Erica Rodriguez, J.D. ‘11

What did you like about the Immigration Clinic and what did you learn that may be relevant to your work now?

There were many things I enjoyed about the Immigration Clinic. To begin, I enjoyed the sense of comradery and team effort among the students and staff of the clinic. Working on cases together, discussing case strategizes, mooting immigration hearings, and rooting each other on were all part of the experience. I remain friends with many of my clinic classmates and I think that is common in the clinic. I also liked working with Professor Benitez. He’s a wonderful mentor who teaches his students how to communicate with clients and how to litigate cases in immigration court.

All the skills I learned in the clinic are relevant to my current work because I have remained in the field and currently work in direct services. Accordingly, all the substantive immigration law I learned and skills I developed, including counseling interviewing methods, are relevant in my current position. One thing to note about the immigration clinic is that from day one students are given a tremendous amount of responsibility. On the first day, students are given a list of clients and told to read through their file as soon as possible. After reading the entire file, the student calls the client and introduces themselves. Having this enormous responsibility isn’t something that can be replicated or simulated – and it is a reality for attorneys like me in direct services on a much greater scale in terms of caseload. The sense of responsibility and the attention to detail students must put into their cases is extraordinary, especially with immigration law where interpretation of statutes can turn on a word. This is heightened by the high stakes of immigration law practice, where clients are extremely vulnerable and face removal if students not successful.

The clinic was a building-off point for me in my legal career. It led to my clerkship with the Los Angeles Immigration Court. During my interview for that position, which was approximately one month into my time at the immigration clinic, I distinctly remember using my experiences at the immigration clinic and knowledge of immigration law to distinguish myself among applicants. In particular, I remember discussing a tough master calendar hearing during my second week of immigration clinic, where I had to familiarize myself to newly discovered facts and get prepared to answer tough questions from the immigration judge.

Most former clinical students say their clinic was the best thing they could have done to help prepare them for their legal careers following graduation. In my personal experience I find this to be true.

Please provide some information about where you currently work.

In October 2013, I began working for the legal services division of Hogar Immigrant Services, a non-profit program within the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. Our office is located in Seven Corners, Falls Church, Virginia just outside of Washington, DC. I am currently the Supervising Attorney with the program. Our caseload includes assisting clients in a wide variety of matters, including consular processing, family-based petitions, adjustment of status, U Visas, TPS, DACA, VAWA-based relief, NACARA, green card renewal, obtaining work authorization, waivers of inadmissibility, provisional waivers, and immigration court representation.

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