By Grace Alano
Clients often ask me why I became an immigration attorney. I had always wanted to do something in international law, which is different from immigration and nationality law. I stumbled upon immigration law by chance when I got my first job out of law school. It was fate, it gave me the international feel that I was seeking and I’ve found it to be the perfect law specialty for me.
I am the child of immigrants. My mother is from the Philippines and my father is from Venezuela. My husband is an immigrant, as are many of my best friends and a lot of my family. Although I have always been in such close proximity to the immigrant community, I never knew about what they went through to become lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens until I began to practice immigration law.
I have a thing for diversity. I am a non-conformist and dislike anything cookie-cutter. I grew up in Hollywood, California, and now live in San Francisco. Both are very diverse cities. Hollywood is very Latino, and San Francisco is very Asian. However, there are so many different ethnic groups in both places. Diversity brings flavor. I don’t just mean that they bring ethnic restaurants! It brings different viewpoints, experiences, ideas, and spiritual and economic growth. To contrast it, I spent a few months in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is a beautiful town, and I loved the people, but it was so homogenous. Not only how people looked, but how they dressed (however elegantly), and thought. So yes, I prefer diversity. I’ve also noticed that immigrants tend to be risk takers. As a lawyer, I am naturally risk averse, even though I have the entrepreneurial and creative spirit. Maybe I did get some of those risk-taking genes. There is an element of moving forward and desire to make things better that comes with that type of mindset.
So besides my appreciation of immigrants, I have found that the practice also suits me. An uncle of mine by marriage who is an attorney mentioned to me that after two years, a lawyer will become pigeon-holed into a law specialty. I thought of this often as I entered my second year of practice, which was many years ago. I stuck with immigration law because I really enjoy the client counseling and advocacy. I do a lot of family-based immigration, which requires more client contact than employment-based immigration, although I do that, too. I like to have that human connection. I’m also a good writer. Maybe with blogging, but definitely with briefs and cover letters. My client advocacy begins on paper, and I’m good at telling the client’s story. Although I do attend administrative interviews with clients and appear in court with them, my practice is not heavy in traditional litigation. I tend to find litigators bitter and repressed. Also, I don’t like to argue. I don’t think it’s cute and sexy as some people do! I like peace and harmony. I like protecting clients and looking out for their best interests. Maybe it’s my maternal and empathetic nature.
So that is how I found and stuck with immigration law. I like the international flavor, constant learning experience, and nature of the work I do. Now that I have had my solo practice for the last few years, I am also enjoying the creativity that comes with marketing, which is also a big part of my work week, and practice management. I hope this answers the question and that you were able to learn a bit about me and what I do.
Grace R. Alano is the Principal Attorney at The Law Offices of Grace R. Alano in San Francisco. Find Grace on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.