Melinda Lawrence joined the North Carolina Justice Center as Executive Director in February 2007. Prior to joining the Justice Center, she was a partner with the firm of Patterson, Harkavy and Lawrence LLP from 1979 to 2003 and of counsel to the firm from 2003 to 2007. Lawrence’s practice was concentrated in the areas of civil rights, consumer and employment rights litigation. During her career, she litigated numerous high-profile cases in North Carolina. These include Willie M v. Hunt, which established new rights and services for mentally handicapped children, and Small v. Martin, which resulted in a major reform of North Carolina’s prisons. She has also represented countless individuals challenging discriminatory treatment in their workplaces, schools and communities. Melinda also worked as a city planner for the city of New York, a school counselor in rural North Carolina, and a lobbyist promoting consumer protections against predatory lenders. Melinda received BA and M Ed degrees from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a law degree from Yale University.