Joey Michalakes Reflects on Experience at HIRC

By Joey Michalakes, JD ’16

This past summer, I had the enormous honor of working as the Cleary Gottlieb Summer Fellow at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC).  Over the course of a very busy but thrilling three months, my work at HIRC provided a comprehensive introduction to the world of immigration legal services.  Under the supervision of HIRC’s fantastic clinical faculty, including Professor Deborah Anker, Sabi Ardalan, Phil Torrey, Emily Leung, and Maggie Morgan, I represented clients seeking a variety of forms of immigration relief and was able to hone an important array of legal skills at different stages of the litigation process.

I loved coming to work at HIRC because each day was fast-paced and presented new challenges, many of which I will remember for the rest of my life.  A mere three weeks into the internship, I was already sitting before an immigration judge in downtown Boston, arguing motions at a pretrial conference for our clients seeking cancellation of removal for certain nonpermanent residents.  In that same case, I was asked to draft and then meticulously revise a pretrial brief laying out my client’s claims, knowing that the time I spent crafting legal arguments and telling my client’s story could make all the difference in her case.  Another morning, I proceeded directly from leading our weekly case meeting with an asylum seeker fleeing gang violence in Central America to sitting in on an intake interview with a family of Middle Eastern political dissidents and playing with their children.  I also got the chance to manage an I-730 relative petition for an East African woman seeking to bring her children to the United States after almost four years apart.

The legal training I got at HIRC this summer was invaluable.  Debbie, Sabi, Phil, Emily, and Maggie never hesitated to answer any questions, no matter how trivial, and were quick to provide comprehensive feedback on my written work.  More importantly, they were excellent role models—the passion they have for their clients, and for just and humane immigration laws, is evident in their work and how they treat all visitors to the office.  Watching them work helped me learn how to effectively, but compassionately, interview clients and witnesses, especially those suffering from the kinds of trauma characteristic of many asylum seekers. My experience as the Cleary Fellow will stay with me for the rest of my legal career.  I am extremely grateful to have spent my first law school summer in such a warm, welcoming, and mission-driven place.  Thanks very much to the entire HIRC staff for everything!