As the old adage goes: “If life gives you lemons, then make lemonade.” In the case of Melissa C. Martorella, a Partner and Department Head of Geraci LLP’s Banking and Finance practice, it’s more like life gave her lemons and she somehow turned them into fine wine. It’s hard to believe that Melissa, who has been selected to the Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars list for three consecutive years (for context only 2.5% of attorneys earn this distinction a single time) and has earned a meteoric rise up the ranks at Geraci LLC, initially had no hard-set plans during law school to practice specifically in the lending industry. Yet when the opportunity presented itself, Melissa hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back since. Today you can find her overseeing a dynamic team of lawyers and loan processors in the efficient preparation of loan packages—providing quality representation to a diverse conglomerate of leading national mortgage providers for all of their transactional documentation requirements. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Melissa to discuss her career accomplishments thus far and the advice she has for young professionals looking to emulate her impressive track record of success.
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” –Winston S. Churchill
Getting into law school is hard. Graduating law school is even harder. Finding a job opportunity and sustainable career path with advancement opportunities that you actually enjoy after passing the Bar exam is perhaps the most challenging of all. The legal profession is often associated with long hours and a high burnout rate, especially for new female attorneys attempting to establish themselves in such a competitive industry that has historically been largely male-dominated especially at the higher echelons of corporate-level leadership. Melissa urges attorneys in the early stages of their careers not to let these factors dissuade them from pursuing their professional goals. The key from her perspective is to find a supportive environment where you can learn the skills needed for success and develop confidence in your own abilities. The key to doing so is seeking out a trusted mentor that can assist you along the way and allow you to grow into the type of person you want to be, both inside and outside the office. Melissa can recall countless times where her more senior colleagues would exhibit their trust in her by giving her the professional autonomy and administrative backing to enable her to exercise her creativity and judgment to come up with a unique solution to a problem—which subsequently demonstrated her worth to clients who might have initially underestimated her or harbored preconceived notions. Repeat that developmental process for a few years and the end result is a polished, consummate professional who has the requisite confidence and knowledge base to navigate the mortgage lending transactional path across all fifty states.
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”—Anne Frank
Everyone needs a reason to show up at work in the morning—a “why” that drives them to succeed and go the extra mile to overcome the adversity and challenges we all face over the course of our respective careers. For Melissa, the opportunity to help resolve clients’ legal issues and enable them to achieve their objectives is extremely rewarding. She advises young professionals to find the same type of extrinsic motivation regardless of the specific industry they are involved in. At the end of the day, a paycheck isn’t enough to achieve a sense of fulfillment. Whether it’s helping others overcome a hurdle standing in between them and their dreams or creating tangible results using your professional skillset, Melissa feels that it is essential you recognize the true worth of your day-to-day contributions in the office and focus on how to continuously refine them.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else” –Judy Garland
It can often be tempting to try and be someone you’re not when you are trying to fit into a new situation. Melissa advises young employees to resist that urge and be themselves. We all have something unique—a particular character trait or way of thinking about things—that can be leveraged as an indispensable asset in the workplace. This diversity of thought is what creates a dynamic and functional team environment that delivers the best end-product for clients—as Melissa describes how this aspect of the Geraci LLP corporate culture facilitates her continued development: “I work with amazing teammates whose personalities make me excited to be at work every day.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Melissa’s professional journey is that it’s only just starting out, and if she has any say in the matter the future of Geraci’s dynamic lending department is going to be exciting to watch. Melissa is confident that she can establish the firm’s loan documents as the nationwide standard in the business purpose lending sector while simultaneously growing and leading the already outstanding cohort of financial and legal professionals working alongside her.