Melissa Chiasera joined PBRC in 2020 and serves as the Staff Attorney for the Courtroom Advocacy Project (CAP). Melissa is responsible for coordinating PBRC’s limited-scope courthouse-based pro bono clinics for consumers and tenants in addition to recruiting and mentoring CAP volunteers. Melissa is a graduate of the Chicago-Kent School of Law, and prior to moving to Maryland, she was a prosecutor for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office in Buffalo, NY. 

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Edinboro, PA (a small college town), then when I was 13 we moved to Buffalo, NY. 

Where did you go to school and what was your major/focus?
I went to undergrad at SUNY Albany where I graduated with a BA in Communications and a minor in Sociology.  I went to law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law, but I didn’t like law school very much.  After clerking at a law firm, I was pretty sure that I had made a mistake and wouldn’t be practicing law. The summer after my second year, I went back to Buffalo and interned at the District Attorney’s Office, and absolutely loved it!  I was hired after law school and I worked as an Assistant District Attorney until we moved to Baltimore. 

What brought you to Baltimore?
My husband’s job.  He works for M&T Bank and when they acquired Allfirst Bank we were transferred to Baltimore. 

What are your interests/hobbies?
Cooking/baking, vegetable gardening, knit and crochet, horseback riding, being outdoors, and being around animals.  

How did you connect with PBRC?
After obtaining my license to practice in Maryland, I wanted to try some pro bono work while I figured out what to do with my career.  A Google search landed me onto PBRC’s website!  I signed up for an upcoming Veteran’s Benefits training and began volunteering with HPRP shortly thereafter. 

What were you doing prior to working here? I was a stay at home mom.   

What do you do at PBRC?
I am a staff attorney for the Courtroom Advocacy Project (CAP). 

What is your proudest accomplishment?
My two daughters, who continue to amaze me with their compassion, intelligence, and strength of character.  They are so far ahead of where I was at their ages! 

What motivates you?
Most days, anything peanut butter motivates me…. 

What has been your most meaningful experience with PBRC? I love that I get to work directly with clients. Helping someone with an eviction, or reducing the amount of debt that they owe is very rewarding.  For many of our clients, just having someone to advocate their side means so much to them, and it is a reminder of how overwhelming the legal system can be for people without representation. 

What sets PBRC apart in your mind? I think PBRC is unique among the public interest non-profits in that it is able to address a broad variety of legal needs, and can change its focus as additional legal issues become apparent.  That makes it a dynamic and exciting place to work – a place where there is always something else to learn! 

Tell us a fun fact… I have always enjoyed fishing, but I am by no means a skilled angler.  However, in an effort to “up my game”, I went steelhead fishing on the lower Niagara River a few years ago where I caught the largest fish I have ever caught…and it didn’t get away.