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University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and Troutman Pepper partner to address dearth of immigration lawyers

May 11, 2021

Through the Toll Public Interest Center, Law School students work with Troutman Pepper’s Pepper Center for Public Service on pro bono immigration cases.

For the past three years, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School students at the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC) have partnered with Troutman Pepper’s Pepper Center for Public Service to perform pro bono immigration work and address the dearth of immigration lawyers currently in practice across the country.

“There are simply not enough immigration lawyers to serve the thousands of individuals seeking asylum or fighting deportation,” said Amy Ginensky, senior counsel at Troutman Pepper and head of the Pepper Center. “Our team has taken clients referred by many legal aid nonprofits in Pennsylvania and the region. Bringing in students from the Law School to work alongside seasoned attorneys who volunteer their time has helped us win victories for numerous clients.”

The pro bono immigration work encompasses all facets of the immigration process, from court proceedings to dealings with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and various social service agencies. Specific tasks include interviews with clients (often in Spanish), factual development of the cases through witness interviews and investigation, and preparation of a wide variety of documents for the immigration court.

“We have a 70-hour pro bono requirement for our students, and it is very direct-service oriented, putting our students in real life situations,” said Sarah Egoville, staff attorney at TPIC. “The opportunity with Troutman Pepper is a very popular one among our students. It provides a great connection for students heading to work at a firm after graduation, and it’s a great way for the students to see how attorneys who, after a distinguished career representing business clients, are engaging in a near full-time caseload of work on behalf of pro bono clients in need.”

Impactful work in immigration

Among the notable achievements of the Law School partnership was a successful Third Circuit appeal on behalf of a father and daughter from Guatemala who were challenging their forced return to Mexico under migrant protection protocols.

The appeal was argued jointly by Jefferson B. Fordham Professor of Law Tobias Barrington Wolff and Troutman Pepper associate Mike DePrince. The decision held that “non-citizens subject to the MPP could challenge its application to them in federal court.” The opinion was written by Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Senior Fellow at the Law School. 

Lindsay Holcomb L’21 has worked on Troutman Pepper’s pro bono immigration cases since 2019. Holcomb, who is fluent in Spanish, has served as a translator for clients from Central America, performed legal research, drafted papers for submission to the immigration court and helped gather and draft character endorsement statements from friends and family for asylum and appeal cases. These statements play an important role in the immigration process, providing a portrait of what a client’s life might look like if he or she is released. Holcomb has helped more than 20 clients in this manner.

“Lindsay demonstrated single-minded dedication, professionalism and a passion for our clients’ immigration matters, all of which were taken on as pro bono cases by several Troutman Pepper lawyers,” said Andrew Rogoff, senior counsel at the firm who has worked closely with Holcomb. “Her devotion to our clients, hard work and the excellent service she provides are commendable,” he added.

“Working on these cases has impressed upon me all of the ways that lawyers can make a concrete impact in people’s lives. Often, these clients have been placed in detention and deprived of their liberty, and we’re able to get them back to their families, to their jobs,” said Holcomb.

“I play a small part in this process,” she said, “but I am glad to be a part of it. It is a privilege to work with attorneys who have had incredibly accomplished careers, and who are now volunteering their time to help the people who need it most.”

Read more about the Law School’s commitment to public service.