An attorney who says he helps other people today because he received help when he was struggling to find his way in life is the 2012 recipient of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers (DAYL) Foundation and DAYL Fellows’ Award of Excellence.
Mark Melton (pictured), an associate with Hunton & Williams in Dallas, will receive the award Dec. 13 during the DAYL Foundation’s annual luncheon at Belo Mansion. As noted on the DAYL website, the award is presented to a DAYL Foundation Fellow who “has shown continued commitment to community outreach.”
Ross Williams, an associate at Bell Nunnally & Martin in Dallas, says he nominated Melton for the award.
“It’s obviously a big honor,” Melton says.
Melton says his current service to the community includes chairing Educate Dallas, a political action committee that focuses on school trustee elections, and serving on the executive committee of the board of directors for Big Thought, a Dallas nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. He also chairs the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Young Leaders Society and is chairman of Food for Thought, an annual celebrity chef charity event that benefits Big Thought.
In addition, Melton is the immediate past chairman of the Dallas County Junior Board for Big Brothers Big Sisters and says he serves as a big brother. A father of three, Melton says his entire family “adopted” the 13-year-old boy who is his little brother in the program. “We take him along on family outings and out to dinner,” he says.
Melton says he took a “very non-traditional” route to become an attorney. As a boy growing up in Oklahoma, he hated school. After graduating, Melton says that he went to work for a Tulsa, Okla., company that bought commercial debt but was laid off in 1999. At the time he lost his job, he was married with one child and another baby on the way, Melton says.
Unable to find work, Melton says he and his wife put their house and most of their belongings up for sale and drove to Dallas to look for jobs.
“I showed up here with no plan,” he says.
Melton says a landlord let him move into a 450-square-foot apartment without making a payment, telling him that he could pay the rent when he had the money. Although he found a job selling oil and gas investments, Melton says that he soon decided he wanted to go to law school.
While Melton says his plan was for his wife to support him while he went to school, she also decided to continue her education, and both of them began their college careers.
To pay the bills while he was going to college, Melton says that he worked for a certified public accountant during the day and as a bouncer at a bar called Cowboys at night. After getting a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting and a master’s degree in taxation from the University of Texas at Arlington, Melton enrolled in night classes at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. He says he completed his J.D. in 2008 and almost immediately joined Hunton & Williams, where he handles complex tax issues.
“Without help, it was unlikely I could do what I did,” Melton says. “I decided that one day I would be in a position to help out the next kid.”
And that is what Melton has been doing.
-- Mary Alice Robbins
Robbins is an Austin-based freelance writer and a former Texas Lawyer senior reporter.