By Ani Torossian • November 11, 2016•Law School, Pre-Law
This week, take a look at Ms. JD's Q&A with Elly Jordan, a supervising attorney in the Immigration Law Clinic at Michigan State University College of Law.
What drew you to law school? First as a law student and then as a professional.
I never thought I would be a lawyer. Frankly, it never occurred to me growing up and even through undergraduate school. I wanted my career to be one that helped others and so I pursued macro-level social work and international development. Indeed, it was not until after I had been working for a few years in the nonprofit sector that I began to see the difference that lawyers could make and the ways in which being a lawyer could be my vehicle to serve others. Two experiences stick out in my mind: (1) I volunteered to teach preparation classes to individuals seeking U.S. citizenship, and there were a number of lawyers working in the agency through which I volunteered. I was taken by how much they were helping their clients with a plethora of issues emanating from the clients’ immigration status. I remember thinking that those attorneys were really making a difference in the lives of their clients. (2) While working as a grassroots organizer for human rights in Central America, I helped draw attention to the plight of a small group of political prisoners, and had the opportunity to work with their lawyers to push for their release. That sealed the deal for me, as I watched the attorneys navigate and resolve a true crisis. I wanted to be that kind of force for good.
How has your career trajectory evolved to include serving as a grassroots organizer for human rights in Central America?
Now I feel that my career has come full circle because I am assisting many Central American children. They are often fleeing the situation that I was so desperately trying to draw attention to while I was educating the U.S. public on issues like poverty and violence in Central America. I still deeply believe that more must be done to affect these root causes of the immigrant crisis, but in the meantime I feel lucky to have the opportunity to welcome and assist some of its most vulnerable victims.
Could you give an example of some of the work conducted for the Immigration Law Clinic and what you enjoy about being a staff attorney for the clinic?
I am a Supervising Attorney at the Immigration Law Clinic, where I help students manage a varied caseload of humanitarian immigration matters. For example, I provide scaffolding so that students can effectively assist abused or abandoned children seek lawful permanent residence and survivors of domestic violence. I also teach Refugee and Asylum Law at the Law College. This is a great opportunity to educate students on a poorly understood and extraordinarily rewarding area of law.
What does it mean to succeed and thrive as a law student?
To be the best version of yourself in law school and not get bogged down in what others think or what they are doing. Being self-aware before you begin is a must. I recommend the writing of Dr. Brenee Brown, especially Daring Greatly as personal growth reading before deciding to attend law school or at least before beginning.
Do you have any recommendations for pre-law students as they prepare for law school?
I highly recommend this book as a quick read to get your brain in the practice of thinking the way you will need to as a law student and lawyer.
How have you integrated work-life balance in your endeavors, and what advice do you have for those who are about to immerse themselves in such a demanding career?
I’ll let you know when I figure this out! I’m only sort of kidding. This is a work in progress for us all and should be understood as a fluid concept. Be sure to become aware of what you need to be happy and healthy before you begin law school. Be intentional about making sure you get enough sleep and exercise and spend as little time on social media as possible—it is rife with insecurity-fueling messages and distractions. I have been working on balancing motherhood and lawyering for nearly four years now, and overall, it I think the most important thing is to take a long view and decide what is most important to you before getting into it. We are the only people who can give our children self-actualized parents. No one else can make that happen for them and give them that gift. Once you decide what will get you up in the morning, do it, and don’t feel the need to apologize for your choice. From there, know that there will be days when you feel like you are letting everyone down and don’t let them get in the way of enjoying your little successes.