Attorney Shakeena Melbourne

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Shakeena Melbourne’s goal has always been to assist others, and Melbourne obtained a doctorate in law to do just that. But she stumbled by accident into one of the two areas of expertise she now offers through her law firm, Upton Law PLLC, which she opened in 2018 and which provides legal assistance in both expungement of criminal records and bankruptcy.

Melbourne didn’t know anything about bankruptcy until 2015, when she was working for a law firm to assist with real estate transactions and was asked to fill a vacancy in the bankruptcy department. She worked there with the lead attorney for a few weeks ¾ until the lead attorney became ill. This left the newcomer Melbourne to run the department!

Melbourne made a beeline to Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where she had obtained both her master’s and doctorate in law, and “gathered up every law book on bankruptcy that I could find.” She read, outlined information and watched videos on the subject.

And that’s when she realized she “loved bankruptcy.”

“I knew this is an area of law that I can truly do because I can help people in a real way that will not only help them sleep better at night but will also help with their family and future potential earnings,” she said. “I love the work, the formulas and discovering the benefits when someone files a bankruptcy, which can include stopping an eviction, stopping a lawsuit, stopping a garnishment, eliminating a repossession or foreclosure on one’s credit report.”

Individuals filing either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can also see a credit score increase of 150 in about six months, she said.

“The government creates debt and the government offers a way to get out of the debt and create a fresh start,” she said. “Bankruptcy is one of the best ways to benefit from financial hardship in a country based on capitalism.”

Especially when most of us do not have financial literacy and must learn through trial and error, she added. “Bankruptcy is one of the easiest ways to push ‘start’ on a new beginning.”

Melbourne is one of only a few African American lawyers in this field and regularly offers free six-week bankruptcy clinics for those seeking information. Two of the three books that she has written covers this subject, also: “The Scoop: Bankruptcy and Why You May Need It?” and “How to be Debt Free in 90 Days.”

Melbourne also specializes in expungement of criminal records. Those criminal records have often prevented people from acquiring employment goals or have caused personal hardships.

“I want people to know their options to get rid of past criminal records that will eliminate barriers and enhance their future earnings, future goals and dreams and future entrepreneurship endeavors,” she said.

Melbourne’s third book, “One Hundred & 15 ‘I Ams,’” may seem like a departure from the others.

“This book is really a poem that I wrote to myself to encourage me to keep going despite my challenges, insecurities and uncertainties when embarking on this journey of entrepreneurship,” she said.

The book doesn’t deal with law, at all. But it projects the desire that is woven through Melbourne’s professional life.

“I wanted to share with others that everything is going to be alright, to just keep going,” Melbourne said.