|Career Development Office||Faculty|
Lawyers who practice immigration law handle the legal and administrative problems encountered by aliens who have emigrated lawfully and unlawfully to the United States. This area of law has grown dramatically in importance in light of the rapidly increasing number of unauthorized aliens present in the United States and building humanitarian crises that have increased the number of refugees seeking safety within the United States. By enforcing and defending the laws that govern this practice area, immigration attorneys must be well versed in federal administrative law as it relates to the problems of the immigrant, along with constitutional law, criminal law, domestic relations, labor & employment law, and commercial law as they pertain to immigration and nationality law.
Practicing immigration lawyers work in a wide range of positions, across the non-profit, private, and government sectors. Immigration lawyers work on legal issues impacting immigrants and temporary non-immigrants, as well as their family members and employers. Examples of legal issues handled by immigration lawyers include representation of noncitizens who are in deportation proceedings, advising clients who want to bring family members into the United States, and assisting refugees (including unaccompanied children) with their asylum applications. Immigration attorneys may also specialize in business or employment-based immigration law, in which the attorney assists businesses that want to hire foreign-born employees through obtaining temporary and permanent visas based on employment credentials or the intent to invest in the United States.
Immigration law is not limited to those who would work in immigration court. Criminal lawyers must know how pleas and sentencing will impact their noncitizen clients. Family law attorneys and judges need to know whether to consider immigration status in such things as assessing a child’s best interests and when domestic violence is an issue. Attorneys may also advise legislatures, nonprofits and advocacy groups about immigration policy.
Students interested in this practice area are encouraged to take Immigration Law and Administrative Law. Students should also pursue course work in areas that often overlap with immigration law, including criminal law, family law, and employment & labor law. Students are also encouraged to pursue one of the many clinical opportunities available at St. John’s Law, such as the Refugee and Immigrant Rights Litigation Clinic. Through clinic work, students will obtain real-world experience under the supervision of experienced attorneys by providing representation to indigent and low-income individuals in court and administrative proceedings.
All are strongly recommended and should be taken early in the upper-level years.
Advanced coursework that will build your substantive knowledge in this pathway.
Coursework to hone your writing skills and develop a portfolio of practicing writing in your field.
Courses that will develop your oral advocacy, ADR, and other skills necessary for practice.
Students who participate in a clinic are exposed to a practice area through the representation of actual clients under faculty supervision. The following clinics are relevant to this pathway:
Externships place students in a wide variety of not-for-profit, government, public interest, and private organizations and firms, where they work directly under the supervision of a practicing attorney. The external placements are bolstered by an in-school seminar in which students analyze their practical experiences and gain skills necessary for the profession. Sample placements in this pathway include:
Students should seek out connections with practitioners and other students, both internally and externally. Adjunct professors can be an excellent resource both for guidance and for employment opportunities. The professional bar associations also welcome student participation and offer reduced membership rates for students. Some bar sections and committees look for students to provide research or other assistance on projects. St. John’s faculty are also an essential resource. Students should make an effort to get to know faculty who teach and have experience in their chosen areas. Finally, students should connect with other students who share similar interest through student organizations and attendance at Law School events.
- American Immigration Lawyers Association
- American Bar Association
- New York State Bar Association
- New York City Bar Association, Immigration & Nationality Law Committee
- Civil Litigation Skills Association
- Coalition for Social Justice
- Courtroom Advocates Project
- Criminal Law Society
- Dispute Resolution Society
- Family Law Society
- International Law Society
- Immigration Law Society
- Juvenile Delinquency Law Society
- Labor Relations and Employment Law Society
- Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA)
- Middle Eastern Law Students Association
- Multilingual Legal Advocates
- Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute
- Public Interest Center
- Russian American Law Student Association (RALSA)
- South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA)
Part-time students should spread out the suggested path below to account for their expected date of graduation.