In 1996, after practicing law for over seven years, I started working on immigration cases and immediately joined AILA. Fortunately, I had spent the first few years of my career in court, so I knew how to handle myself before judges. But I knew nothing about immigration law. My first few hearings in immigration court were awkward and nerve-wracking! However, with the knowledge I was quickly gaining through membership in AILA, I grew confident in my skills and have continued to practice exclusively in the field of immigration law for over 26 years. I can say for sure there has been no greater feeling in my career than winning an asylum case in court and having a client lean over to say, “you saved my life.” Wow! Very few areas of law offer that kind of commentary from a client!
I still remember working on my first H-1B visa petition which was very different from today’s application process. But after figuring out what to do, I filed the petition and got it approved. The next thing I knew, the client was paying me to work on another petition and that felt great. As time went by, I continued to work on more complex filings with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and with cases in the immigration court. Without the proper resources and educational opportunities, none of this would have been possible for me.
As immigration lawyers know, dealing with the U.S. government can be difficult and frustrating. At times overcoming government requests for evidence and can be daunting, but the challenge is always exciting and educational. I truly feel like I learn something new in this field every day and I always have a great sense of accomplishment when I get cases approved. In today’s world, everyone has an opinion on immigration and they aren’t shy about sharing it. For those of us in private practice, the comfort and support of colleagues can make the difference of winning or losing a case and overcoming someone’s anti-immigrant agenda.
As I was learning the nuances of immigration law, one of the best places for me to both learn and network was at AILA events. At the first few AILA conferences I attended, I remember how it felt to be new to the field and completely overwhelmed with trying to learn a new area of law. I brought pages of questions I hoped to get answered by more experienced attorneys. I tried to meet as many colleagues as possible not only to gain knowledge, but also to enhance the experience of attending conferences with the best immigration attorneys in the country. Because I had access to valuable resources and mentors I built my practice substantially over the years. Fortunately, through membership in AILA I have been able to turn around and share MY knowledge and experience with attorneys new to the field of immigration. It’s been a long, fun ride through this experience and I continue to cherish the time I get to spend with friends and colleagues at conferences in various places.
I brought my experience (from new AILA member all the way until now) to my role as co-chair for the 2022 AILA Fundamentals Conference Committee. Our committee spent time considering the issues attorneys newer to immigration law would want covered. Together with AILA staff, we designed sessions for the conference with that in mind. If you are new to the practice of immigration law, join us December 5-6, 2022, either in Las Vegas (a great venue!) or via webcast to learn proven strategies for working with governmental agencies and regulatory bodies, and to increase your working knowledge of immigration. If you’re able to attend in-person, you also can build that professional network I’ve found to be so important in my career.
Gaining a strong foundation of knowledge on immigration basics is a critical for all attorneys practicing in this field in order to represent clients and build a successful law practice. Because, the fundamentals matter!
Early bird pricing for the 2022 AILA Fundamentals Conference ends this week – register now!
AILA’s Fundamentals Online Course is available year-round, on demand.