Below is an excerpt from the publication:
In spring 2019, the U.S. government sent dozens of transgender asylum-seeking women who presented at the U.S. border to an ill-equipped, all-male facility in Pearsall, Texas. Responding to the urgent call to action, litigators in Duane Morris’ Philadelphia office, Wolfsohn and Marandola, traveled to Pearsall several times to help represent the women. In one case, Wolfsohn and Marandola obtained asylum for Erika, a 24-year-old transgender woman from Honduras. As a child, she was abused by her family because of her female gender identity and was kicked out of her family home at 12 years old. Erika moved to a shelter for homeless youth, where she was assaulted by an employee. At 14, she ran away and was forced into sex work. Erika was assaulted many times prior to her 18th birthday and experienced the murder of one of her friends—also a transgender woman. Erika sought assistance from the police, but just was mocked. At 18 years old, the Honduran government unlawfully denied Erika government ID that would allow her to seek employment because she presented as a woman. As a result, Erika again was forced into sex work.
Traveling to Pearsall—in the very remote, southwest part of Texas—several times, Wolfsohn and Marandola prepared and defended Erika in her removal proceedings, briefing and arguing a full-day hearing before the Immigration Court located inside the Pearsall Detention Center. Erika was granted asylum; she now lives in Houston and hopes to be an advocate and positive example to fellow transgender women.
What career path would you have pursued if you weren’t a lawyer? Law was kind of my third career, so we already have empirical evidence of this! I tried to build a career as a classical pianist, and got moderately far, but realized there were people way more talented than me who were struggling. Plus the classical music biz is pretty vicious—a lot more than law, by the way. I started working as a freelance copy editor while working on my music career and then continued doing that to support myself through law school. So I learned to perform with my first career; and I learned to write in my second. [...]
What is the best advice you ever received? Anyone can learn the law; mastery of the facts is way more important.
In 50 words or less, what does the legal profession need to do to prepare the next generation of lawyers? We have to give the next generation the opportunities we had. Frankly, that means valuing professionalism over financial compensation. This profession is incredibly rewarding if you focus on the craft, rather than on money.
What career path would you have pursued if you weren’t a lawyer? If not law, I probably would have tried to make a career in academia. Teaching has always appealed to me, and I had several professors who had a significant impact on how I read, think, and approach problems to this day. So I probably would have pursued an advanced degree in history with an eye toward teaching at the university level. [...]
What is the best advice you ever received? My great-grandfather used to say that you should never say no to an opportunity because you think you don’t know enough or aren’t skilled enough to do it. His advice was to say yes, and then work hard to learn how to do it as best you can. That advice has served me well as a lawyer so far, and led to some of the most rewarding pro bono representations I’ve had.
In 50 words or less, what does the legal profession need to do to prepare the next generation of lawyers? We need to work hard to instill the importance of civic responsibility. Our country is finally recognizing how unevenly justice is often distributed, and lawyers are in a unique position to help meaningfully change that through pro bono work and other types of advocacy.
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