Melanie A. Friend, a partner at CowanGates, is the 2013 recipient of the Association’s Young Lawyer of the Year Award. The award is presented annually to a member of the Bar’s Young Lawyers Section who has excelled in the practice of law to date and who has shown the potential to become a leader in the legal profession. The Association will convey the award to Ms. Friend on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at the RBA’s monthly luncheon meeting at the Omni Hotel.
Melanie Friend practices family law at CowanGates focusing on divorce, child custody and visitation, spousal support, child support, adoption, and prenuptial agreements. She is qualiﬁed as a guardian ad litem for children. She joined CowanGates in 2007, after completing a clerkship for the Honorable Timothy E. Meredith of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Ms. Friend grew up in the coal county of West Virginia where she spent much of her free time working on the family’s farm. She won a full-ride at Theil College after winning their writing competition and worked during school to pay for her living expenses. As a testament to her drive and work ethic, she graduated summa cum laude and was salutatorian of her class.
Ms. Friend obtained her law degree from William & Mary School of Law, where she earned Honors for excellence in research, writing and client relations. In addition, she served as member of the Moot Court Team and National Trial Team.
In addition to the Richmond Bar, Ms. Friend is a member of the Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association, the Lewis F. Powell, Jr. American Inn of Court, the Chesterﬁeld County Bar Association, the Metro Richmond Family Law Bar Association, and the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.
In her “spare time” Ms. Friend mentors one to two University of Richmond law students every year through the Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association, reads to elementary school children through the Eager Beaver program, volunteers as a tour guide for the Maymont Estate, and goes shopping with underprivileged children through the YMCA’s Bright Beginnings program.
Ms. Friend was nominated for this award by numerous colleagues, court personnel, and clients. Nominations include the following statements: “Melanie is a lawyer in the ﬁnest traditions of the profession and an asset to the RBA. I have had the pleasure of litigating many family law matters against Ms. Friend in her years since joining Cowan & Owen (now CowanGates). She has always displayed judgment that is beyond her years and professionalism that is top notch. She is already a leader in the profession by her strong example and her devotion to her clients and those causes she supports.”
“With all of Melanie’s professional success and dedication to the community, I would be remiss if I did not mention that what I admire most about Melanie is her commitment to improving the often acrimonious nature of family law. As further testament to her competence and upstanding character, Melanie’s major source of client referrals is from domestic relations attorneys at nearby, competing ﬁrms.”
“In my role as an advocate for victims of domestic violence, I’ve seen, firsthand, Melanie Friend’s commitment to pro bono work. She consistently volunteers to represent indigent individuals seeking family abuse protective orders. Ms. Friend’s skills have served to increase the safety of domestic violence victims as well as the community at large.”
“I truly appreciate all that Melanie has done for me personally and my children throughout her years as my Attorney. My case was and still is an unusual one. I know at times it has been very trying for her to deal with all the crazy things that have gone on. She has been a fantastic resource, Attorney, counselor and friend.”
As published in the Richmond Bar, Volume 21, Number 7 in March of 2013