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Melissa Thompson, 2014

As an undergraduate at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, Melissa Thompson, ’14 majored in human development, an interdisciplinary major that combines psychology, sociology, and human biology.

Extracurricular experiences in college helped steer Thompson to pursue a career in a helping profession.  “After completing an internship at a Bloomington domestic violence shelter, I experienced the sometimes painful intersection of law and human psychology in the lives of many local residents.”  Her internship exposed her to the lack of treatment available for the alleged perpetrators of domestic violence, many of whom suffered from mental illnesses.  At the same time, she recognized the need for legal professionals who understood patterns of domestic and child abuse and the effects these situations have on children and the community.

When Thompson was considering law school after college, UC Law was her top choice because of the Glenn M. Weaver Institute of Law & Psychiatry.  After applying and being accepted as a fellow at the end of her 1L year, Thompson has participated as a fellow during her 2L and 3L years.

“The Weaver fellowship has provided me with the unique opportunity to discuss the complicated intersection of law and psychiatry with both legal and non-legal professionals.”  The Weaver fellows complete a year-long mental health law course alongside medical doctors who are part of UC Medical School’s forensic psychiatry fellowship.  Thompson explains that this course facilitates cross-disciplinary discussion about the various circumstances in which mental health issues are addressed by the legal system.  “In our mental health law course, we were able to better understand the psychiatrists’ duties and goals they were similarly able to understand the goals of the lawyers and the legal system.  More often than not, our goals were not aligned.  This gave both the doctors and the future lawyers the chance to understand where the other is coming from.”

Another component of the Weaver fellowship is involvement in a community placement.  Thompson spent her 2L spring semester observing hearings in Judge Ethna Cooper’s Veterans Treatment Court in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas.  “The Veterans Treatment Court represented the most clear intersection of law and psychiatry,” Thompson explained.  “It was beyond refreshing to see how our criminal justice system is willing to work to address the psychological issues that are all too common among our nation’s veterans.”  During her 3L fall semester, Thompson observed the mental health intake office at the Hamilton County Probate Court as well as the Court’s involuntary commitment hearings at Summit Behavioral Healthcare.

Outside of the Weaver Institute, Thompson is a Notes and Comments Editor for the University of Cincinnati Law Review and is currently a Judicial Extern for Magistrate Judge Stephanie K. Bowman at the Southern District of Ohio.

“In all, while law school seeks to teach us to ‘think like lawyers,’ this fellowship has taught me to consider legal issues from many different perspectives.  I am confident that my experience as a Weaver Fellow will make me a better attorney and a more well-informed member of society no matter where I end up down the road.”