Hands-on experience is vital preparation for practice. While a student at Villanova Law, Jesse Imbriano ’12, had early field experience in an in-house clinic that proved key in helping him find his passion and jumpstart his career in immigration law.
Imbriano currently serves as Legal Director for Casa Cornelia Law Center, a San Diego-based public interest law firm providing pro-bono legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations with a primary commitment to the southern California immigrant community. During his 2L and 3L years at Villanova Law, he worked with migrant populations through the School’s Clinic for Asylum, Refugee & Emigrant Services (CARES), under the mentorship of Villanova Law Professor and CARES Director Michele Pistone.
“CARES offered a very client-focused way of representation. I spent an entire semester working with one client, around the clock. It sets the standard for how this practice of law should be run and sets you up for the idea that this kind of work is intensive—it takes an incredible amount of work on each specific case to be successful,” Imbriano said.
According to Imbriano, having the opportunity early in his legal career to work through cases, build his knowledge base and represent individuals in immigration proceedings, had a snowball effect that led him to his current position with Casa Cornelia, where he works toward humanitarian protections for asylum-seekers, survivors of human trafficking, immigrant children, and other members of the southern California migrant population who have been victimized. Prior to joining Casa Cornelia in 2014, Imbriano worked for the Executive Office for Immigration Review in San Diego.
“Immigration work is a very good fit for me. I work directly with clients every day, both personally and through my staff. It’s a complex field, and that’s why most practitioners who do immigration work only do immigration work. I like that level of a challenge,” Imbriano said.
Imbriano encourages law students to try out different areas of law—even opposing sides of the same issue—early and often during law school.
“Take internships with the court or the opposing counsel,” he said. “Intern with prosecutors and public defenders so you get perspectives from both sides of the law. That will make you a better attorney.”
Imbriano also stresses the level of commitment necessary to pursue public interest law.
“Public interest law is a career path. Prepare for that commitment by learning as much as you possibly can before entering the field. Approach your work with humility and the understanding that you can always learn more,” he said.