Tools of the (Immigration Law) Trade

I have been a practicing immigration attorney for a while now; I started in 1985 after graduating from the University of Texas School of Law. I had fallen into the legal field after failing to win a Rhodes Scholarship while in undergraduate studies at Texas Tech University.  In the confusing aftermath of trying to figure out what to do next, my English professor suggested giving law a shot. In one of those lifechanging moments, I decided to go ahead and to see if this legal field idea might work.

After graduation, I got a job in El Paso with a business firm doing cross-border contracts, estate planning, and whatever else was needed. One day, during my first year out, I was asked to help on an immigration matter.  I had taken an immigration course in law school and have always enjoyed languages and learning about other countries and cultures, so in another one of those lifechanging moments, I agreed. But I knew I needed to fill a major knowledge vacuum.

I looked around and found AILA; I joined to find mentors and to learn, since no one else in the firm practiced immigration law.  Starting out in immigration law can be so intimidating due to its complexity. I knew I had a lot to learn and my goal was to be the best immigration lawyer possible. AILA provided me with typically compassionate colleagues (ok, one or two were definitely a little intimidating) willing to provide counsel and advice as well as resources to use.

From the start, I read regulations, re-read them, and I still re-read the same ones sometimes and find some new provision or angle to help in a case.  I admit I use and love AILALink and have purchased most of the AILA publications throughout the years.  As to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) set that AILA publishes, I still rely on my new paper versions each year and have an extra set at our house in Colorado in my home office there, something that’s even more important during these work-from-home days we’re in. My copies suffer from liberal marker use, tabs, and annotations. The indexes are useful when I am not on double checking on additional changes.  We all learn differently and are comfortable with different tools, but my annual AILA CFR and INA sets are my stalwart companions and stay on my desk at hand’s reach, always.

Throughout many years of AILA service on national, state, and local committees, task forces, etc., I have always felt that ongoing study of the law is critical.   Who knew when I made that decision to take an immigration case and found AILA as a resource that years later I’d serve as an AILA national president? Who knew that those sometimes-intimidating colleagues would become friends and inspirations along the way?

I am grateful to be in the company of thousands of dedicated students of immigration law and I am still learning something new every day. Immigration law is always crazy complicated – it’s one of the things I truly love about it. And now, to check that same darn regulation one more time…

by Kathleen Campbell Walker