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For the Newbies: How to Hit the Ground Running
by Cletus M. Weber
tarting your ﬁrst job as an immigration
lawyer, paralegal, or legal assistant is exciting.
Immigration law is a life of never-ending
mystery and discovery. e work you do can
profoundly improve the lives of your clients, and the
vast majority will be deeply grateful for your help.
Here are a few tips for geing oﬀ to a great start:
Learn by Doing, Not by Milking
Work is not school. Yes, you need to learn, but you
also need to get something done. You learn most by
doing more cases, not by trying to milk each cow to
death. (An example: my partner gave an assistant a
simple marriage petition to photocopy one morning
and when asked later that aernoon where it was,
the assistant said, "I'm not done reading it. It's just so
Take the Ethical Route
You have an ethical responsibility to help your clients
as much as you reasonably can. But that doesn't give
you the legal right to lie, cheat, and steal to protect
their interests. Fight like hell, but ﬁght fair.
Accuracy Is Speed
In immigration law, you are always one signature, one
checkbox, one deadline, one critical (and recurring)
government-address-change away from severely
harming your client's interests—and geing sued
for malpractice. Any speed you might have gained
by skipping a step or not double-checking can easily
become a ten-fold increase in time and eﬀort to resolve.
At least don't blindly hope. In law, you either know or
you don't know. ere is no middle ground. Of course,
you cannot predict outcomes in every case, but going in,
you have to know exactly what the law and facts are.
What you don't know can hurt you … and your client.
Each Case Is a New Day
No maer how carefully or how long you have been
practicing, you inevitably will make a mistake. Always
strive to avoid them, especially the big ones. But if you
do make one, never hide it from your boss. Ever!
See Something, Say Something
Your boss and your clients worry a lot, so strive to
keep them informed always. By the way, one of the
most irritating things for a
supervisor is to review a
petition, brief, etc., from
a subordinate, suggest a
diﬀerent strategy or ask
what about XYZ, and then
have the subordinate say something like, "Oh yeah, I
thought about that, too." Take ownership of your case
from the beginning and resolve these issues ahead of
time—unless your supervisor tells you otherwise.
You are embarking on a fascinating, wonderful career.
Enjoy it. Always know that happiness is possible,
then do what it takes to make it happen. Seek out
colleagues or get professional guidance—whatever it
takes to get back on track. Best of luck!
CLETUS M. WEBER is co-founder of Peng & Weber, PLLC,
based in Mercer Island, WA. He is editor-in-chief of AILA's
Guide to PERM Labor Certiﬁcation. The author's views do
not necessarily represent the views of AILA nor do they
constitute legal advice or representation.
ese tips will add
traction to your ﬁrst steps
into immigration law.