SWLAW Blog | Future Students

Reflections on My Advanced Immigration Law Clinic Experience by Maria Halwadjian

May 16, 2024

Maria Halwadjian '24 Reflects on Her Advanced Immigration Law Clinic Experience

Maria Halwadjian '24 participated in the Immigration Law Clinic during the Fall 2022 semester. Eager to delve deeper and build upon her foundational skills, she returned as an advanced student in Fall 2023.

Advanced clinic students like Maria are those who have successfully completed one semester of a clinical class and want to continue honing their lawyering and professional skills in an advanced capacity. They collaborate closely with supervising attorneys on specific cases and projects and take on the role of mentors for incoming clinic students. 

Under the guidance of Andrea Ramos, the Director of Clinical Programs and Professor of the Immigration Law Clinic, Maria was able to further hone her skills as an advocate. Join Maria as she shares her experiences as an advanced clinic student below.

Maria and the ILC team
Maria (second from the left) with Professor Ramos and the Immigration Law Clinic team.

Describe the role of an advanced clinic student.

As an advanced student, you are given a case list to work on throughout the semester. The work you do is independent, and you check in with your supervising attorney weekly to discuss the progress of your assigned cases. You learn how to manage your own caseload and complete your tasks, and you are in a position to handle all aspects of your cases. Each case you work on is different, so your tasks will vary. You have the opportunity to connect and reach out to your clients for each case. You really get to apply the skills and knowledge you gained from participating in the Immigration Law Clinic as an advanced student.

What was most meaningful about participating in the Immigration Law Clinic, and what inspired you to continue your work as an advanced clinic student?

The most meaningful part about participating in the Immigration Law Clinic was working with my case partner and learning how to be an effective advocate through my casework. By working with my case partner, I learned the importance of teamwork and how to divide tasks amongst each other. I enjoyed learning to understand my case partner’s perspective on our tasks and bouncing ideas off one another. Through Professor Ramos’ guidance, I learned how to be a voice for my clients through my work and made sure I captured my clients’ stories in the declarations I wrote in support of their application. I also learned how to interact with clients of different ages. I wanted to continue my work as an advanced student because the clinic solidified my interest in pursuing immigration law in the future, and I wanted to continue to apply the skills I learned through independent work.

What is one challenge you encountered as an advanced clinic student?

My biggest challenge was figuring out how to properly submit a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review). I had never submitted this type of request before, so Professor Ramos and I met a few times to figure out the procedural requirements. I researched and eventually figured it out with her help, and we submitted the request. Though I hadn’t done this before, I was grateful for the opportunity to learn something new. 

Describe a memorable moment when your supervising attorney provided guidance or mentorship that significantly influenced your approach to a case.

There were many moments when Professor Ramos provided guidance and mentorship. When I was in the process of writing my client’s declaration, Professor Ramos taught me how to write an effective and compelling declaration. After receiving feedback on my first draft, I talked with her about how to improve my writing. She taught me that I should ensure the declaration meets the requirements outlined in the immigration laws and bring my client’s story to life. I was able to produce a declaration that portrayed my client’s story effectively. Through my work, I learned the importance of written advocacy and how to represent my clients diligently.

What advice would you give to a student interested in participating as an advanced clinic student?

As an advanced student, you do a lot of independent work. With that said, you should create a weekly task list so you know what to focus on. This helped me stay organized and manage my cases well. Additionally, I would say to enjoy each case and task you work on because they will differ in some respects, so you will learn a lot along the way. You might come across some challenges that you didn’t encounter while participating in the clinic the previous semester, but the fun part is figuring out solutions to those problems. Also, don’t be afraid to keep asking questions. Your supervising attorney will always be happy to help!