by Jennifer Atkinson
or some reason, my decadal years have been
marked by signiﬁcant change. At 30, I graduated
from law school, turned down an oﬀer from
a Boston law ﬁrm in order to move to Maine
and join a nonproﬁt ocean conservation practice.
At 40, my husband and I started our family through
international adoption. Now at 50, I am in my ﬁrst
year as a solo, private immigration practitioner.
is last life-altering shi was preceded by a great
deal of thought and preparation, as were the ﬁrst two.
And like those prior leaps, an immigration practice
has felt like an undeniable calling: something I just
have to ﬁnd a way to do despite the odds.
e conversion from ocean conservation to
immigration law is not a common one, to the best of
my knowledge. Perhaps somewhat less unusual is
my shi from the nonproﬁt to the for-proﬁt world.
Combined, they've presented a steep learning curve.
Add to this, however, is that I le the formal practice
of law a number of years ago.
I can't deny that
the experience of
played a role in my
return to lawyering. My
husband and I adopted
our second child from
India during three
stressful years. Yes, the
process was awful and
it unexpectedly dragged
for so long. e only plus
was that it aﬀorded me
the chance to reclaim my
When I le the regular
practice of law, I had been
frustrated by its inability
to resolve the environmental problems that I handled
at the time. It didn't help that our solutions usually
wreaked havoc on the people and communities
surrounding me. So, I opted instead to pursue a
community-based policy path, seeking a beer
integration between environmental and social needs.
Without describing where this turn took me, trust
me when I say that by the time I boarded my ﬂight
for India, my professional identity as an aorney was
It's Never Too Late to Go Solo
Top le, clowise: Jennifer, her daughter,
and some of her orphanage "sisters and
brothers" from India. Jennifer and her
daughter. Jennifer's son and daughter at the
Windsor Fair in Windsor, ME.