Public Interest/Immigration Law

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jadoo
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Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jadoo » Mon Mar 19, 2012 5:38 am

Hello,

I'm a 0L, planning on attending law school and I have a few questions about choosing an area of practice. I have always been interestred in international relations and immigration law. As an undergraduate with a double major in Spanish and international relations, I lived and studied abroad for a year in Mexico and have been to Canada, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and the United Arab Emirates, so I am confident my interests lie in this area. I'd love to take those interests and experiences and combine them with the desire of advocating for the immigrant community.

The dilemma is this: owing to a horrible freshman year and some immaturity on my part, my cumulative GPA is quite low, at 2.9 with a possibility of 3.0 at the end of this semester. My LSAT score should be fairly respectable as I am going to devote a lot of time to proper study and preparation, but I'm not going to bother giving a hypothetical score as it's probably a bit pretentious. With that said, prior reading here tells me my aim should be for regional schools in areas which I would like to practice.

I am a Georgia resident, so my choices here in-state are probably limited to Georgia State and UGA as a reach. Emory would be a very far reach if I perform exceptionally well on the LSAT, but that would be the best case scenario. I am not considering Mercer due to the disproportion that exists between tuition and future prospects. In any case, I'm not sure how strong the legal market is here for my interests.


With the above information in mind, I have a few questions with which I hope someone can help:

- Given the fact that the legal market is already heavily saturated, is something with immigration law/immigrant rights focus going to be too much of a niche?

- Which regions and schools should I look into given my interests and GPA? I know this is hard without an LSAT score, but I'd like to form a general picture. I don't have any particular region in mind or any preferences.

Any and all information on this would be greatly appreciated.

Edit: Forgot to mention it, but I am not URM and I speak fluent Spanish.

jadoo
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jadoo » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:02 pm

No one?

I was thinking that some good regions to aim for would be the following, with some observations.

New Mexico - Only one law school so I'm not sure how that fares.
Texas: Lots of law schools, but a high immigrant population.
California: LOOOTS of immigrants, but an equal amount of law schools.
Arizona: Not sure what opportunities are in Arizona, but if the above are considered, it's also necessary to consider Arizona.

The caveat with those states is that I'd still have to pay out-of-state tuition. Not sure if the same opportunities would exist here in GA, though.

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Bronck
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby Bronck » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:11 pm

1. Where do you want to work?
2. Your ties are to Georgia, so you should probably be focusing on Georgia. Regional schools are regional.
3. Not a whole lot of point to this exercise without an LSAT score. If you have WE, get a 170+ and apply to NU to try to sneak into the T14.

jadoo
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jadoo » Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:27 pm

1. The Southwestern US seems to me to have a large immigrant community and the largest chance to use my Spanish, so that would probably be a good area.

2. Yeah, I realize that, but with GSU as a probable and UGA as a most likely reach, the only other options are Mercer and John Marshell, so really just GSU and UGA.
Last edited by jadoo on Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

jadoo
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jadoo » Tue Mar 20, 2012 1:36 am

I am not adverse to staying in Georgia/surrounding region if the ties will be of significant help. I am just unsure how the market is for something dealing wit immigration/immigrant rights. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable of the Atlanta and Georgia legal scene could provide some insight.

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Tue Mar 20, 2012 1:57 am

There are definitely opportunities to do this in Texas. But your GPA is going to be limiting. You need to absolutely minimize your debt (or go to a school with a very good LRAP program). Either of of those things will be difficult to do as a splitter (most schools don't through money at splitters and only a handful of schools have really good LRAP programs).

My advice:
1) Kill the LSAT (this is vital)
2) Apply very, very broadly
3) Go to the school that offers the best mix of low debt / area you want to work / ability to place their grads
4) Start getting involved in the community immediately

If you are not able to find a school that fits #3 very well, then don't force the issue. You can always try to find non-legal jobs doing immigration work. If you are able to do that for a year or two in an area you want to live, you might be able to build strong enough connections to come back to if you decide to go ahead and do law school.

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worldtraveler
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby worldtraveler » Tue Mar 20, 2012 6:10 am

Become fluent in Spanish before you start. Seriously it would immensely help your career goals.

jadoo
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jadoo » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:02 am

I am already fluent in Spanish. :P

timbs4339
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby timbs4339 » Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:52 am

As a public interest student you are going to want to a) minimize debt, b) stay close to the community you want to serve so you can get valuable internship/work experience in the field during school. So GSU at in-state seems like an okay bet with your current options although I'm not certain where the Hispanic community in GA is or where the major organizations/firms serving the community are.

Alternatively, if you could take some time off, work in one of those Southwest states, and get in-state tuition at one of those schools in a year or two it would immeasurably benefit your career.

senhorquick
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby senhorquick » Tue Mar 20, 2012 12:45 pm

There are immigration issues all over the country, especially in conservative Southern states like Georgia. Where you go is less important than the connections you have though.You need to be interning at/establishing relationships with immigration advocacy groups that will have need for lawyers around the time you graduate. This is very strategic and difficult to gauge but necessary.

jadoo
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jadoo » Tue Mar 20, 2012 9:18 pm

Thanks. GSU in state might be doable. My only worry is lack of knowledge about how much demand exists in Georgia for this. Obviously, the southwest has a far larger ratio in the general population.

According to some reports I found, Georgia's immigrant population is the seventh largest in the US. The Southwest states/Florida have a significantly larger number, but I would be paying out of state fees for that and it seems the general consensus is to keep debt down. Perhaps one of those states will allow me residency after the first year, in which case I could help to defer the costs that way.

tarp
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby tarp » Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:11 am

Just make sure wherever you go to law school is a city that has some nonprofit organizations that deal with immigration law. Spend as much time as possible interning/volunteering with these organizations, and make sure to get meaningful experience with immigration court and filing applications. You can then move wherever you want to start practicing. My advice is to go where you will have little or no debt. Bear in mind it is difficult/impossible to get gainful employment in immigration law right out of law school. The market consists of nonprofit firms that have limited budgets, and small firms with a few lawyers or solos. The best cities for this practice area are the larger cities with large foreign born populations. Think NYC, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, D.C. A tip is to look at the EOIR Immigration Court website and see which immigration courts have more judges. Those are the cities with larger immigration law markets.

I currently intern for an immigration law nonprofit and am learning a lot. Immigration practitioners are a very tight knit community. Most don't care where you went to law school. It is more about how good you are at what you do. You don't need to go to law school in the same city where you want to practice. Immigration lawyers understand the desire for mobility... there is nothing insular about this practice area.

jadoo
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jadoo » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:07 pm

Sorry to revive this thread after about two and a half months, but it's my original thread and I didn't want to clutter the forum by creating a new one.

I have decided that the best options for me are UGA and GSU @ as an in-state student.

I want to get advice on features of each school and the thoughts I've had about it.

GSU
- Three immigration law related classes, one of which taught by an immigration law attorney with a seemingly thriving Atlanta practice. Course description says "Where permissible, third-year students may present selected cases under the supervision of a staff attorney."
- Appellate clinic which handles a good amount of immigration cases
- Externships with two Immigrants rights advocacy groups: Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network and the Georgia ACLU's National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project
- Atlanta has an immigration court and has the majority of the state's immigration judges according to the EOIR.
- Cheapest law school in the state

UGA
Highest ranked public law school in Georgia
Best name recognition
Couldn't find any ties to notable immigration groups
No immigration court/judges in Athens.
More Expensive

On paper using the above criteria, it's clear that GSU has an up in every category except for ranking and name recognition state-wide. Does UGA's leg up in this area have enough power to negate the positives of GSU and justify the cost increase?

2012JayDee
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby 2012JayDee » Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:02 am

Have you considered joining the Peace Corp? Having that two years under your belt can do wonders for your applications. And since you're interested in international stuff this seems as though it would actually help you quite a bit.

Your job options coming out of GSU probably aren't as abysmal as say people going to a similar school in a state that is more saturated, but you have to get a full picture of where grads from the school are working. Check out law firms in Georgia and search by law school and see if the firms there hire lots of GSU grads or if most of the grads come from some other school. If the GSU grads aren't working at firms then the next question is, "where are they working?" Check the employment statistics (and take them with a grain of salt) and figure out where GSU claims most of its graduates work. If their grads get into clerkships and government work then that might be the place for you.

If you want to do government work or public interest work only you should look into the public interest programs at the schools you're considering. Again, unless you've got a great LSAT you're not likely to get any scholarship money so you'll be coming out of pocket for the full cost of tuition. You don't want to pay sticker at a school that doesn't have any loan repayment program or public interest assistance to speak of.

On quick glance GSU is about $3k< UGA for in-staters, but athens is cheaper than Atlanta for COL. Both have ultra low tuition that wouldn't leave you under an unsurmountable amount of debt if you had to pay sticker. If you want to work in Georgia I don't think you'll have a hard time finding UGA alumni anywhere in the state: law firms, clerkships, government, PI. GSU is probably going to have slightly more limited contacts and networks. UGA is a flagship state school with a solid reputation and it's only true peer school for good jobs in GA is probably Emory--and even then a lot of Emory students could be looking to go out of the state after graduation.

The classes taught on immigration at GSU are not really compelling reasons to attend. You will likely take only 1 immigration class before you realize you know all you need to know (from class on immigration)
Clinical program are ALWAYS great!

If you want to work in GA you probably can't go wrong coming out of UGA. You probably can use a law degree from UGA to carry you outside of the state and into the rest of the southeast and up to the mid-Atlantic. A GSU degree is just going to be another state school in a small market and is going to be much more regional right out of law school.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:08 pm

Spanish fluency & immigration law experience are in demand. Go to a law school with an immigration law clinic. You should be able to find plenty of work. Public defenders offices need Spanish/criminal law/immigration law experience. Prosecutors (trial level) & prosecutors appellate divisions need Spanish fluency.

keerus
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby keerus » Thu Nov 29, 2012 5:11 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Spanish fluency & immigration law experience are in demand. Go to a law school with an immigration law clinic. You should be able to find plenty of work. Public defenders offices need Spanish/criminal law/immigration law experience. Prosecutors (trial level) & prosecutors appellate divisions need Spanish fluency.


This is credited. I know someone fluent in Spanish that went to an out-of-state TTT, got median grades, and had more than one job offer before graduation. After starting at around $80k working 40 hours a week and working for a couple different solo practitioners, they will probably hang their own shingle soon. This is in the Phoenix area.

jadoo
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jadoo » Thu Nov 29, 2012 6:53 pm

That's definitely good to know, as I am worried about the whole abysmal economic woe that the legal market is suffering. I'll have a better idea in June about what schools I'll be targeting, but I am definitely hitting up the GA top 3 and planning to research more on schools with an imm law clinic that's right for my numbers.

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DougieFresh
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby DougieFresh » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:08 pm

I would look around at the organizations that are currently operating in Georgia while you are studying for the LSAT and try to get an idea of what jobs are out there. Does the job you want exist? Is there a demand for it?

If you have any questions about the Peace Corps, send me a PM. I serve in Panamá, and there is another Peace Corps Volunteer on these forums too who is serving in China.

jstr00az
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jstr00az » Sat Dec 01, 2012 7:01 pm

I live and work in a conservative southern state. There is no shortage of immigration lawyers who speak Spanish. Speaking Spanish will not distinguish you. In addition, if you're talking about the day-to-day practice of law involving, to take one example, Hispanics with criminal issues who also have ICE holds, it is not at all a profitable area. If you can come out with no loans, and significant practice experience through externships, then you can make a go of it. But if you expect to finance debt while practicing in this area, you are in for a rude awakening.

But there is very little money in it for the practical reason that Hispanics with immigration issues tend not to have very much money, and it is very very difficult to get a job at a non-profit. I have a criminal practice in which I have Hispanic clients - mainly drug trafficking. Immigration status is the least of their worries.

There is more money to be made in immigration law - applying for asylum, or a legal status - about which I don't know very much. But I suspect it is not a high profit area of the law. But it can be rewarding.

jstr00az
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby jstr00az » Sat Dec 01, 2012 7:04 pm

keerus wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:Spanish fluency & immigration law experience are in demand. Go to a law school with an immigration law clinic. You should be able to find plenty of work. Public defenders offices need Spanish/criminal law/immigration law experience. Prosecutors (trial level) & prosecutors appellate divisions need Spanish fluency.


This is credited. I know someone fluent in Spanish that went to an out-of-state TTT, got median grades, and had more than one job offer before graduation. After starting at around $80k working 40 hours a week and working for a couple different solo practitioners, they will probably hang their own shingle soon. This is in the Phoenix area.


While there are always anecdotes. I came out, and have practiced criminal law earning far more than $80k, it is NOT common at all. You don't want to select the area of law based on one guy in Phoenix who got a job for $80k. I find that actually absurd, in the same way that you will find absurd my claim of earning more.

But more to the point, I would not choose a career based on this nonsense, or even my claims. That guy in Phoenix is unique, I am unique. But the averages say otherwise, and were I to go back in time to before law school on the off chance I'd earn what I earn or even make $80k, given the statistics what's occurred to most other people from my class, I would NOT take that bet.

a2blifeUIUC
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby a2blifeUIUC » Sun Dec 02, 2012 3:26 pm

I have applied to a lot of schools, including Georgia State, with an interest in immigration. Depending on your LSAT score, you might look to FSU, American, and Rutgers-Camden. They all made my second to last cut before I finally submitted to FSU and American (Camden got cut because I couldn't stand to live in Camden for 3 years...).

As far as job prospects after graduation, that is going to be tricky. As others have noted, it will be very difficult to find a public interest/immigration legal job that will cover any astronomical debt. I do research for an immigration attorney/law professor who told me directly that if he were going back to law school today there is no chance he would plan on making a living doing only immigration law if he had debt. It was a sobering conversation to say the least.

I see two options:
1) Come out nearly debt free and follow your dreams. In your case, hopefully GSU's low in-state tuition would help.

2) Go to the best school you get into with a scholarship, pay off your debt with a good job, then shift into public interest later in your career. If you are absolutely committed to immigrant's rights and you don't have a stellar LSAT score, then this route might be a big risk. Perhaps too big of a risk.

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bizzybone1313
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Re: Public Interest/Immigration Law

Postby bizzybone1313 » Sun Dec 02, 2012 3:40 pm

Does anyone know how hard it would be to get a job at the top immigration law firm of Fragomen?




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