You’ve got seven years in immigration law, including practice with two Madison firms, but you want to specialize in immigration law. What do you do?
If you’re Alicia Armstrong, you open your own law office at 1003 W. Main in Sun Prairie.
Armstrong began as a paralegal in Madison in 2005 after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature (she also speaks Spanish fluently). Although she studied in Madrid for one year, she later moved to New York City and worked at two law firms. She also volunteered for several years a U.S. Civics & Citizenship teacher with El Centro de Educación de Trabajadores in Manhattan.
In New York, she interned at the HIV Law project and served as a student representative in immigration court for an entire academic year through the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law’s Refugee Rights Clinic. She earned her juris doctor degree from CUNY in 2011 and returned to Madison where she practiced with Madison firms Lopez Law Group and Grzeca Law Group SC.
In November, she opened Alicia C. Armstrong Law Office to reach underserved communities with affordable immigration services – hopefully, she said, by establishing ties to non-profit organizations, faith communities and other service providers.
“I just decided the time was right to go out on my own . . . because the way I want to do things may be different than the traditional law firm mentality, the traditional law firm paradigm,” Armstrong said. That includes working with non-profit organizations and social service agencies and finding clients through non-traditional networking.
Among the services she provides:
• Family based immigration services, including work permits, green cards and related issues;
• Non-immigrant and immigrant visas;
• Removal, or deportation, defense;
• Naturalization to U.S. citizenship;
• Individual and merit-based immigration law, such as U Visa, VAWA and DACA;
• Defense or representation with traffic violations, minor criminal charges, post-conviction relief, no contact orders and guardian ad-litem assistance.
• Asylum, and other various immigration areas.
“A lot of people don’t have status right now under current immigration law . . . so they don’t have health care, they don’t have access to services and it’s important to have a network of community ties and faith-based organizations you know you can refer people to,” Armstrong said, “and they’ll be able to get the help they need.”
People in the U.S. without legal immigration status can barely afford to pay their lawyer, Armstrong said. Another challenge is that federal immigration law is argued in federal immigration court in Chicago or in Milwaukee at hearings. While she can’t do anything about the location of federal offices or courts, she can address the fee problem.
“I think that since I’m often working with a ‘price sensitive’ clientele, it necessarily sets my practice apart from traditional firms— especially with billing structures and customer service,” Armstrong said.
“I’m aiming to build the structure and nature of my services to fit the needs of my particular clients.”
To that end, Armstrong is offering a free unlimited duration consultation one day a week, which is Tuesdays in 2013 and may be changed in 2014.
She also offers a free 30-minute consultation every day, and after 30 minutes, consultations at $50 per half-hour.
Armstrong says all case work is done on a flat fee basis, with payment plans available.
Landlord-tenant issues, green card renewals, and filing for citizenship are among typical cases.
“Then sometimes there are cases that are more complicated,” Armstrong said. “Victims of violence visas, or domestic abuse spouse petitions . . . it becomes very difficult for them to access help. Even to call police when they need to, they’re afraid to.”
Clients come from Dane, Waukesha, Columbia, Rock and Dodge counties now. “I get calls from all over the place,” she admitted, “and Milwaukee too. I think it’s a national issue.”
While her arguments are before immigration court in Chicago, she also works with immigration officials in Milwaukee, where a federal office is located.
“If you’re in deportation, I go to Chicago. Otherwise, for administrative matters, I go to Milwaukee for hearings.”
Of course, she uses video conferencing and online software to keep clients connected to their cases regardless of their location.
As if she’s not busy enough with practicing law, Armstrong also makes presentations to school and community groups about immigration law. She tailors the length of her presentations based on the time demands of the group.
Presentation topics include current and proposed immigration reform; accessing immigration benefits; the intersection of family and criminal law with immigration issues; and your rights and what you need to know about deportation.
Armstrong admitted she is still getting the legal lay of the land in Sun Prairie, but is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin and plans to join the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce. She has represented clients in Dane County Circuit Court.
Armstrong is already very involved in the legal community.
She is a board member of the New Lawyers Section of the Dane County Bar Association, volunteers for the Legal Action of Wisconsin, Volunteer Lawyers Project in Madison, and Small Claims Assistance Program of the Dane County, and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the Legal Association for Women, and the National Lawyers Guild.
“I’m hoping to get more involved in the community here,” Armstrong added, “and check out the courts and talk to people there.”
Alicia C. Armstrong Law Office
1003 W. Main
Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday or unless in court.
Phone: (262) 298-9677
For more info, e-mail ACArmstrong.Esq@gmail.com