Melissa Olivero: National Labor Relations Board

Melissa OliveroI currently practice exclusively in the area of labor law as an administrative law judge for the NLRB.  I travel throughout the United States hearing unfair labor practice and union representation cases.  I previously served as a judge for the Social Security Administration.  In the past, I practiced labor law as an attorney for the NLRB, practiced criminal law as an Assistant State’s Attorney in LaSalle County and, handled a myriad of civil cases as an insurance defense attorney.

How has your practice evolved in the last few years?

As with most government agencies, the NLRB is trying to do more with less due to budget constraints.  We have fewer judges than we have in the past, but the caseload is not decreasing.  Personally, I foresee being busier in coming years.

If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?

Always be polite and true to your word.  It is important to be kind and respectful to everyone you encounter in your professional life: clients, colleagues, opposing counsel, and people working in the court system. People will remember if you are rude and a bad reputation can be hard to shake.  Also, don’t lie – ever.  It’s never worth it.  If you promise something, make sure you can deliver.  If you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize.  People appreciate honesty and humility.

What’s one technological device you could not function without?

My laptop – it keeps me connected to my files and email, no matter where I am working.  Our agency has gone paperless in recent years and all files are electronic.  The laptop sits in a docking station when I am working at home and take it with me when I travel to hear cases.  I also keep electronic copies of the Federal Rules of Evidence and other reference materials stored on it.

How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?

I have made every effort to maintain a high level of civility as a touchstone of my professional life.  I learned in the military to address others as sir or ma’am (or Mr. or Mrs.).  It may seem a bit old fashioned, but I find that people appreciate the courtesy.  As an administrative law judge, I find that litigation proceeds much more smoothly when attorneys are civil to each other.  I have been involved in long trials that seemed pleasant because the parties were courteous to each other.  I have also been involved in short trials that were painful because the attorneys bickered over every detail.  You can be a zealous advocate without being rude.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy hiking and camping with my family.  I also enjoy volunteering with numerous groups in our community. I have recently become the leader of my son’s Cub Scout Pack and working with 6 to 11-year-old boys has challenged me, but also provided many rewards.

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