Melissa works with employers to design, draft, implement and maintain qualified retirement plans that benefit both the employer and the employees. She advises on best practices and provides counsel when issues arise, whether in the context of an employer’s operations, in connection with a merger or acquisition, or as the result of an investigation or audit by the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, or otherwise. She also assists with fiduciary compliance and education under ERISA, internal plan audits, and with the voluntary correction programs offered by the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor. 

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Melissa has considerable experience assisting clients in the design, implementation and administration of executive compensation and non-qualified deferred compensation plans, including employment agreements, equity compensation plans, SERPs, severance agreements, and compliance with Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code. She often advises on the treatment of such plans in the context of mergers, acquisitions and corporate reorganizations. 

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Melissa provides counsel and support in the implementation of various welfare plans, including health, life, accident, disability, cafeteria and flexible benefit plans, and compliance with ERISA, the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, HIPAA, and other federal and state laws. 

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Selected by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2018-2021)

AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®

Founding member, Cardinal Chapter, National Charity League; Board member (2004-2013); President (2009-2011)

Member, American Bar Association, Tax Section

Member, North Carolina Bar Association, Tax Section 

Member, Triangle Benefits Forum; Membership Vice President (2008-2009)

Member, Raleigh Professional Women's Forum

They say you can't go home again. Well, I disagree. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that you can’t leave home. Where we come from shapes and defines us. That has certainly been my experience in my legal career. After joining Brooks Pierce following graduation from the University of Virginia School of Law and practicing there for almost 14 years, I left "home" and moved with my husband, three children, and three golden retrievers to Raleigh, to work in-house with one of the firm's good clients. Another 13 or 14 years flew by, during which time I raised my kids, volunteered extensively in my community, traveled as often as I could to my beloved Outer Banks, and broadened my viewpoint by working in a large national firm, in a boutique firm with a focus on start-ups, and on my own. I took something different from each of those experiences, but I always carried with me the values and the manner of practicing law that I learned at Brooks Pierce. I happily returned to the firm in 2011, ready to apply the experiences of the last 25 years to my employee benefits practice. I am delighted to say that while there is no shortage of new faces at the firm and new clients to serve, many staff members, attorneys and clients I knew and practiced with years ago are still associated with the firm. I think that is the greatest testament to what makes Brooks Pierce special, both for its clients and for those who work here. We are in it for the long haul. We build relationships. We know each other's families...not just children, but often parents, too. We care about each other, about our clients, about our clients' businesses. I have in fact come home.

My job is to help my clients attract and retain their most valuable asset: their people.  

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The 2021 edition of The Best Lawyers in America © recognized 73 Brooks Pierce attorneys as industry...(read more)
The 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America © recognized 55 Brooks Pierce attorneys as industry...(read more)
The 2019 edition of The Best Lawyers in America © recognized 55 Brooks Pierce attorneys as industry...(read more)
The 2018 edition of The Best Lawyers in America © recognized 54 Brooks Pierce attorneys as industry...(read more)

Recent Publications & Media