The end and the beginning of an era (in my life)

January 13, 2011

Well, blogging fail this last month. Things have been crazy. I graduated, celebrated the holidays, rented an office, got certified as fit and of good character, got licensed (call my counselor!) and turned 32. And we moved back to Milwaukee, or are in the process of doing so now. No time to write at this moment, but here’s something I posted on this week.

Also check out my new website: Laura Fernandez Immigration Law.


As many of you know, I have been in law school for the last 2.5 years. I graduated last month and because I live in the last state that allows law students graduating from in-state schools to avoid the bar exam, I’ll be licensed on Tuesday. As I have basically planned all along, I’m starting my own immigration practice officially next week. I’ve already rented a small office, gotten some furniture, and done a whole host of other set-up tasks like building a website, setting up the business organization, getting bank accounts, etc.

This is a new stage in my life in many ways, and I’m so excited. I’m also humbled and apprehensive. Like so many people on this board, I came into the immigration process exceptionally naive, with zero knowledge of the law and a faint sense of entitlement. My husband and I carelessly walked into the immigration process by filing the I-130 with the help of (gasp!) a notario. We did not know any better. At the time, I did not even realize this person was doing something illegal.

By the time we got my husband’s visa interview, a job change had given me more free time and the good sense to conduct a little of my own research. I found one internet forum and was quite amazingly greeted by a woman in the same situation who lived just miles away from me in the same city. We had coffee and she guided me to I2US. I wish I could access my first posts (gone with the crash of 2007) because it would be a hilarious walk down memory lane.

I wrote, gathered evidence, and organized our waiver, which is certainly not a model by today’s forum standards, but good enough at the time. My husband was gone for 11 months. During that time I spent a LOT of time on this forum. I also occasionally wrote about immigration issues for my city newspaper and just generally became obsessed with immigration issues. When our waiver was approved, it seemed like an act of God, for many reasons.

A few months later, with my husband back, I still spent so much time thinking, writing, blogging and talking to people about immigration. I was constantly on this forum ( I somehow went from being completely naive, to somewhat of an “expert” (and I use that term loosely). And then, I started having these crazy law school thoughts, and Laurel Scott (and others) encouraged me to go for it, so I studied for the LSAT, and I did okay, but I still got into my first-choice school. And now I’ve had 2.5 years of legal training, and a baby, and an amazing time, and now that’s over. It’s sad and great at the same time. But now it’s time to be a lawyer.

One of the most amazing things about having been around here so long now is watching other people similarly go from having no clue about whatever their immigration dilemma, to reading and researching and “getting” it to finally starting to pay that forward by helping others. This is why I have stayed around here so long. This “place” changed my life, and even though it’s cheesy and it’s the internet, that is so entirely true. And I’ve developed great friendships here, as have so many others, which is amazing.

Thanks for reading.


Thanks for reading here too. I’m hoping to do a lot more personal blogging again soon. But for now it’s time to get Laura Fernandez Immigration Law organized and running.

the adorable tiny people

December 17, 2010

Babies. Even though I have had one for 1.25 years now, I have hardly blogged about motherhood. Which is quite odd considering how important it is to me. And in my new life, as a law student, which is also ending just about now, it’s a huge part of my identity. I am “the one with the baby.” Not the only one, mind you, but one of them. That’s how people who do not know me at school might know me. Which is a funny thing, all things considered.

I always knew I would probably have kids, but I was honestly never that excited about it. It seemed like a lot of work, and like a big loss of independence, and a major sleep depriver. I have always cherished my independence, even in marriage. I don’t like being too attached to anyone, not because I want the freedom to pursue other relationships, but I just enjoy being alone sometimes. I like peace and quiet. It’s when I can sit quietly, drink a cup of coffee, write a little blog post. I don’t want to go everywhere with someone else. I also love to travel, and were I richer, I don’t really think I would have nicer things in my house, I would just travel more. I would see more things, go more places, meet more people.

But when I turned 30, I really wanted to move in the general kids direction, because I knew I did not want to wait until I (re)started my career or was over 35 or whatever. So we had a baby.

September 9, 2009.

December 2010.

Changed my life? Yup, but in totally different ways that I expected.

Before Gabriel, I never really got why some people went so crazy for babies. They don’t “do” anything, and sometimes they aren’t even that cute. And they cry, and they smell sometimes, and there’s a lot of poop and snot and drool involved, and you have to like, teach them stuff. But that’s so not the whole story. Because they are amazing.

A good friend used to comment on how newborn Gabriel would sometimes look so human. I mean, obviously, right? But there’s something in that description. The fact that babies are tiny, primitive beings, untrained, undeveloped versions of us, especially the first year. They suck, and they eat, and they stare, and they scare easily, and their little tummies hurt, but then they start to focus on objects, they smile, they babble, they hold their heads up, they grab things, and somehow, because at birth they are developmentally like a tiny baby mouse, all sleepy and wrinkly and strange, they just get more and more human, and it’s amazing.

And truthfully, until I had my own, I never got that. And now, ha, I want all the babies. I want to hold them, especially the tiny ones. They are too funny to me. And their tiny developmental steps are so great. And I never even liked babies before. So that’s what’s really changed.

Do I have less independence? Heck yeah, but I still have a lot more than I thought I would. I used to just like getting out and going to browse a book store or take a walk on my own. Now, I still do those things, but I get to see them also through Gabriel’s eyes too. Lots of things are better. You interact with more people when there’s a baby around. It breaks the ice. He smiles at random strangers, you chat, laugh, etc. We ride the bus a lot in Madison, which is the funniest because Gabriel will attempt eye contact with everyone on the bus, which often involves long bouts of staring.

In many ways, Gabriel makes my daily life less mundane. We can have a little adventure just going to school – a bus ride, a little walk, a trip to see professors who remember him when he was tiny, walking the halls, cheering up the stressed students. I know I am lucky. He takes good naps, I can survive on much less sleep than I imagined, and he’s a very good child in public. Sometimes it’s a total hassle, but it couldn’t be any other way. It’s just another human that needs you, and you have to make the most of it.

the denouement

December 5, 2010

Friday and Saturday the snow fell, accumulating for the first time this year. When we got up yesterday, I opened the blind so Gabey could look outside. He went: “Ooooooooooohhhh.” Super adorable. We went and looked out the porch window, overlooking the chilling lake, black ducks huddled together, snow very gently falling. He wanted to touch the snowflakes.

This little bit of snow really had to fall. It’s the universe effecting parallelism. During my 1L exam period, we had a huge snowstorm. There was talk of campus closing, but I don’t think it happened that year. I remember trekking to school for my first law school exam, enjoying the quiet morning, the snow falling, the solitude of walking alone. Last year, we had the biggest snowstorm in years during the finals period. The campus and the city basically shut down for a whole day. No buses, no work for most people, everyone in the streets, digging out, making snowmen, enjoying a real, old-fashioned snow day. We put Gabey in a big, furry, aquamarine bunny snow suit. We left our car in its curbside snow cave and walked a mile to meet some friends for brunch. It was fabulous.

This year, just a little snow. And it did not interrupt anyone’s finals. It just made things a little prettier. In Wisconsin, snow is generally beloved in December. It’s in February that we resent it, restless for the next season.


This morning I took my last law school final ever. I have never been less prepared for a test. At least that’s how I felt. Still, I took it pass-fail, and though I had my doubts about this last night, I do feel at this point like I passed. I have been doing almost nothing but writing for the past month. First I had a 30-page research paper draft, then an eight-page memo, immediately followed by an appellate brief that ended up being 30 pages. I also wrote probably 30-4o pages of response and essay-type papers this semester. I mean, I like writing, but come on. Scheduling fail a little bit. Ahhhh well, it is really almost over now.

There’s just rewriting the memo, revising my research paper, arguing my appellate brief and then, lord help me, another six-page reflection essay. But it’s nothing compared to the insanity of the last few days. Which is why, waking up yesterday morning and watching the snow with Gabey was extra sweet. I should have been working all day again, but he was with F or the babysitter most of the week. So yesterday we just got to hang out, playing, watching some cartoons, reading books, enjoying the view.

“What are you doing after graduation?”

November 21, 2010

Just about anyone I talk to asks that these days. Graduation is, after all, just weeks away. My answer is usually: “I’m, uh… starting my own immigration law practice?”

(And yes, that question mark is intended to indicate hesitation, a little discomfort, and a definite interrogative vibe).

It is a fair and very appropriate question. Professors and those outside the law school are just curious. And other students want to know if you have a job. Fair enough. Because right now, everyone wants to know people who have jobs. People having jobs mean there are jobs out there. Somewhere, there are jobs. That is what all law students want to believe right now.

(Bunny trail: if you are reading this and considering law school because it sounds like a good way to get a stable job making good money, STOP. Just stop. Think really hard. And talk to some recent graduates or 3Ls who are looking for work, read some things like this ABA article, including the comments. If you really want to be an attorney, go for it, but if you are looking for job security, it’s not here).

Law school is not the safe bet it once was. Lots of people are disillusioned and lots of people are taking on immense debt with little prospect of making a good living. I’m not saying life is all about money, but if it’s not about money, you really have to want to be an attorney in order to make this worthwhile. Even this fall, several years into the economic crisis, it has been surprising how naive both new students and people from the “outside” world are about the current state of the legal employment universe.

In reality, when I talk about starting my own law practice, I feel pretty good about it. I worry that immigration policies will become even more draconian, I worry that even fewer families will be able to afford legal representation, and I worry about setting appropriate fees and “marketing” my practice. I worry about my loan payments (note to self: check about a deferment period). I worry about working from home and all its distractions.

But with each day, I worry less about a lot of things. I look forward to doing real work for real clients. I look forward to solving problems. I look forward to running my own business. I look forward to this next step, which has been in the making now for more than four years, since F left for Mexico and I started working on our hardship waiver, aided almost entirely by an amazing website that led to my interest in law and the eventual pursuit of law school.

There is a lot of uncertainty, and the economy sure does not help. But I feel grateful. I believe there is a market for what I am offering, and I believe I will be good at it, and I believe I will be helping people. Not that this is all some grand altruistic quest, but making money doing something good is good.

When I was in college I pursued journalism because I loved it; I had no concern for what I would do after college. I was optimistic and naive. I never really used my degree. No regrets though. In my 20s I realized that there is nothing dirty about wanting to earn a decent living. It certainly was not going to fall into my lap and most likely I would have to do things I did not love. When law fell into my lap via my husband’s status, it seemed right to at least attempt to meld purpose with work. I know it will not always look like that. I am sure I will have moral dilemmas; I’m sure I will not like all my clients; I’m sure I will hate some days; but I feel good about this new destination. In many ways, it’s still a dream just being here.

just some weeks

November 17, 2010

The countdown is on. Nothing but finalizing a research paper, an appellate brief, a memo re-write, an oral argument, a trusts and estates exam and tying up some loose ends on a project standing between me and J.D. Just a few things, ha, but only a few weeks to do them. They will get done.

Speaking of that, I should be working. But I stopped writing early to spend a few quiet minutes sitting in my apartment, writing a blog entry that next to no one will read, before I go get G from the babysitter. Silly or smart? I do not know.

I have tried not to get too stressed during law school. The pressure and the panic usually does not help anyone anyway, but it is there. Hanging in the library, weighing on the job seekers, hiding behind the student loan balances. I swear it is all about discipline. I am arguably a better student now, with a small child and unquestionably less free time, than I was two years ago, when I really had nothing to do but school. I wish I had dedicated myself to school with the hours I had back then. Why wasn’t I in the library at 10:00 pm spring of my 1L year, learning administrative and constitutional law? Today I am forced to make the most of my hours. It’s not 100 percent. I don’t believe in that either. Everyone needs a break. But sleep, activity, friends and dedication, that’s what you need to get through law school in tact.

Time to enjoy the mini-man for a few hours before it’s back to the books this evening.



law school happened

November 6, 2010

I graduate in six weeks. Looking at my last few posts from late summer and early fall 2008 (which are now archived since I imported my law school blog posts) it is like another world. The law school preparation, the nerves about student loans and books and studying, it all seems bizarre now. Today, I am a mother of a ridiculously adorable toddler, and almost an attorney at law. And those are just the big changes. Don’t get me wrong, I am still stressed. We are approaching the end of the semester, people. But it’s the impending change, not the fear of an exam, or writing a brief, that occupies my thoughts. And in times of transition, I must write. Unfortunately, the 100+ pages of substantive legal, essay and research writing I have done this semester have not quenched my cathartic writing needs.

So in two plus years, law school happened. I have some new friends and lots of new thoughts about things. And so much new knowledge. I have acquired the lawyerly thought process that is basically the output of law school (but no one tells you that before you start), which I both love and despise. I am no longer an ordinary person that thinks and speaks like everyone else. (I’m not saying lawyer-think is better, it’s just another thing entirely).

Lately as I talk to classmates about graduating in December people respond: “Oh yeah, you are done!” And it’s true. It’s basically done. It already happened – all that slow, incremental change to become a lawyer. From the first week of 1L ,when I had to literally figure out what exactly plaintiffs and defendants were, and then vendors and vendees (and now settlors and trustees and issue) and when the excessive use of the term “reasonable” seemed hilarious (now it seems natural!) and when the idea of accomplishing so much reading and thinking, in order to prepare for one test at the end of the semester, one test that would judge one’s performance, seemed terrifying and unreachable.

But law school doesn’t really make you a successful lawyer, there’s way more to that. So much that I am about to learn. But in six weeks, I will be certified, in a sense, to practice law. As much work as I have to complete between today and December 15th, it’s basically over. This is all just tying up loose ense. I have learned what I came to learn. I am about as ready as I can be to go into the world and be an immigration lawyer. That makes me scared, and it should. As much as it is frequently abused, becoming a professional is serious business, and I take it seriously.


It’s been so long blog…

November 6, 2010

Waaaay back in 2008, when I started law school, I decided to start another blog, mostly to be anonymous. I enjoyed some snarky law student blogs, and I thought I might try my hand at that. I blogged for a while, but there were still issues with anonymity, and then I mostly stopped blogging.

School was busy, and I was no longer in transition to law school anyway. I had settled in and had surprisingly few rant-y type outbursts to share anyway. I know it’s sick to some people, but I like law school.

The other reason I stopped writing is that I had a child! Any extra time for casual, cathartic, introspective writing has mostly been absorbed by Gabriel, a tiny and adorable person who makes other people want to have kids. (I know, I’m so biased but seriously, it is TRUE). 🙂

But more than a year after his birth, Gabriel just feels like a normal part of our lives now now. And, more importantly, it’s transition time again, which I will explain in another post. But that nagging voice in my head says I need to write And the law school blog, eh, it was never that good. I want to reclaim my laurafern voice. I like having six years of history in my archives, and someday I think I will go back and review so many things that I wrote about here. It’s the modern version of reading one’s old diaries, or even looking at an old photo album…. These old entries trigger memories of so many important thought processes, events and transitions in my life.

I think I just successfully imported the posts from the law school blog into this one. I don’t expect anyone to be especially interesting in reading them, but I want that continuous history.