Big Law's Immigration Advocates

63 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2023 Last revised: 10 Feb 2024

See all articles by Jayanth K. Krishnan

Jayanth K. Krishnan

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Megan Riley

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Vitor M. Dias

Butler University

Date Written: February 17, 2023

Abstract

This study examines lawyers working in the federal appellate courts who represent immigrants seeking relief from deportation. By analyzing over 23,000 appellate cases during the Trump and Obama Administrations, the research here uncovers crucial findings. To begin, there was a statistically significant difference in the win rates of lawyers working pro bono and coming from the largest and most profitable, corporate “Big Law” firms compared to lawyers based in other, typically more specialized immigration practice settings. Specifically, during the Trump Administration, Big Law lawyers won at nearly three times higher a rate than non-Big Law lawyers in the federal appellate courts. During the Obama Administration, Big Law lawyers won over three times more often.

To supplement these quantitative results, interviews with Big Law and non-Big Law lawyers were conducted. As this study makes clear, it is not that those from Big Law firms are necessarily smarter or better at understanding immigration than non-Big Law practitioners. Indeed, there are certainly those lawyers in the latter cohort who do well in the appellate courts. Still, because of their enormous resource advantages, Big Law lawyers, on average, perform better because they have the luxury of selecting cases they believe are more likely to win. Additionally, Big Law firms have appellate specialists. They also have available personnel who can readily assist on these cases, as well as access to diverse research technologies and a keen familiarity with the federal courts’ norms – all of which are vital in preparing Big Law lawyers during the appeals process.

Of course, Big Law firms are only involved in a fraction of federal appellate deportation cases. Nevertheless, their relatively high win rate, and the reasons behind it, have serious implications for how immigrants who do not have this type of representation are able to obtain justice. Otherwise put, Big Law’s greater success rates sadly perpetuate the already existing inequalities within our immigration system and highlight the unfortunate reality that firms with resources are able to procure advantages and benefits that others may not be able to enjoy.

Keywords: Federal Courts, Immigration Law, Big Law

Suggested Citation

Krishnan, Jayanth K. and Riley, Megan and Martins Dias, Vitor, Big Law's Immigration Advocates (February 17, 2023). Vol. 2024 University of Illinois Law Review 101 (2024), Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4361876

Jayanth K. Krishnan (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.indiana.edu/about/people/details/krishnan-jayanth.html

Megan Riley

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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