Yogibreeze wrote:I have completed my first year of law school and did very well and am debating on whether to continue two more years to graduation or pursue something else. I am interested in Immigration law but have heard so many differing opinions on whether I would be able to have a decent livlihood from practicing in this area. Any insights your could share would be greatly appreciated!
There are many factors that may affect whether you'll have a decent livelihood from practicing immigration law (IL). To name a few (and this is me speaking based on my own experience and the experience of other attorneys that I know of or worked with):
(i) specific area(s) within IL and your experience with each;
(ii) your target client base, and to a degree, their ability to pay/how much they can pay;
(iii) where you work (geography and market);
(iv) your ability to market;
(v) your reputation (your work product track record, have you won any big cases, published any books or articles, gone on TV/radio/youtube, etc.);
(vi) your competition/competition's reputation;
(vii) your level of fluency in other languages;
(viii) your ability to manage hard deadlines and substantial caseloads; and
(ix) current trends/changes in immigration law and
I practice immigration law as an attorney at a 2 lawyer firm. I have been practicing for 4-5 years. I started off working as a legal assistant -> associate at a small immigration firm (most are like this, with the exceptions of certain big firms like Fragomen or immigration departments in big law firms), which did not pay much. Then, after about 2 years, I left and started my own firm. The experience I gained from my previous firm was invaluable. It was just what I needed for my market client base (Chinese), and I work on the West Coast, where there's a large number of Chinese. Marketing was tough at first, but after some successful work product, I was starting to build a track record and a level of confidence. It helped that I was able to speak/write Chinese fluently. It gives Chinese clients an added level of comfort and confidence. It also helped that I did not have too much competition.
That said, I have a lot to continue to improve upon, and a lot to learn from much better immigration attorneys. Yes, there are many immigration attorneys, and yes, the bar for becoming one is set relatively low, but a good immigration attorney, generally speaking, really
stands out. The depth of research, analysis, writing, attention to detail, advocacy, client/case management etc. is all substantially better than someone who has not put forth that kind of effort.
How good you are at immigration law will eventually reflect how much you earn. I do not know what your expectations are for a "decent livelihood," but I currently earn around 180k+. Is it comparable to BigLaw for same amount of years as an attorney, nope. Is it enough to live satisfactorily? For sure.