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    10 Steps to Become an Immigration Attorney

    10 Steps to Become an Immigration Attorney

    If you have a personal or family connection to immigration or enjoy helping people from other cultures, and you like to solve complex problems, have good reading, writing, and analytical skills, and enjoy a variety of challenges at work, becoming an immigration attorney might be a great fit for you.

    What Do I Need to Do to Become an Immigration Attorney?

    You can start working on the steps to be an immigration lawyer as soon as you realize that immigration law is your goal.

    1. If you are still in high school, and you already know you are interested in immigration law, talk to your school’s guidance counselor for advice on the steps to become an immigration attorney. Consider taking advanced English classes, if they’re available, or other classes where you’ll get a lot of practice in reading and writing, which are important skills for lawyers. Consider also taking classes in at least one other language and joining a debate team, if available. Study hard, and apply to good colleges.

    2. If you’re in college, look for ways to get involved with the legal and/or immigration communities. Some options include college clubs, internships, and paid or volunteer jobs part-time during the year and/or during the summer with immigration organizations or law firms.

    3. Continue studying language(s) to advance your existing skills and/or to learn a new language.

    4. Talk to a pre-law advisor or career counselor at your school for advice on what courses to take. No particular major is required to go to law school, but certain classes may help develop the skills you’ll need for law school and for practicing law. Also talk to the advisor about the timeline for taking the LSAT (the standardized test for law school) and for sending out your law school applications, how best to prepare for the LSAT, and what other steps to be an immigration lawyer might be useful for you to take at this time.

    5. Research law schools and decide where to apply. Some law schools offer concentrations or certificates in immigration law. These aren’t required to get a job as an immigration lawyer but could be helpful. Consider schools that have immigration law clinics, where students get hands-on experience handling cases, even if the school doesn’t have a full-blown immigration law concentration program. Also, if you already know where you want to practice law, consider attending a law school in or near that city. Law firms and organizations may favor applicants who are from or went to school in their area, and the contacts you develop during law school are usually plugged into the local legal scene.

    6. The personal statement is an important part of your law school application, so take your time writing it. If you were inspired to become an immigration lawyer because of a personal connection to immigration, you can discuss that in your statement, but don’t stop there. Go beyond your personal story to show the broader context of your commitment to helping immigrants or working on immigration issues. Write about what you have learned in academic or professional settings that added to your understanding of immigration issues, and consider describing how you plan to use your law degree to contribute to the causes you care about. Finally, for each law school, mention why you are applying to that particular school.

    7. When you’re in law school, continue seeking opportunities to work with immigrant communities or in legal settings. Summer internships, work-study positions, and volunteer jobs can all help you solidify your commitment to practicing immigration law, while providing valuable experience and contacts. If your school has an immigration clinic, take advantage of that opportunity for in-depth practical learning and experience.

    8. Summer jobs and internships, in particular, may lead to offers of employment after you graduate. To find these jobs, meet with a career counselor at your school, participate in on-campus recruitment, talk to your professors and other students you know who are interested in immigration law, and contact employers directly. If you have previous volunteer or paid experience with immigration or legal organizations, get in touch with the people you have met there to ask them for advice on where you could apply. If you have work-study funding as part of your financial aid package, that can help you get a job at non-profit organizations. If you cannot find a job specifically working in immigration law, any legal position with a non profit organization, law firm, or government office will provide valuable legal experience.

    9. Start looking for your post-graduation job during your third year of law school. You can use many of the same resources that you used to find summer jobs, including using the resources of your school’s career center, calling on contacts from previous immigration- or law-related jobs or internships, and networking with other students. You may find other networking opportunities at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which you can join for free as a law student. You can also apply directly to organizations and firms that interest you. They often post their openings on their websites. Take a look at our career page for the current openings at Novo Legal Group.

    10. After you graduate, you’ll need to study for, take, and pass the Bar exam – and then celebrate when you do!

    This may seem like a long journey, but you can find a lot of help and support along the way. Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to know from an early age that you want to become an immigration lawyer. It’s true it helps to start preparing early, but it’s not too late if you only discover your interest in immigration law when you are in law school or later, while you are already working as a lawyer in a different practice area. Immigration law encompasses several other practice areas, including civil rights, family law, criminal defense, and business law, so experience in any of these areas may be helpful in switching to an immigration law practice.