Former Immigration Clinic Students Provide Much-Needed Legal Service to Immigrants Throughout the United States

BY:  
CREATED:  

Brittany Young, JD ‘12, is the Immigration and Refugee Case Manager at Catholic Charities of West Virginia. She is the only immigration attorney in town. Without Young, the undocumented domestic violence victims, unaccompanied minors and others she serves, would have to travel more than an hour away to compete with thousands of others seeking low cost or pro bono legal services.

The Catholic Charities position, which Young has held since May 2014, is her first legal services job. Young credits the Immigration Clinic at Miami Law with giving her not only the practical skills but also the confidence she needs to run what is essentially a solo practice.

One of Young’s clients, “Ana” was hoping to find a way to remain legally in the United States. Young quickly realized that Ana’s undocumented status was just one of many challenges the 49-year-old mother from Bolivia was facing. Fortunately, Young was able to connect her with counseling and other resources she needed, in addition to helping her apply for a U visa.

“The nonprofit culture in which I work supports a holistic approach,” Young said. “I don’t see my role as limited to representing my clients in their immigration cases.  Finding ways to help my clients address their other needs is crucial since I work in an underserved and growing immigrant community.”

Young is one of many former Immigration Clinic students who have successfully pursued careers in immigration law. Several, like Young, have joined the nonprofit sector. For instance, Elizabeth Rieser-Murphy, JD ’12, is a Supervising Attorney at The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights in D.C., and Rina Gil, JD ’15, is at Catholic Legal Services working with unaccompanied minors in Miami, Florida.

Other Clinic graduates have held prestigious government jobs. In her last year of law school, Kathleen Schulman, JD ’13, was selected by the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General’s Honors Program. She spent two years as a Judicial Law Clerk in the Orlando Immigration Court, drafting decisions and advising the Court’s six immigration judges on complex removability issues and applications for relief from deportation.

“I believe my Immigration Clinic experience, which included researching and writing briefs and motions, significantly contributed to my being selected for the DOJ Honors Program,” Schulman said.  Having just completed her clerkship, Schulman is now working as an associate at the Law Office of Mary Kramer, a prominent private immigration attorney. Alexander Vail, J.D. ‘14, who joined Schulman as a Judicial Law Clerk at the Orlando Immigration Court last year, echoes her feelings.

“I don’t know if I would have landed the job I have today if it weren’t for my participation in the Immigration Clinic,” Vail said. “By working at the Clinic, I not only gained in-depth knowledge of immigration law, but I honed the skills that are essential to an attorney’s success.”

Former Clinic students, Ian Shaw, JD ’13, and Ross Miletello, JD ’14, are in private immigration practice. Both work for the law firm of the renowned immigration attorney, Ira Kurzban, whose practice represents clients in all types of immigration matters, famous for complex removal defense.

Fortunately, Shaw says, “I got a great deal of experience tackling really complex legal issues in the Immigration Clinic, so when I started working I was really prepared for the challenge.”

“The Immigration Clinic was the single most helpful thing I did at UM law to prepare myself for the day-to-day practice of law,” Ross said.

"I am honored to have law graduates from UM Law School Immigration Clinic working at our firm,” Kurzban said. “Both Ian Shaw and Ross Militello came to our firm well prepared and knowledgeable in immigration law. They are both outstanding additions to our immigration work."

“We are thrilled that so many of our students have developed a commitment to immigrants’ rights,” Clinic Director Rebecca Sharpless said. “But we are proud of all of our students, who we believe leave the Clinic with the core lawyering skills they need to pursue any type of legal career.”

Miami Law’s Immigration Clinic provides students with the challenging opportunity to advocate on behalf of individual clients in a wide variety of complex immigration proceedings. In addition to helping individual clients, students collaborate with other immigrants’ rights groups on projects to reform the law and advance the cause of social justice.