NWIRP directly represents many clients in legal proceedings, but the demand for services is greater than our staff can address. A client's chance of avoiding removal from the U.S. is highly dependent on whether or not he or she has legal representation. As a result, NWIRP places great emphasis on training others, in order to stretch its resources as far as they can go. One of NWIRP's great successes is our pro bono panel of attorneys, who are instrumental in sharing the workload in directly representing immigrants and refugees.
Approximately 250 attorneys participate in NWIRP's pro bono program. These attorneys make a profound difference in the lives of their clients, and have found the pro bono experience to be deeply rewarding for them as well. Without the hard work of this dedicated group, scores of individuals would be lost in an overwhelming bureaucracy and subject to removal from the country, separation from their family, and often a life of poverty and fear.
Spotlight on One of NWIRP's Pro Bono Attorneys: Lisa Marshall
Lisa Marshall has been a practicing attorney for approximately 18 years. The majority of her career has been spent as a City Attorney for several small Washington municipalities. In 2010, in the wake of a political upheaval in the city of Newcastle, Lisa was dismissed from her job. She fumbled about for a while trying to find similar work. When her efforts proved fruitless, she declared to herself “forget it, I am going to do something that I have always wanted to do…Immigration Law.” Lisa had no prior Immigration experience. She took a few CLEs and contacted Jordan Wasserman at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. In short order, Lisa signed up to represent a pro bono client.
Lisa has always been attracted to Immigration Law because, like most people in this country, her family immigrated to the United States. She grew up listening to her grandparents discuss the hardships they suffered as new immigrants. According to Lisa “my family came from Germany and Sweden. They fled abject poverty, starvation, and even forced military conscription. They came to the United States with nothing. When they got to the United States, they struggled; they worked as servants for wealthy families.” Lisa continues- “When I started to learn about the current issues facing immigrants, I recognized that just a short time ago, my ancestors were dealing with the same problems. They may have come from different countries, but they faced the same struggles. I feel that all people are entitled to a few fundamental rights, including: food, safety, and opportunity. Making the decision to practice Immigration Law meant that I could help my clients fight for those rights.”
In 2011, Lisa took her first pro bono case. She represented a detained man who was a long-time Lawful Permanent Resident. He had been placed into removal proceedings after a domestic dispute. The man was granted relief and was released from detention. According to Lisa “I prefer working on detained cases. The clients are jailed, and getting out of detention is intensely important to the client. In fact, the other day I had a conversation with my 11 year old daughter about the importance of doing rewarding work in addition to work that pays the bills. This conversation made me realize that I have never had greater professional satisfaction than I had knowing that my client would be walking out of the NW Detention Center the afternoon he won his case.” By her own account, Lisa describes herself as becoming “addicted” to the work.
In one year alone, Lisa has provided pro bono representation to seven individuals referred to her by NWIRP. She describes her experiences as extremely positive. She states “I can’t even begin to describe how much respect and admiration I have for NWIRP. They not only provide direct representation, but they also are on the pulse of the latest legislation and legal developments.” She continues, “though I had no experience, I never felt lost or on my own. I always felt comfortable asking for support and I always got the assistance that I needed. I really encourage other attorneys to get involved.”
NWIRP appreciates all of the hard work Lisa has committed to her pro bono clients. NWIRP also encourages other attorneys interested in volunteering, to contact us today.