When you meet Melissa Robertson in her office, the first thing you notice—well, the first thing I notice—is the bobbleheads. I have a bunch of those in my office, too, but if they squared off, there would be a real Sparta-at-Thermopylae effect looking at my paltry band compared with the army on her shelf. Then your eyes shift to the rest of the collection: photos, team giveaways, a bat and ball leaning against a bookshelf. It would be impressive in its own display case—it’s doubly so in one woman’s office at the corner of Edgar and 1st.
Melissa Robertson attended Scripps College and then law school at the University of Washington. She spent a summer in law school with Perkins Coie and joined the firm after graduation. It was at Perkins, she tells me, that the opportunity to merge professional and personal passions arose. With an office down the hall from then-outside counsel to the Mariners Bart Waldman, she made it known to him that she would love the chance to assist on any Mariners-related work. After completing law school, she continued to work with Waldman and the Mariners as outside counsel. Waldman joined the Mariners as in-house general counsel and she soon followed suit, becoming Deputy General Counsel in 2008.
Melissa impresses instantly in the manner of no-nonsense lawyers. The breadth and depth of her passion for the Mariners—we gleefully celebrate the Dee Gordon home run that flew out of the Coliseum just before I arrived at Safeco to meet her—is clearly matched by her passion for the work she does for the team. Corporate in-house counsel generally handles day-to-day legal matters that arise for an organization, and when the need arises, they will turn to more specialized outside counsel. As the longest-tenured Mariner attorney (Bart Waldman retired and was succeeded as General Counsel by Fred Rivera in March 2017, so while he outranks Melissa, she far outpaces him in time spent in the organization), she has had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of different projects. Best among them in my view was the Mariners’ Dominican development facility, which she will not admit to “leading”—and fair enough, as a lawyer’s job isn’t to set strategy and goals but to accomplish those set by others—but cannot deny having done the contract nuts-and-bolts work to make it happen.
A three or four year effort for Melissa personally, the pride is readily apparent in her voice when she talks about traveling to the Dominican Republic for the opening of the facility and the experience of seeing newly-minted Mariner Robinson Canó take batting practice on the facility’s main field. That pride is matched by the excitement she shares in discussing how much of a difference the academy will make in the lives of Dominican youth—many of whom will never leave the island to play for the Mariners—teaching them things like reading, writing, and arithmetic, or even how to use a toilet and wash your hands afterwards. Handholding a project of that size from start to finish is a tremendous accomplishment for any attorney; to do it for a result like this academy layers additional pleasure on top of an already impressive achievement.
It’s tricky to profile a (mostly) transactional lawyer’s work—by nature, when done well, they disappear into the background. Nevertheless Melissa and I had an engaging conversation about her work with the team—with a not-small amount of jealousy on my end that she’s just steps from a view of home plate. She is a great example of the best the Mariners have to offer professionally—with an intimidating breadth of baseball knowledge on top of that.