How I Got My Job: Kimberly Herrera, SJQ 2011, Associate at Ishola-Tarin



Where were you working after you graduated in December and what did you do/are you doing?  I am working for a GREAT immigration law firm, Ishola-Tarin, PLLC.  I interviewed with them the day after my last final but I did not really start working until after I took the Bar exam because they wanted me to focus on that.

When and how did you first make contact with your employer?   I first made contact with my employer at the beginning of the summer after my 1L year.  I was interested in immigration law and signed up for the pro bono clinic at the Immigration Court.  Linda Smith gave me the contact information for Aaron Tarin who would be my supervisor.  I started to go to the court regularly to perform pro bono intakes for detained immigrants in removal proceedings and see if they qualified for any type of relief from removal.  As part of the clinic I also helped Aaron with a few pro-bono cases that he was working on.  At the time I was not thinking about long term employment plans but I was eager to learn and took every opportunity I could to meet other attorneys.  A lot of immigration attorneys are solo practitioners and do not hire associates.  I thought that I may have to start my own solo practice after law school and I figured that I needed a lot of mentors.

How did you get the job?  Throughout my last semester I asked almost every immigration attorney I knew if they knew of anybody who would want to hire a new associate and I did not get many affirmative answers.  In November 2010, I asked Aaron if his firm would be interested in hiring a new attorney and he told me they were not interested at that time.  Then Aaron and his firm partner Hakeem Ishola asked me to help draft a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Utah Supreme Court.  It was a great opportunity, so I accepted.  Then in early December, the day after I submitted my draft, Aaron and Hakeem called me and asked me to come to their office to discuss a job offer.

What kinds of things do you think helped you land your job?  I definitely think that participation in the clinical program was the key for me to land my job.  In hindsight, the most valuable experiences I had in law school stem from the clinical program.  It is really a great way to get hands-on experience and to meet great attorneys.  I now realize that attorneys really were watching me and evaluating my work even when I didn’t realize it and I had no idea that it would later lead to a job offer.  I also think that participating in other programs, like the Horizonte Clinic and the American Immigration Lawyers Association meetings also helped me to gain experience and to show hiring attorneys that I was serious about my interest in immigration law.

What tips do you have for students who are job seeking?  I think it is important to always act professionally, accept every opportunity to do work—whether it is paid or pro bono, always do your best work, and turn things in on time, because it may lead to a job offer.  Also, participating in the clinical program, and volunteering at the pro-bono clinics, etc., is the best way to gain experience and it will make you be more “employable.”  Finally, even though this is hard for most people, I think that having an interest in a specific area of law is also helpful because employers will be more interested investing time training you if they know you are excited about the area of law and plan to stick with it.