26 Jan Melina Hettiaratchi
As a first-generation professional and the eldest of three girls, Melina is an advocate first and foremost. Having grown up in Montgomery, Alabama (the first capital of the Confederacy and the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement), Melina knows firsthand the impact of history and power imbalances on us. As a result, Melina brings a hard-won perspective as an educator and community advocate to the practice of law.
She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education, magna cum laude, from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, in 2015. Melina concentrated her studies in Mercer’s unique “Holistic Child” program which combines practical teaching experience with education equity and special education instruction. She continued this focus in law school at the University of California San Francisco College of the Law, choosing courses and clinical experiences that address “holistic” legal representation for families in crisis; studying the law and legal impacts of being unhoused, living with disabilities, race and racism. She represented clients in the Social Enterprise and Economic Empowerment clinic as well as the Community Group Advocacy and Social Justice Lawyering clinic, ultimately winning an award for Outstanding Performance in the latter clinic.
Melina also prioritizes leadership and excellence in her relationships with her peers. While at Mercer, she served as Class President and Senator during her sophomore and senior years and Student Body Vice President during her junior year. Melina continued serving her student peers and University community in law school as she also chaired multiple student organizations at both universities. After Mercer, Melina continued her education at the University of California San Francisco College of the Law, tailoring her experience to community organizing and youth law and advocacy. She also served the University as President of the Class of 2019 through the Associated Students of UC Hastings.
Throughout her experience academically and professionally, she has focused on the idea of providing holistic legal representation for families in crisis; studying the law and legal impacts of being unhoused, living with disabilities, race, and racism.
Melina began practicing law in 2021 in Louisville, where she has found a new community to join and support. She is a Board Member of Mental Health Lou, a local nonprofit that seeks to increase education about community mental health resources and decrease the stigma around mental health needs. In 2023, Melina was presented with the Robert and Frank E. Haddad Young Lawyer Award by the Louisville Bar Association for her excellence as a newcomer to the field and in recognition of the respect and admiration she has garnered from her fellow professionals. She is also a 2024 Super Lawyers Rising Star and will serve as the Chair of the LBA Family Law Section in the upcoming year.
In her spare time, she loves spoiling her nephews, searching for the best Old Fashioned in Louisville, and reading entire Wikipedia pages.