In October 2014, Human Rights Initiative was in a frenzy. The thousands of unaccompanied minors who had crossed the border earlier that summer were now being pushed through the immigration court system and we were stepping up to help them. Our attorneys were attending 2-3 hearings a week, often on the same day and sometimes with little more than one day’s notice. We were holding legal clinics once a week to try and match children with attorneys willing to help. And of course, we continued with the hundreds of cases we already had before the “surge” began. During this same time, our star Women & Children’s Program attorney, Melissa, was getting ready to take her maternity leave. To say that we were worried would be an understatement – being “one person down” during our busiest time was a scary thought.
In late October, we heard from our good friend, Michelle Reed, at Akin Gump that their firm would be placing an attorney in our office for three months. Sarah Crow, a long-time HRI pro bono, was the chosen attorney and she would begin her “secondment” in November. Collectively, our office breathed a sigh of relief. We knew Sarah would be a great asset to our team, especially during a period of chaos.
Sarah fit in seamlessly. Not only in her work as an attorney, but also as a funny and kind co-worker. As an agency, we feel incredibly honored to have had the opportunity to work so closely with Sarah. And to top it all off, she even wrote a blog post of us, discussing her experience.
As a lawyer in private practice, it’s easy to get lost in my routine and to forget how much power lies in my law license. I sincerely enjoy my practice as a financial restructuring lawyer at Akin Gump. I like the adrenaline that a new case brings, working on a large team of sophisticated professionals across the globe, and studying complex legal and factual issues. But sometimes I forget that I have the power to help a person who needs it. Not that I can save the world. But today there was one sweet, sassy, little girl who had suffered mind-blowing trauma and fled her home country of Honduras to find a little bit of peace in the United States, and I had the knowledge and power to help her and to stop her from being returned to an unspeakable horror.
That’s why I love HRI’s mission: to promote international human rights through local service to refugees and immigrants who have suffered human rights abuses. I don’t have all the answers—I don’t know how to #bringbackourgirls or how to address the “border surge.” But when one of those innocent children ends up in my hometown of Dallas, Texas, and—by the grace of God—finds their way to HRI, I can help by volunteering to take her case.
HRI excels at its mission by providing volunteer attorneys with all the necessary resources to succeed. At the outset, the HRI legal team carefully analyzes each client’s case and formulates a custom strategic plan. When an attorney volunteers to take a case, they are provided with that plan, plus a complete packet of case-specific information and step-by-step instructions. The HRI legal team then guides the attorney through the whole process, start to finish. No specific experience, immigration or otherwise, is needed. Just the desire to help someone and the motivation to see it through.
Working with HRI and its top-notch team of professionals has been one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my career. It feels good to have changed a client’s life for the better, but this experience has also changed me. I’ve never been more personally committed to helping those around me, one client at a time.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP