so much time with me working with me in her former role in career services, always being available even years after I graduated. I also got a lot of help from my classmate Nisar Qureshi, who is now a U of I AD. He gave me a lot of insight into the sports world. So many others offered me invaluable advice - everyone has something to teach you."
Working in the sports world means Marissa’s day to day work is constantly changing - she says there is no such thing as a typical workday for her - but the people she works with make the challenging job a little bit easier.
"I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to work with your second family," Marissa shared. "I am also very fortunate to have a great mentor and leader in my boss, Ed Policy, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel. I learn from him every day, and he is beyond supportive."
"Marissa has been a tremendous addition to the Green Bay Packers’ legal team," said Ed Policy. "As a Green Bay native, she has a deep understanding of what the Packers mean to the community as the NFL’s only publicly owned team. That unique perspective serves as an excellent complement to her sharp legal mind that was honed from an excellent law school education at the University of Illinois and valuable early professional experience. She brings a perfect skillset to our interesting blend of legal work."
"Working for a public-facing company that has a long history in the community can apply some extra pressure to your job," Marissa continued. "It’s a great franchise whose mission is to win championships and provide a great experience and be a great community partner in the process. Stewardship is one of our values and we work hard to make the best decisions for the organization’s long-term viability. Some decisions are very much in the public eye and receive scrutiny, and deservedly so. The fans and community expect us to do our best, and that can apply some added challenge to the job. We’re definitely up for it, though."
Marissa’s community involvement extends beyond her work with the Green Bay Packers. She serves on the Brown County Board of Trustees, which oversees nine local libraries and provides free activities including coding, dance, and language classes for community members, as well as providing career services. For her, it’s personal - she spent much of her own time at these libraries growing up - but reading, Marissa points out, is a habit of some of the most successful people in the world.
"Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, and Mark Cuban are all self-professed frequent readers. Take a proactive approach to learning and focus on self-educating. Not all of us can spend 80% of our day reading like Warren Buffett, but I encourage everyone to find at least some time. One of my favorite books of the past few years is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Right now, I’m reading Ron Chernow’s Rockefeller biography."
Reading is not the only tip for success Marissa has for current law students. She encourages current 3Ls and recent graduates to network with professionals, but with a caveat:
"Be genuine about those relationships – don’t have an agenda. It’s just about wanting to meet great people. Find people who have the kind of job that you want and do not be scared to reach out. Doors are not going to open for you unless you knock, and no one else can do that for you. I am always glad to help because a lot of people helped me. Most people feel the same way. Ask politely if they would have a cup of coffee with you for just a few minutes and thank them for sharing their time with you. Don’t forget the hand-written thank you note. It goes a long way."
According to Marissa, it all comes down to one thing—attitude. Everything else, she says, can be learned.
"Give more than you take. Be gracious and polite to everyone you meet. Everyone is deserving of your respect and kindness, no matter their title. If you are genuine, work hard, and leave your ego at the door, you can accomplish anything."