The opportunity to engage in direct-service legal work for clients is a unique component of Cornell’s first-year curriculum. The 1L Immigration Law and Advocacy Clinic is designed to provide first-year law students with the experience of counseling clients on immigration cases, performing research and writing for real cases, and engaging in community advocacy on emerging immigration issues. Immigration law is always changing and has a tremendous impact on the community, making legal work in this area challenging, relevant, and versatile. First-year students in the clinic will develop skills in legal analysis, client-centered lawyering, public speaking, and more.
After their first year, upper-class law students may have the opportunity to continue their work as an advanced student in Immigration Law and Advocacy Clinic II, or they may apply to other clinical programs at the law school.
“This course was the most amazing experience I’ve had at Cornell Law School. I’m not sure I will ever have an experience as formative as this one again, but I am eternally grateful for the effort both faculty put into guiding us through this clinic and giving us the opportunities to engage with real legal substance by doing genuine work. This clinic reminded me of the reasons why I elected to attend law school in the first place — namely, the fact that I wanted to utilize my resources and my opportunities to fight for those who’ve gone unheard and undefended for far too long. This clinic was a bright spot in my first year — one that has likely altered the trajectory of my legal career in a radical way.”
~Nathaniel Squires ’25
“I am incredibly grateful for my experience in the clinic. I’ve learned so many new skills and perspectives that have forever changed my understanding of what it means to be a good advocate.”
~Lucy Oh ’25
“I am so unbelievably grateful to have been a part of the 1L Immigration Law and Advocacy Clinic. Clinical work is an incredibly rewarding and fundamental aspect of American legal education, but it is rare for first-year students to have the opportunity to engage with clients in a tangible way due to the demanding nature of the first year of law school. Professor Kelley-Widmer always took first-year demands and expectations into consideration and did an excellent job assigning a manageable amount of work without sacrificing rigor. Having the opportunity to work with clients and present to community members about immigration policy changes transformed my first year, made me into a better student, and prepared me for the summer job search in a way no other first-year experience could have. I would highly encourage all first-year students to apply!
~Camilah Hamideh ’22
“Working in the clinic was an invaluable opportunity to have so early in my legal career. Having hands on experience with clients on a variety of immigration related issues and the hurdles they face helped me solidify the type of legal work I wanted to do. The experiences I gained transcended immigration law and gave me insight into effective advocacy, client relations, and the political influences on the law in a broader sense.”
~Siunik Moradian ’22
“Working on the ground in Dilley, Texas, gave me invaluable experience beyond the classroom setting. It made me a better advocate and taught me an incredible amount about the intricacies of asylum law.”
~Emily Szopinski ’20
“Representing DACA students and delivering Know Your Rights presentations on the greater Cornell campus through the clinic was the most rewarding experience of my law school career. It was an honor to do important, hands-on work in a time where immigration lawyers were (and continue to be) needed more than ever. The clinic’s focus on providing students the full opportunity and support to take up immigration and community-based lawyering projects gave me the tools to make administrative advocacy and litigation a meaningful part of my practice after graduation.”
~Amanda Wong ’19
“Working with asylum seekers was the most rewarding experience I have had in law school. Because asylum seekers don’t have a right to a lawyer at government expense, I know that the work we did was an incredibly important part of the process to help asylum seekers find safety in the U.S. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity while still in school to put my law degree to good use.”
~Hillary Rich ’19