Day in the life of
Immigration Lawyer – Joshua L. Goldstein, Esq.
My Typical Day
I spend most of my day meeting with various team members, clients, and legal service professionals. Prior to COVID, the majority of those meetings we at our offices, but since COVID changed a lot of that here in Los Angeles, I spend most of my time working remotely now. We still have our law firm offices in downtown L.A., which I still visit each day, but that’s more for my benefit to focus and work uninterrupted (I have a young and growing family at home) vs needing to be there for client meetings. It also helps me keep a routine, which I think a lot of professionals and business owners flourish with. But my staff now works predominantly at home, which they’re enjoying.
The first category of people I meet with is prospective new clients, who need help with green cards and visas, and similarly complex immigration legal matters. I’ll save you the legalese and each type of case we work on, but it’s well over a dozen different types of visas for personal, professional, and unique circumstances. I meet with them and I talk to them about my work and their situation to see if there’s a way that I can help them out. Not all situations or prospective clients are good matches for my services or experience, but the only way to learn that is to speak with each one and learn their specifics. Once we have a conversation, I either accept them as a client and they proceed through our onboarding, or we refer them to another legal peer that could help them, or advise them on some DIY steps or “homework” they can do to help their situation.
The second category of people I meet with each day will be our internal team. We talk about our work and what’s going on with our current clients. We’ll review cases, make priority lists of what’s outstanding and when they’re due, and do other steps of this nature. These could largely be tied to operations, caseloads, and client relations.
The third category of people I meet with is more tied to my business owner role. So those would be marketing agencies, website designers, business coaches to help me steer the direction of the law firm, and similar.
You could sum up my days as a series of Zoom calls now, which has taken some getting used to over the last 2 years, but it’s not impacting our ability to serve our clients or get business objectives done, so we’re pleased with the outcome!
No question, the biggest benefit to my job is that I’m literally helping shape people’s lives and help them accomplish their goals by becoming citizens. Whether they’re trying to connect with a loved one they’ve been separated from, secure employment at a company that will treat them (and pay them) better than they could achieve at home, or escape hardships and dangers in their home country, it’s really rewarding! Being an element in their journey that helps them realize their goals and get them unstuck from the nightmare they’ve been dealing with is so gratifying and their appreciation for my work is so sincere. I love seeing the stresses melt off of them as we’ve secured their entry or citizenship and it can be very heartwarming and emotional.
The challenges of the role are also present and most are tied to stress. For some of my clients and their loved ones, failure to succeed for them can mean life or death, so there’s no way not to feel that pressure. Likewise, if the immigration system isn’t moving along as it’s designed to or there are other legislative hurdles that need to be met before we can proceed, you can see and feel the frustration our clients are experiencing. That oftentimes will, at no fault of their own, get directed towards me, since I represent the process in their eyes. Other times clients will have too lofty or unrealistic of expectations, which no matter how I try to clarify the reality to them, it’s not received as I intended and that can lead to a disconnect. Lastly, a lot of the professionals that work in the immigration system are battered down from these prolonged stresses and the lives they impact. For every great win we secure, there could be, outside of my control or even the system’s intent, failures that can be deflating. Immigration doesn’t always bring out the best in people, unfortunately.
How does one go about becoming an Immigration Lawyer? And how long does it take to become one?
I’ll speak to the process of becoming an immigration lawyer in the United States.
It’s no different than any lawyer’s path, which begins with 4 years of undergraduate coursework at an accredited university. Some students who have enough foresight will tailer their undergrad coursework to serve them better in their career and advanced degrees, but you don’t have to be so dialed in. If you’re able to, classes in pre-law, international affairs, or even a foreign language can be really helpful! We employ team members from various backgrounds and fluency in languages and it’s really a desirable skillset in this sector of law.
Once you’re done with undergrad, you’ll have to take the LSAT exam to gain admission to your preferred law school. This exam is no joke and many co-eds will spend their entire summer post-graduation studying for it! Once you pass, you’re admitted to law school which is commonly a 3-year program. There, you’ll need to graduate and then take the bar exam in whatever state you’re looking to practice in. Again, this is no joke, and often takes 2-3 months of laborious studying to prep for. However, once you’re done with that and pass, you’re legally allowed to practice law and become a full-fledged lawyer.
What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a career as an Immigration Lawyer?
Yes, I have lots of recommendations for those who believe they want to become an immigration lawyer. First of all, when you’re a law student, seek out opportunities to participate in immigration clinics at your law school. Or participate in pro bono workshops. Both of these can be incredibly helpful for your growth. Similarly, you can also work part-time with an immigration-centric organization and/or an immigration law firm. As an example, criminal lawyers will oftentimes work for a prosecutor or DA offices to learn their sector of law, but this is our version for this sector of law. These steps will help you become familiar with the ever-so-valuable elements that can’t be found in a classroom. Lastly, you should seek out a mentor or advisor at an existing immigration law firm or NGO for further real-world education and employment or experience opportunities once you have that new license to practice law!
Being an immigration lawyer isn’t for everyone, but if you can weather the ups and downs, it can be incredibly gratifying and purpose-driven.
represent clients in criminal and civil litigation and other legal proceedings, draw up legal documents, or manage or advise clients on legal transactions. May specialize in a single area or may practice broadly in many areas of law.