Ellen Freeman, a leading business immigration attorney and former partner at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, has a mission for her new Pittsburgh-based solo immigration practice: restore dignity to the immigration process.
Freeman, who opened the Ellen Freeman Immigration Law Group PLLC this month, told Law360 that her own background coming to the U.S. decades ago as both a refugee and a single mom and adjusting to life in a new country has helped her to relate to her clients, pushing her to want to make Pittsburgh a more welcoming place for immigrants.
“I’ve had a tough experience adjusting into the society, learning the rules, learning the society and then going to graduate school,” she said. “I relate to my clients very much and understand when somebody, even if they’re a professor at the university or a high-level executive — but if you’re being asked everyday, ‘What’s your status? What’s your status? What status do you have? What are your documents? Show me your documents’ — it’s a very undignified experience,” she said. “I realized my goal as a mission is to restore the dignity.”
Freeman has practiced immigration law for two decades, focusing on employment and family-based immigration across multiple industries, including hospitals and academic institutions. Before joining Porter Wright, where she helped open the firm’s Pittsburgh office in September 2017, she served as a partner at K&L Gates LLP for seven years. She has also previously worked as an attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC and at Cohen & Grigsby PC, and she serves as an elected board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Freeman said that she initially wanted to become a litigator, but took an immigration course in law school “out of curiosity.” Later, shortly after her career as an attorney started, she was placed in the immigration department at Cohen & Grigsby.
“At first I thought, ‘Oh my, that’s not what I had in mind at all.’ But it’s grown on me,” Freeman said. “I’ve realized I’m really good at it. I’m very personable; I relate to people. I like people’s stories. I remember their life.”
Freeman said she now spends about 95 percent of her time in employment immigration, including L-1 intracompany transferee visas, E-2 investor visas and permanent labor certifications and green card applications, while about 5 percent of her time is spent on family-based immigration for her clients’ employees.
While starting her own firm has been challenging — from developing business continuity plans to searching for office space — she said that her corporate clients have all followed her to her new practice.
“I was extremely grateful to those relationships that I’ve developed and sustained,” Freeman said, adding that she had received “a lot of sisterhood and a lot of comradery” in support of her move to open her own practice.
Freeman hopes to partner with larger law firms to assist with immigration matters, and to encourage local universities to invest in their international students and help keep those graduates working in the community. As a solo practitioner, she said she can be more efficient and flexible with clients, allowing her to better customize solutions for them.
“It’s nice to be your own boss,” she said. “You for the first time are able to define your own brand, without just being the subculture of the larger law firm.”
Original Source: law360.com