This is what it’s like to be an immigration attorney in 2018

How Jennifer De Haro, one of the country’s top immigration lawyers, handles 30+ immigration cases at a time without burning out.

This is what it’s like to be an immigration attorney in 2018
[Photo: Trevor Paulhus]

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our feature, “Secrets of 13 of the most productive people.” See the complete 2018 list here.


I oversee all the legal work and manage our team of attorneys, legal assistants, and administrative staff in Fort Worth, Texas. That involves figuring out how many cases we can take, [devising] legal strategies, and managing attorneys and project managers in our [five] other offices. I have my own caseload as well, about 30 cases that I’m actively working on, and about 60 that are pending.

I go to the detention center about every other week. It’s sensory overload. Heavy, locked doors are constantly being opened and shut, making loud, banging sounds, so it’s hard to hear my client speak. The guards walk up and down the hall with their walkie-talkies, and we can constantly hear their communication with the other guards. It is very distracting. The meeting rooms are barren and drab, with fluorescent lighting. It’s not conducive to people opening up and telling me about the worst moments of their lives. It is a dehumanizing and draining experience.

I’ve learned to just allow myself to feel sad and then move forward. After I experience sadness over having lost a case or some awful new policy, like separating children from their parents, I try to find an outlet–either exercise or talking with coworkers. Humor helps.

I also make sure to have regularly scheduled self-care days in our office where we do something fun and take a break from the serious nature of our work. I think it helps prevent burnout.

Time she gets up

6:30 a.m.

First thing she does in the morning

“I listen to the news while I get ready for work.”


Productivity philosophy

“Know your limits. In every line of work, there’s pressure to take on more. That’s especially true in nonprofit because there’s always somebody who needs help, and we want to help. But I know that if I take on too many cases or too many commitments, it’s going to stress me out. I would be doing a disservice to the cases I already have. And I let my staff know that: If they can’t do something, they don’t have to feel bad about that.”

What she does with 15 minutes of free time

“What I’ve really enjoyed this past year is an online space where a group of other attorneys commiserate or share funny stories. I like to scan through that forum and see what other people are experiencing right now.”

Best habit

“Going to the gym. When I’m tired, I know I still need to do it because it’ll keep me healthy and burn off some stress.”

Nightly routine

“The end of the day is when I like to look at social media. I think there’s some study that says you’re not supposed to, but I sleep just fine.”

Time she goes to bed

“A little past 11.”