Asked & Answered

Quick conversations with a DACA “Dreamer,” a chief justice, and other Suffolk Law change agents

Whether it’s an immigration attorney appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court in a mass deportation case, the leader of the national bar presidents organization getting people to rethink the meaning of citizenship, a law firm partner standing up for diversity and inclusion, or one of many other change agents, Suffolk Law graduates are making an impact.

We chose a small group of alumni and asked each one a question about their work. Their answers follow.

Law student sitting in classroom at Suffolk.
Leila Fajardo Giles JD'18, a Peruvian immigrant and enrollee in the DACA "Dreamer" program, represented a Central American teen in an asylum case.

Leila Fajardo Giles JD'18

As an immigrant with personal experience in the immigration system, I thought, “Now I’m in a position where I can use my legal knowledge to help someone else who might not have a voice.” My client, a woman not much younger than I am, was able to avoid a life of persecution, and that was the proudest moment of my Law School career.

My main role was preparing her for her asylum interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. I spent many hours helping her detail the severe abuse she suffered in her home country and preparing the legal argument for the case.

Fajardo Giles is an immigration law clerk at Barrales Law in Boston.
Paul Reiber, the chief justice of Vermont.
Paul Reiber JD'74 is chief justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont and president of the Conference of Chief Justices.

Paul Reiber

A central focus of my work is access to justice. Equal access to justice is the cornerstone of our democracy. This year I am proud to be working with so many who are dedicated to this principle. All who work in our profession have a special responsibility to the institutions of democracy and in particular to the quality of justice. The people’s trust in government, in the rule of law, is threatened if our system of justice is unfair, arbitrary, or beyond the means of those who come to court. I am grateful to all who work to enhance public trust through support of the work of state courts to improve access to justice.
Suffolk alum standing in classroom.
Jennifer Parent JD'95 is the president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and Director & Chair of the Litigation Department at McLane Middleton.

Jennifer Parent JD'95

When I served as president of the New Hampshire Bar Association, we presented an interactive civics program using questions from the U.S. citizenship test. The reactions of audience members were interesting when we didn’t reveal the source of the questions until the end. We asked, “Do you know where we got these questions from? Could you have passed the test? Would you be a U.S. citizen today?”

Recently, one of many innovative National Conference of Bar Presidents’ programs included educating bar leaders about hackathons. The idea is to bring together lawyers and a diverse array of stakeholders to collaboratively work on tangible solutions to legal services problems. For example, the “Mansfield Rule” came out of a hackathon.

Editor's note: Law firms that pledge to follow the “Mansfield Rule,” modeled on the NFL’s Rooney Rule, require that at least 30 percent of the candidates for leadership and governance roles are women and minorities.
Image of Suffolk alum in building.
Deborah Marson JD'78 is the vice president, general counsel, and secretary of Iron Mountain, where she also serves as one of the leaders of the Fortune 700 company's social responsibility efforts. 

Deborah Marson JD'78

If you’re serving in a role where you have the ability to impact the trajectory of a person’s career, I think it’s useful to consider the difference between mentorship and sponsorship.

I see a mentor providing meaningful advice about managing one’s career, defining goals, and helping move through work challenges. A lot of people at a company give advice on how to channel your skill set. They may tell you to “find a big project to highlight your skills.”

But sometimes advice isn’t enough. You need a sponsor to clear the way. A sponsor is willing to step off of the sidelines, spend some of her social capital, and take a risk to help someone move ahead.

If you have a good chemistry with a younger person or someone new to the field, someone who brings a combination of intellect, desire, leadership skills, and work ethic, you ought to consider taking on the more active role of sponsorship.

Marson is a member of the Dean’s Cabinet and served on the Suffolk University Board of Trustees for eight years. This fall, she received the Law School’s inaugural Marian Archer Trailblazer Award.
Suffolk alum standing in Law Firm hallway.
E. Macey Russell is a partner in the Litigation Department at Choate Hall & Stewart LLP in Boston. 

E. Macey Russell JD'83

Minority attorneys in law firms have difficulty finding committed teachers, mentors, and sponsors willing to help them reach their full professional potential. In particular, minority attorneys face barriers that include (i) senior partners, an overwhelming majority of whom are white, generally lack “socialization experiences” with minorities that might allow relationships to develop organically, and (ii) unconscious and implicit bias of senior partners. These barriers are evident in studies finding that people tend to connect with people who look like them and have similar life experiences. As an additional barrier, minority attorneys are not fully aware, prepared, and equipped to handle these challenges. To further complicate matters, senior partners focus almost exclusively on client service and profitability without regard to diversity and inclusion. Law firms should focus on providing senior partners with leadership and diversity training to better equip them to teach, mentor, and sponsor minority attorneys that they invite to work at their firms.

As quoted in 7 Litigation Commentary & Rev. 75 (edited for brevity)

In December 2018, Russell was honored with the Boston Bar Association Voice of Change Award for advancing diversity and inclusion in the profession. He serves on Suffolk University’s Board of Trustees.
Suffolk alum standing on the steps of a courthouse.
This past June, immigration attorney Jeffrey B. Rubin JD'98 of Rubin Pomerleau in Boston served as co-counsel before the U.S. Supreme Court in Pereira v. Sessions. He and his partner, along with three lawyers from Goodwin Procter, won the case in an 8-1 decision. Justice Alito dissented. 

Jeffrey B. Rubin JD'98

My client, Wescley Pereira, is one of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who received notices to appear in immigration court for deportation proceedings that had no date, time, or place listed. Immigration rules state that immigrants’ deportation may be waived if they can prove that they have lived in the U.S. for 10 years without significant breaks in their stay and if they have been of good moral character. The clock on your stay—working toward that 10 years—stops once you receive a notice to appear.

The Supreme Court agreed with us that a notice devoid of detail shouldn’t stop the clock, and that has meant that thousands of immigrants nationwide now qualify for relief and possibly thousands more will have their cases outright dismissed. Many, if not most, have no criminal record and are supporting families that have U.S. citizens in them. In an otherwise dark time with mass deportation, this case has been a huge bright spot.

Suffolk alum standing in the courtroom.
Kwabena Kyei-Aboagye, Jr. JD'09 serves as an environmental program manager for the United States Environmental Protection Agency. In May 2019, he also will have a new role: a lifetime position as chief of the town of Dwenase, Ghana. 

Kwabena Kyei-Aboagye, Jr. JD'09

One of the biggest challenges in the town is schistosomiasis, a disease second only to malaria in terms of its toll on human health, according to WHO. The disease causes anemia and malnutrition. Gold mining has polluted the river in the town, leaving large areas of the river stagnant and a breeding ground for disease. For many years, I have been working with engineering professors from the U.S. on studying the makeup of the water and identifying safe alternative spots where children can bathe. We've also been working on plans for returning the river to its natural flow, including reforestation along the banks. 

One of my goals as chief is to move the people of the town away from the destruction of mining and instead encourage large-scale farming where we would grow cocoa crops and open a chocolate-producing factory.