Lawyers To Help You
Melissa Denton, founding partner and senior lawyer at Ascher & Denton.
I started practicing family law in Thurston County in 1990.
My focus is on helping people who want to resolve their cases with a minimum of ugly and expensive court action. While the courts are essential and necessary when people just can't agree, it is so much wiser to handle personal family issues privately and with a minimum of expense when acceptable agreements can be reached. When the court is needed, I work hard to get a good result that will allow the family to begin to heal in a new form rather than being further damaged by the adversarial process required in litigation.
Since 2004, I've pioneered a new way of practicing law, called One Lawyer. Please be sure to check out the description of One Lawyer on our website. It works wonderfully when both sides have the trust and respect necessary to work together for an agreed; no court needed resolution.
A case that made law familiar to every Washington family lawyer was much work for me. I represented a client from the beginning of a divorce through the ten-day divorce trial (a rare thing, I assure you), through two appellate court cases, and up through the Supreme Court of Washington. This case is called Rideout v. Rideout 150 Wn.2d 337, 359, 77 P.3d 1174 (2003). The wonderful clients I have worked for since 1990 enrich my perspective and have given me much experience to draw on in practicing family law.
In 1985, I earned my black belt in Shorin Ryu Karate right before starting law school. It helped.
My husband and I married and moved to Washington in 1987. We have one son. I'm very active in my church and participate in many volunteer and civic activities in the Thurston County area. My family is in Oklahoma, and my husband's family is in Malaysia, so we travel a lot.
Melissa Denton's Credentials
I was admitted to the Washington State Bar in 1989 and practice before the US Federal District Court for Western Washington. I'm an active member of the Thurston County Bar Association and the state and local bar's family law sections.
Law Schools: I finished my last year of law school (doubling student loans from all of my former education) at Seattle University School of Law, which was then called UPS Law School in Tacoma. Transferring those Washington credits back to my former school, I was awarded a Juris Doctorate Degree from The University of Oklahoma School of Law in 1988. Part of my law degree coursework was earned at The Queen's College, University of Oxford in England.
Undergraduate Schools: My 1984 Bachelor of Arts Degree and some Master's degree coursework are from The University of Oklahoma in - major in history and minor in psychology, also classes in electrical engineering and physical therapy and a summer studying Political Science and History at Rewley House, University of Oxford summer program on a scholarship.
Volunteer Work: In the thirty years I've lived in Thurston County, it has been a pleasure to work with a dozen different organizations helping our community. I am active and volunteer at church, including past service on the board, service as vice-president, president of the board, and other committees and activities. I teach and mentor other attorneys at the Thurston County Volunteer Legal Clinic. I also ran for public office in 2018, losing in a tight race for Thurston County Commissioner's position.
Waeni Bacon, Associate Attorney
Waeni's first name is pronounced "Wah-ee-nee." Her legal name is Winfred Waeni Mutisya Bacon, as it is shown on the Washington State Bar Association Website.
Waeni began her legal education in 2002, receiving her Bachelor of Laws and beginning work with a Kenyan law firm in 2007. She worked at that firm for nine years, until 2016. During this time she earned her Post-Graduate Diploma in Law at the Kenya School of Law (2011). She was then admitted as an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. Waeni also earned her Masters in Business Administration (2013) at the United States International University. She speaks both of the official languages of Kenya, English, and Swahili.
Waeni's family lives in Seattle, Washington, so she saw her future being in the United States and came here to earn her LLM Master's in Law (the next degree higher than a Juris Doctorate), which she completed in 2017. Waeni is also a board member for Path from Poverty, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle.
Waeni's Background with Ascher & Denton and with Family Law
Waeni became a member of the Washington State Bar Association in September of 2019. Because she has a passion for family law, Waeni was looking for work in a family law firm at the same time we were very much wanting to hire an associate attorney in April and May of 2020. Very fortunately, we found each other.
In May of 2020, within a few weeks of coming to work at Ascher & Denton, Waeni became engaged and she got married in late June of 2020 and moved to Olympia to become part of our legal community. She has joined the Thurston County Bar Association and has attended the family law bar meetings and participated in many virtual meetings with clients and virtual court hearings, as those are the way we practice law in this day and age.
With her very significant work experience, including employment and extensive volunteer work in Seattle, Waeni is able to hit the ground running and will do wonderful work helping families in Thurston County. She is glad to become part of our legal community and very much enjoys the intellectual and multi-faceted challenges of making the lives of our clients better as they navigate the challenges of family law issues.
James Ascher, Former Partner
Jim Ascher and Melissa Denton joined their previously separate law firms in 1995. At the first business meeting, Jim made a solemn announcement: "We have good news and we have bad news."
Melissa asked for the good news. He pronounced "The good news is - we qualify for food stamps."
Fortunately, Jim was kidding and the law practice flourished and was fun to be together in until Jim retired in 2014. We remained close friends and spoke at least weekly until Jim passed away in July of 2019.
As a law firm, we will always be grateful for Jim's wisdom and friendship. Jim was a gentleman and a scholar and this law firm continues to bear his name because he was wonderful, and - as he would hasten to add - because his name starts with an "A."
Jay Ruymann, Legal Assistant
Jay began working with Ascher & Denton in 2018. Equipped with his Bachelor of Arts degree from The Evergreen State College, emphasizing writing as his area of study. Jay quickly grew to appreciate the impact his writing could have in this daunting field of law.
Jay has a passion for writing and television and often spends his free time writing about television. He also enjoys reading, baking, and spending time with his friends.
Debbie Scally, Legal Assistant
The first words Debbie wrote when she applied to work with Ascher & Denton were:
"When asked 'what do you do?' my answer is always 'so many things' because what I do is step into complicated situations, where overwhelmed people are struggling to make it through their current messy situation, and I find a way forward in the chaos. What I do is calm people down, just by being there. What I do is help them to feel better, to find positive ways forward, with whatever tools are available to me, taking care of practicalities while also attending to their emotional needs."
This is a true and good description of how Debbie approaches her work and why she finds it truly fulfilling to work with people whose families are in need of our services at Ascher & Denton. She has extra kinds of work with bookkeeping and billing for the office and she has been learning family law very fast with Jay's help since she started working with us in January of 2020.
Deborah Cushman, Bookkeeping
Deborah was an employee of Ascher & Denton for a few years until she opened her legal bookkeeping business and now she is an independent contractor, helping us keep the books perfectly straight - which is the only way that they should be in this business. Although Deb is also a lawyer and sometimes has done legal work with Ascher & Denton, her work as a bookkeeper is not performed in the capacity of a lawyer, but as a bookkeeper.