PBRC recently chatted with Rachel Zoghlin, a Senior Attorney at Grossman Law LLC in Bethesda. Rachel volunteered her time to create an “Immigration 101” webinar, training pro bono attorneys to represent immigrant children in Maryland state courts for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) requests.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I graduated from American University Washington College of Law in May 2012, and was licensed to practice in Maryland in December 2012. I began working at Grossman Law as an intern during law school and have been here ever since; I first worked as a legal fellow and, after I was admitted to practice, as an attorney.
Have you done pro bono work before?
I am regularly involved in pro bono work for immigrants facing deportation. I also volunteer my time at immigration-related legal clinics (previously for DACA, citizenship applications, immigrants facing removal, etc.).
What is the most important part of PBRC’s work for you?
Helping attorneys be better prepared to help their clients in important, life-changing work.
What’s important about pro bono services for low-income clients?
Non-citizens have a right to counsel in immigration proceedings but, unlike in criminal court, counsel is not provided to them at government expense. However, like in criminal court, the consequences of these proceedings can mean freedom or incarceration, or even life or death.
Studies show that immigrants who are represented by counsel fare markedly better than those who are unrepresented. Among detained immigrants, those with legal representation are twice as likely as unrepresented immigrants to obtain immigration relief (49% versus 23%). Represented immigrants who were never detained are nearly five times more likely than their unrepresented counterparts to obtain relief (63% versus 13%).
Particularly for those who are fleeing violence and death threats, having an attorney can make all the difference between liberty and incarceration, or life and death.
Anything you would like to tell other lawyers/paralegals/interpreters considering pro bono work?
Most lawyers I know went to law school to make a difference. Some wonder whether they are making a difference. Pro bono work, particularly for immigrant clients, leaves no doubt as to your impact on others’ lives. “To change one life is to change the world.”