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When Melissa Watkins helps a client with a complex problem, she is cognizant of the relationship between numbers, data, and a solution. With Melissa at the table, clients can make strategic business decisions with the comfort that she will help them understand the impact on their tax status, regulatory compliance, board governance, and overall financial health. When clients are faced with pending financial instability, Melissa is the trusted adviser who will look at both the financial and legal issues in-depth to prevent further decline and chart a course toward future success.

Building on her nine year accounting career at a public university, Melissa enjoys helping higher education clients and their related entities with issues such as endowment administration, student financial aid compliance, and mergers and acquisitions.

Beyond higher education, Melissa’s clients include health care organizations, philanthropic foundations, religious organizations, as well as national, regional and local non-profit agencies. 

Memberships & Awards

Recipient, West Virginia University College of Law, Lawyers & Leaders, WV Executive Magazine, August 2019
The Best Lawyers in America®, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2011-Present), Litigation and Controversy - Tax (2011-Present), Nonprofit / Charities Law (2010-Present), Tax Law (2011-Present)
Best Lawyers® Morgantown, West Virginia Lawyer of the Year 2013
Former Adjunct Lecturer, College of Business & Economics, West Virginia University
Young Lawyer of the Year, West Virginia State Bar 2009
West Virginia Society of CPAs

Key Experience

Advised nonprofit hospital on tax exempt status implications with respect to an acquisition of for-profit subsidiaries of a large for-profit health care system
Established a separate real estate foundation to protect the endowed assets of another foundation affiliated with a public university and a similar foundation structure to protect the endowment of children’s home and school
General counsel for public universities and private universities and university affiliated foundations

Speaking Engagements

“Managing the Hurdles: How to Recognize and Avoid Legal Pitfalls in Donor Development,” Independent College Advancement Associates (ICAA), Summer Conference, 2021

“Presidential Pandemic Strategies: Legal Cures for Viral Headaches,” Council of Independent Colleges, 2020

“Financial Implications for Higher Education,” 3rd Annual Steptoe & Johnson PLLC Pennsylvania Higher Education Seminar, 2018

“Meeting Today’s Challenges in Higher Education,” Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio (“AICUO”) Ohio Higher Education Seminar, at Capital University, 2018

“Corporate Compliance Roles, Responsibilities and Investigations,” WV Healthcare Financial Management Association, 2016

“Higher Education: Current Issues and Trends,” Dean Dorton Allen Ford, PLLC, 2016

Financial Assistance Disclosures for Hospitals, 2016

"Lessons from the (Sweet) Briar Patch," Higher Education: Current Issues & Trends, 2016

Governance Issues of Nonprofits, WV Philanthropic Ethics & Leadership Academy, 2015

"Don't Get Stuck Paying Taxes on Payment to Foreign Persons," 2014

"Highlights & Lowlights of the IRS's Findings in the Areas of Unrelated Business Income & Executive Compensation," 2013

"Non-profit and Governmental Organization's Under Fire," 2013

"Form 1099-MISC Reporting Tips," 2013

"Royalties, Gifts & Marcellus Shale: How to Handle a New Generation and Type of Charitable Giving" West Virginia Grantmakers 2011

"New Form 990," Division of Social Work at West Virginia University Workshop, 2008, 2009

"Form 990," Wheeling Chapter of CPAs, 2008

"Governance of Non-profit Organizations," Division of Social Work at West Virginia University Workshop, 2007

"Principles of Accounting/Financing Statements 101 for Nonprofits and Audits," Division of Social Work at West Virginia University, 2006-2008

"Taxation of Settlements and Judgments," West Virginia Bar Association, 2006

"Today's Issues Concerning Nonprofits," West Virginia Public Accountants Association, 2005