Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Meet the nomad lawyer who travels America fighting social justice cases for free

Melanie Gleason.jpg

As her blog puts it, Melanie Gleason is an American attorney on the move, literally.

Seven months ago she packed up her flat in Oakland, California, got in her smart car with just a laptop and a bag of clothes, and headed off across the country to join the fight for social justice.

A licensed public interest attorney, Gleason has traded the office-based norm for a nomad lifestyle. She travels in search of people who need her help, taking on immigration and social injustice cases pro bono.

 

This is my trusty companion on my cross country road trip for the next 6 months. Traveling light is of the essence! 

A photo posted by Melanie Gleason (@attorneyonthemove) on

Relying on crowdfunding to get things started, Gleason began by helping farm workers in rural Cali town Delano, who were dealing with wage theft, unsafe housing and industry-wide sexual harassment.

Since then, she’s taken on around 70 cases across Oregon, Montana, Washington, Arizona and New Mexico, and has now announced plans to continue her pro bono project until the end of 2016 - it was originally a six month scheme.

“The 100% pro bono project Attorney on the Move was created to intentionally go where many of us haven't been - or where we are not 'supposed' to go,” Gleason writes on her crowdfunding page.

“At times, this journey has been uncomfortable. Challenging. Empowering. Heartbreaking. Our most marginalized communities are often hidden from mainstream view: forgotten, left behind - in a place that can be very dark.”

Previous to obtaining her legal qualifications, Gleason worked as a special education primary school teacher, which she eventually swapped to become to become a community organiser in urban and rural areas.

She went to school in an area which greatly lacked diversity, before throwing herself into volunteering while at university in Austin, Texas.

It’s this mixed bag of early experiences that the 33-year-old says gave her the insight and passion for helping people, and which sparked her travelling attorney idea.

After studying for a law degree part-time while still working as an organiser, Gleason hit the road as soon as she was sworn into the bar, and hasn't looked back.

Couch-surfing and sleeping at the make-shift offices she helps out in have become the new norm, but it’s a rewarding lifestyle that Gleason’s incredibly proud of.

“I believe in a form of lawyering that goes beyond the confines of office walls,” she explains via Instagram.

“Although crashing on the conference room couch and taking a shower in my colleague's office (the shower is in her separate bathroom, hah) may not be the norm -  what can I say: I like challenging the status quo.”

 

Another day, another massive set of immigration client files. Woah.

A photo posted by Melanie Gleason (@attorneyonthemove) on

 

Another day in the office -- today, writing a declaration for a client at the detention center. All systems go.

A photo posted by Melanie Gleason (@attorneyonthemove) on

You can follow Melanie Gleason’s journey on her blog, and make a donation to help her continue working pro bono via the crowdfunding page.

Related

306_tablet_feat_career_lead_v1.jpg

A tale of four cities: the rise of the globe-trotting career nomad

ShelterReading1.jpg

Children read their favourite books to comfort shy shelter dogs

ThinkstockPhotos-151928658.jpg

Get excited: the world’s first bunny spa is coming to London

cinderella proposal.jpg

We don’t need permission: why it’s time to abolish leap year proposals

ThinkstockPhotos-141733451.jpg

The gender pay gap extends to sellers on eBay

ThinkstockPhotos-509427286.jpg

Work hard and pay your dues: an open letter to an entitled millenial

Alexander McQueen Paris Fashion Week Ready-to-Wear AW 09.jpg

We’re vulgar and proud of it: why British fashion rules

k&j-116.jpg

Couple tie the knot mid-air to honour bride's mum, battling cancer

rexfeatures_4627340g.jpg

J.K. Rowling offers touching advice to a fan suffering depression

Ten spectacular and easy ways to arrange your book rainbow

New app will make you better read in just 20 minutes a day

Comments

More

Downton’s Jessica Brown Findlay on overcoming her eating disorder

The actor hopes that she can help other sufferers by speaking out.

by Moya Crockett
27 Mar 2017

The best A-list Instagrams from the weekend

From Mother's Day celebrations to Cheryl's new arrival

by Nicola Colyer
27 Mar 2017

Orange is the New Black star Samira Wiley marries the show's writer

The brides wore Christian Siriano

by Anna Pollitt
27 Mar 2017

Kate Middleton opens up about motherhood and mental illness

“Your fundamental identity changes overnight.”

by Moya Crockett
24 Mar 2017

Oklahoma lawmaker says rape and incest are ‘the will of God’

Republican was defending a controversial anti-abortion bill

by Georgina Wilkinson
24 Mar 2017

The trailer for Emilia Clarke’s new horror film is utterly terrifying

Even Daenerys might have trouble with this one

by Amy Swales
24 Mar 2017

Emma Thompson reveals Donald Trump once asked her out on a date

Just imagine: Emma Thompson, First Lady of the United States

by Moya Crockett
24 Mar 2017

Kate Winslet recalls being called 'blubber' by school bullies

The Oscar winner had the last laugh

23 Mar 2017

Ryan Gosling explains his reaction to the Oscars Best Picture blunder

He could barely stifle his giggle - but it's not what you think...

by Hayley Spencer
23 Mar 2017

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From January Jones' beauty regime to Emma Roberts' book club

by Nicola Colyer
23 Mar 2017