Melissa Day – Managing Partner
The Law Offices of Melissa A. Day, PLLC
A leader in the field of New York workers’ compensation defense, Melissa has nearly 25 years of experience fighting for employers’ rights. Her mission and the mission of all the attorneys at “LOMAD,” shorthand for The Law Offices of Melissa A. Day, is to break the mold of the traditional assembly line defense by embracing claim-based partnerships with her clients, centered around collaboration, communication, and honesty.
In this interview, Melissa talks to me about challenges she has faced and standout moments of her professional journey.
Starting Out In The Workers’ Compensation Domain
Initially, personal economics drove Melissa to explore the workers’ compensation industry. Having completed law school at Notre Dame, she got her first break at a local defense firm in the Buffalo area. During her training, she realized that New York Workers’ Compensation is an incredibly complicated and extensive area of the law. She developed a fascination with how the statute is constantly changing and evolving.
‘I find that I am nearly unlimited in the creative approaches that we can bring to our defense in that forum, limited only by interpretation of the statute and the regulations.’
For Melissa, looking at the text, reevaluating the source material and the statute itself, all the while considering ways to creatively use the statute to help clients accomplish their objectives, are some of the leading aspects of the practice of worker’s compensation defense that keep her attracted to this field.
Recalling her earlier days in the field, Melissa recounts being the only workers’ compensation attorney at her previous firm. Even though she was hired as a litigation associate, owing to her experience in workers’ compensation experience at the time, she was given resources and was encouraged to develop that practice. This empowered Melissa to establish relationships with several new clients and reinforced existing relationships she developed through her experiences as an attorney for Special Funds. When her previous firm bifurcated, Melissa decided to leverage her passion for the industry and start her own practice.
She founded a professional group on LinkedIn, “dubbed” the New York Workers’ Compensation Forum in September of 2009. The group has since grown to over 1800 members, the first member of which works with her today as the office manager.
‘I gained a certain reputation with individuals who ultimately became clients. When your focus is all about relationships and collaboration through your relationships, people tend to want to bring you to new employment opportunities that they have.’
Current Business Structure And Organization
At her current practice, Melissa has fostered relationships with a variety of clients. The bulk of her work is referred by employers and insurance carriers across New York State. She also receives referrals from third-party administrators on occasion.
Currently, Melissa leads a team of 34 people. While all attorneys and staff have a home within the office, some contribute to the firm’s operations remotely. She considers her office to be a hybrid employer, implementing modern technologies and incorporating resources that enable the team to work virtually, all without compromising on quality, security, or on the firm’s commitments to the clientele.
Melissa also reveals that they are expanding their footprint and have reached a point where they are continually hiring. The firm will celebrate 10 years in existence in January of 2023 and Melissa hopes to keep the momentum of growth going by hiring the right team.
‘My current challenge is to balance the workload for the attorneys. I feel a personal obligation to redouble my efforts to reopen lines of communication with the team so that I can be more sensitive to the anxiety and stress that people may be feeling as a result of increased workload.’
Melissa also states that her firm is proactively limiting the volume of new work the firm accepts to ensure the attorneys and staff maintain a healthy work-life balance. The firm’s devotion to quality service warrants such a balance, protecting and preserving the integrity of every part of its operations for clients. While she is committed to continue minimizing the gaps in the workforce, she mentions her biggest concern is the morale of her team and communication.
‘One of the reasons why we are turning down work is that it’s important to us that our team feels happy and not like they’re living to work instead of working to live.’
Talking about dealing with the high volume of medical records received from insurance carriers, Melissa says it is among the best ways to mitigate exposure. The information each set of records contains can offer deeper insight into the injured worker’s current medical challenges.
This includes past medical history, ancillary issues which might have an impact on the individual, comorbidities, previous injuries, evidence of malingering, and more. The firm has a dedicated medical records department that deep dives into all the records to give clients the best defense possible.
Standout Moments As A Business Leader In Workers’ Compensation
As an attorney, Melissa mentions the highlight of her career was successfully arguing in front of the Court of Appeals on the Burns matter which has since become a standard for allocation of attorney’s fees on third party actions.
Another is being part of the realm of Workers’ Compensation for New York State overall, working with clients and with her staff at the office collaboratively to come up with creative ideas.
Overcoming Challenges Over The Years
Melissa mentions having faced several personal challenges over the years. However, every challenge has resulted in her emerging stronger than before. She talks about maintaining an attitude of gratitude in the midst of problems and difficulties. She feels that when one seeks help and maintains a posture of focus on experiences to be grateful for, they can find the strength to overcome difficult challenges in life.
Marketing Methods To Grow The Business
Melissa is quite active with marketing via the LinkedIn group, the New York Workers’ Compensation Forum. She believes this has helped her to gain a certain reputation in the industry.
Starting in January of 2016, her firm began hosting a monthly live “TV show”, a webinar, titled “Lawyers & Friends.” Each month, one of the attorneys presents a new topic and provides up-to-date and practical information pertaining to a certain aspect of New York State Worker’s Compensation Law.
‘I try to think of different ways that I can be helpful to my clients and then it happens organically from there, whether it’s a webinar, doing a lunch-and-learn at their offices, going to conferences, and talking about changes in the law or running the workers’ compensation forum.’
Top Philosophies And Core Values In Business
Melissa states that she is a very strong believer in collaboration. Bringing a group of people together with their collective experiences, talents, knowledge is greater than either one of the components individually.
Melissa also explains the emphasis the firm places on honesty without concession. It is the guiding principle at her law firm and provides the foundation for the relationship with their clients.
‘We are not perfect; we make mistakes and, if that happens, we have an honest conversation with our clients and we move together collaboratively to overcome whatever issues might have arisen as a result of the mistake.’
Advice For Newcomers Looking To Start A Career In Worker’s Compensation
First on the list for Melissa is to check one’s ego. For someone looking to be a creative problem solver and offer solutions to issues that are different and creative, it is vital to check one’s ego and be open to the idea that they might not have the answers.
Melissa believes saying that you don’t know the answer to something is valuable because that will free your thinking to consider solutions in a way that nobody else has thought of and in a way that benefits you and your collaborators to achieve the objective at hand.
Key Benefits Of Services At The Law Offices Of Melissa A. Day
Melissa reveals they have a “one attorney, one file” approach, which involves assigning a single attorney to a litigated matter for the bulk of their clients. The client sends the files to the firm where the firm becomes responsible for all the litigation on the file as opposed to simply handling a hearing for them.
In some cases, the clients also refer files to the firm where they are litigating an issue from beginning to end and Melissa’s firm then assigns one attorney to that file. This allows for continuity, which is important to a lot of clients and encourages the attorneys to build a personal rapport with the firm’s clients.
This approach also helps the attorneys to become familiar with the overarching objectives that that client might have, bringing awareness to the client’s long-term goals as opposed to more immediate objectives that they might be trying to reach in a particular claim.
Vision For Future Of The Industry
Melissa expects to see a lot of change. She recounts that, when she started in Workers’ Compensation back in 1998, the 1997 reforms were fairly fresh, explaining that it took a good three to four years before all the fallout from those changes started to become internalized into practitioners’ day-to-day practice.
Today, the industry is still dealing with the 2007 reforms. It’s going to be 15 years this year since those reforms were enacted, and some of the changes that were made in 2007 have obsolesced to such a great degree that further legislative change will be necessary.
Melissa believes that there will be pressures in the near future where the plaintiff’s bar and claimant’s bar will be seeking changes because injured workers need assistance in the adjudication of their claims.
Leadership Lessons Learned Throughout Life
‘You need to walk the walk and not talk the talk.’
Melissa believes it is not enough to talk about being better or to rely on certain intrinsic qualities without taking action to become better. If she expects honesty from her team, she insists it is crucial that she first becomes rigorously honest with them.
‘I think that’s the most important leadership quality that you can have; to recognize when you’re not doing that, to take ownership and to work to bring your own actions and your own work into alignment with what you expect from other people.’