by Sheila Pursglove
Melchor Matias flew from Seattle to Detroit every weekend to study for his J.D. at WMU-Cooley Law School—and graduated in January.
A CPA at Boeing in Seattle, Matias did licensing audits on royalty and technology contracts, and designed audit programs. His interaction with the lawyers of Fortune 100 companies sparked his interest in earning a law degree.
Because of his heavy travel assignments, a regular law school schedule was out of the question. But during a stopover in Detroit on a flight back from an audit in the United Kingdom, Matias spotted an item about Cooley Law School and its ABA-approved J.D. program on weekends.
“Because of the time difference and non-stop Delta flights between Seattle and DTW, it was a perfect plan,” he says. “Although my employer didn’t cover any tuition and travel, I had miles saved up from prior travels to kick start my commute. “
Matias booked flights 3 to 6 months out each semester, to save costs. He had sufficient hotel points to kick start weekend stays, and car rental points.
“It all boiled down to planning ahead and all my work-related travel loyalty programs helped,” he says.
He was more than pleased with his experience at the Auburn Hills campus.
“Cooley has the most diverse group of students and the faculty members are very experienced and accommodating,” he says.
Beyond the rigorous legal studies and travel, Matias’s law school years were a personal struggle. In his first year, his mother was diagnosed with liver cancer, dying a month before his finals and he had to request special accommodation to take the exams. His father died the following year. Both parents had helped Matias, a single father, to raise his sons, Andy and Michael.
A year later, Michael was diagnosed with brain cancer a month before starting law school. Matias and Andy, who was in law school, each had to take a term break to be with Michael during his final 6 months.
“Had he survived, all three of us would be taking the bar exams this year,” Matias says. “Now, Andy and I are taking them this year—with all the thoughts and dedication for Michael.
“All these deaths followed one year after the other. It's such a painful struggle, but life has to go on.”
Matias’s goal is to do an LLM in tax or corporate business and compliance, and he hopes to continue working in the legal business environment. He currently is working on applications for the LLM programs while studying for the bar exam.
“I’ve also been teaching at City University of Seattle, on and off for over 5 years, and would love to be in the academia and teach,” he says.
A native of Manila in the Philippines, Matias holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and an MBA from Columbia College of Missouri at the campus in Marysville, Wash.
“I’ve always been fascinated with money—who isn't! When I was 6, we had lots of fruit trees in our home in provincial Philippines. I would pedal around town with baskets full of avocados and mangoes and make enough money for my snacks the entire school year,” he says.
Matias previously served in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Chief Personnelman. He traveled far and wide, with posts at Subic Bay in the Philippines; Okinawa, Yokosuka, and Sasebo in Japan; and Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico, as well as deployments and port visits to Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, and various places in Europe.
In the United States he was stationed in San Diego; San Francisco; Port Hueneme in California; Meridian, Miss., Florida; and Denver, where he was a recruiter—“The most fun job I had in the Navy next to the SeaBees,” he says. He was deployed on the USS Sterett—and named his son Andrewsterett after the ship—and with the NMCB 5 (SeaBees).
During his Navy service, Matias provided tax assistance to military members and their families and the elderly through the volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) program—and once he passes the Washington state bar exam in July, vows to continue giving back to his community by providing affordable and/or pro-bono legal advice and assistance to the disenfranchised —“Including but not limited to the elderly, the military, the poor, the LGBQT community, single parents like me, students, and anyone struggling to be able to afford legal advise and representation to assert their rights,” he says.
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