Melanie Cristol

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A theater producer and performer in college, Melanie Cristol ’09 found herself gravitating toward the more dramatic elements of the legal profession. And she has always liked that the practice of law allows for an extremely impactful form of expression.

“I thought law would provide a way for me to express my opinion and to influence society in a positive way,” says Cristol, who was drawn to the adrenaline rush of oral argument. “I’m sort of a moot court junkie.” 

A finalist in this year’s Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court competition, Cristol also trained and coached for Frederick Douglass Moot Court, taking home national awards. “Moot court is one of my favorite memories of law school,” she says. “I considered myself an outspoken person before coming to Columbia, but I found myself not speaking up in class as much as I expected. My experience in moot court gave me the confidence to be more vocal.”

A board member of Outlaws, the school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) group, and a member of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Cristol came to law school hoping to pursue civil rights law. She chose Columbia for its breadth of classes in the area of gender and sexual orientation law.

After completing courses in an array of legal subjects, Cristol was pleasantly surprised to find herself enjoying areas of law she never expected, such as tax. After graduation, she will have the opportunity to work on a wide range of legal matters at O’Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles. And heading to the land of acting seems to bring things full circle. “It would be great to do pro bono work for a community theater.”

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