What are immigration law internships actually like? Well, who better to learn from than a law student who’s been there? New England Law | Boston student Jennifer Bade ’20 shares her first-hand experience at an immigration law firm.
I started law school knowing I wanted to become an immigration lawyer.
After growing up in Germany and moving to the United States when I was 20, I fell in love with America’s diversity. But I was also simultaneously appalled at the way laws could make immigration and asylum difficult for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. And I wanted to make a difference.
I felt reassured of my decision to pursue immigration law after meeting with my academic advisor at New England Law, and I felt confident that my summer internship at an immigration law firm would help me confirm I had made the right decision—or if I needed to choose a different path for myself.
Getting my foot in the door at an immigration law firm
After joining the International Law Society and Immigration Law Association during my first year of law school, I started networking and making new friends. When I told them about my interest in getting a summer internship at an immigration law firm, someone told me about her wonderful experience as a summer intern at a boutique immigration law firm in Brookline, Massachusetts. She then proceeded to reach out to the firm and refer me. I ultimately scheduled an interview and was hired on the spot.
Since this was at the very beginning of my second semester of law school, I volunteered at the firm once a week for a few hours just to familiarize myself with the practice of immigration law. My boss started me out doing some basic research on topics such as the asylum process, withholding of removal, and deportation proceedings. This helped me build a foundation for success before my internship officially started, and I learned so much about the real-world forms involved in immigration law.
Once I officially started my immigration law internship, I let my boss know that I wanted to soak up as much information and be exposed to as many cases as possible. He happily obliged and did not disappoint! I was allowed to work on very complicated asylum cases, green card cases, fiancé visas, and deportation and crimmigration cases, among others. In addition to my casework, I was allowed to observe client meetings and eventually participate in them during my internship. It all gave me an entirely new prospective on the immigration law profession.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Becoming an Immigration Lawyer
Day in the life of an immigration law intern
Immigration law is interdisciplinary, touching on various practices such as family law, criminal law, and civil law. That was reflected in my internship work as well. I was involved in cases concerning international divorces, paternity/maternity issues, deportation, criminal charges, and more, as well as pro bono work for asylum seekers and Special Immigrant Juvenile cases.
The work itself changes from day to day too. Some cases are more research heavy; for example, we might have a complicated asylum case in which we need to investigate conditions in the country and find news articles that corroborate our client’s story.
Other days are more focused on completing paperwork, like if we’re working on green card, naturalization, or work authorization cases. In those instances, I start to prepare the paperwork in several drafts, which then need to be confirmed with clients. We also need to gather an incredible amount of evidence in order to fulfill the government’s application requirements.
Then there are days that are spent mostly in court, such as during “master calendar” hearings, which are preliminary hearings on immigration matters, usually in efforts to advance asylum hearings (the individual hearing) or to fight a client’s status of removal (deportation) proceedings.
Even as an intern, it is hard not to get personally invested in your clients. Many were scared for the wellbeing of their families and sometimes their very lives. We worked with asylum seekers who had left their homes, families, friends, jobs—everything—behind to escape from unspeakable hardships. It is a humbling experience to listen to their stories and ensure them that we will do everything in our power to use the law to the best of our ability to protect and advocate for them. We worked with several clients who didn’t have the means to finance our legal services, and thanks to our wonderful pro bono services, many of them don’t have to. Among the many things I have learned throughout my internship is that immigration attorneys don’t just spend their days litigating in court; this profession calls for a lot of time, research, and empathy.
My immigration law internship has allowed me to connect with clients from around the world in a way I did not think possible. I’ve learned how to thoughtfully talk to and work with individuals from different cultures, speaking different languages, and having a different understanding of what life could or should be like. I found myself not just as their student attorney but also as their confidant and even a source of hope in this new chapter of life in which they could finally feel safe. I learned quickly that in immigration law, you are not just an attorney—the work you do can quite literally save someone’s life.
Looking toward the future
My immigration law internship has more than confirmed that I’ve made the right decision in my career, from going to law school to choosing New England Law specifically to pursuing immigration law as my profession. I’m not sure I would have been able to get such an incredible immigration law internship without my connections at New England Law and the school’s pristine reputation among immigration attorneys in and around Boston.
Immigration law is an extraordinary field with cases like complicated puzzles. You need to know the law well enough to find the outline of the puzzle, but it is your creative thinking and problem-solving skills that allow you to connect all the pieces. I find myself so intellectually stimulated by this ever-changing field of law. I am also incredibly proud of the work I’ve done. It’s a privilege to help those who cannot help themselves and to passionately advocate on their behalf as an immigration law intern—and someday attorney.
I cannot imagine myself practicing anything else.
Jennifer Bade is a student in the New England Law | Boston Class of 2020.