Outreach effort: Area law student honored with 'Great Deeds Award'

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Cooley Law student Ulises Macias Robles was honored at the recent convocation with the Auburn Hills Student Great Deeds Award, presented by Cooley’s Center for Ethics, Service and Professionalism.

“It’s truly an honor,” he says.  “I never expected to be nominated out of all of the students in my campus, so it was a complete surprise.”

 Born and raised in El Salvador, Macias Robles moved to the United States in 1997 at the age of 14. He lived in Houston for three years, and Phoenix for 7 years, where he attended Central High School before going on to Arizona State University in nearby Tempe.

 He had many jobs before law school — from grocery stores to government service — and was in the U.S. Army Reserves for 30 months, and active Army for 3 years where he was a mechanic, and found work in the same field after his service. He also worked at a small immigration law firm in Phoenix.

One of a large family — with seven brothers and two sisters — he is the first person in his family to obtain a professional degree, and hopes to motivate other people to receive a higher education.

A second-year Cooley Law student, Macias Robles says he enjoys the quality of education at Cooley and looks forward to graduating and passing the bar exam.

“I’ve been exposed to many challenges and situations that have made me grow as a person and intellectually,” he says. “Also, I met many students, professors and staff who are great individuals.” 

Focusing most of his efforts in the field of immigration, he hopes to one day open his own immigration practice.

“I’ve witnessed many people, including myself, face injustice and discrimination,” he says. “I guess I believe a law degree will help my community — and me — to prosper.”

He volunteered for the Ford Pro Bono Project — which utilizes Spanish language skills of students while mentoring them on the fundamentals of Immigration Law — after seeing an announcement on a campus bulletin board asking for bilingual students to translate and interpret conversations between clients and attorneys.

“I contacted the person in charge because I’m fluent in Spanish and I worked on similar cases before,” he says.

He also volunteered for the Immigration Outreach Project, a program at Catholic Social Services in Oakland County that assists people seeking U.S. citizenship.

“I’m a naturalized U.S. citizen and I know some of the struggles and frustrations people have to go through with USCIS, so I got involved in this project to help out people who are going through the naturalization process,” he says. “Also, I gained valuable knowledge working at an immigration law firm, which can be applied in this project.”

In both these programs, Macias Robles devoted many hours to recruiting student volunteers to staff pro bono opportunities, worked closely with center staff officials to ensure support materials were delivered to these outreach sites, and translated numerous documents from English to Spanish.

He also volunteered in the Pre Law Summer Institute that provides historically underrepresented, low-income or otherwise disadvantaged undergrad students with over 100 hours of instruction in Torts, Logic and Critical Reasoning, Legal Writing, and Trial Advocacy; and volunteered at Just the Beginning Foundation Summer Legal Institute that inspires diverse high school students to enter the legal profession and assists in college admission and preparation.

“I got involved in both of these after being approached by Cooley — I wasn’t sure what I was getting into because I’d never participated in any program of that nature,” he says. “But I totally enjoyed it and had a great time teaching and learning with high school and college students.

“I guess the most rewarding part of volunteering with all of these different projects is the satisfaction I get from working with others and watching them succeed — whether it’s helping a high school student with an oral argument or getting a client’s citizenship approval from USCIS.” 

When not studying his law school material, the Bloomfield Hills resident enjoys fishing, playing sports, playing video games, and being a father to his 6-year-old daughter, for whom he is the primary custodial parent.

“She’s a blessing,” he says.

Macias Robles is also the president of Cooley’s Hispanic Latino Law Student Association.

“Ulises has quietly led by example, inspiring others to get involved as he has — and as a result, other students have gotten involved in these programs, expanding the positive impact he’s had on the community,” says Cooley Law Dean John Nussbaumer. “He’s a great example of the kind of leader and lawyer we hope our students will become.”