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Immigration attorney enjoys special connection to her work

By Jeanine Matlow
Legal News

It's been 35 years since Alexandra LaCombe came to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union. Now, as a partner in Fragomen Worldwide, a law firm that handles employment-based immigration, she helps others who come here to pursue the American dream.

Due to her background, the Columbia Law School graduate has a passion for this particular niche.

"In the world of large global transfers, some companies bring people here in droves for three to six months to launch a vehicle, or they might come here to lecture for a semester or a year," LaCombe says. "There are a multitude of companies that need legal services; a lot of our corporate clients are global."

LaCombe, who is the managing partner of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, PLLC, in Troy, also works with high-profile individuals, such as athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs.

She seemed destined for the field.

"When we first came to the U.S., we didn't know what jobs were available compared to the Soviet Union," she explains. "I always leaned toward liberal arts, and my mom heard that lawyers were respected in the U.S. I thought I could work with refugees since I came as a refugee. I could help people like us."

Soon she would switch to employment-based immigration as the demand grew. Now married with two sons, LaCombe returned to Michigan following law school, Currently, LaCombe is an adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, where she teaches immigration law with another colleague.

As she explains, they approach the class from a practitioner's point of view.

"It's supposed to model how a law firm actually works. We roleplay with students and have mock meetings with clients. It's supposed to mimic the real world."

She also serves as a board member for the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, which performs in Jackson and Canton.

LaCombe, who has long been active onstage in community theater, has attended the Stratford Festival for the past 20 years where she has gotten to know some performers and been invited to watch rehearsals.

"It's fascinating how a play is put on. I do one when I have time, but I have had very little time lately," she says.

Her oldest son seems to have caught the theater bug as he performs in regional theater in Chicago.

LaCombe is also known for her artistic nails that she does herself.

"It's nice to have a little bit of self-expression," she says of the decals that range from neon pink to polka dots.

Her biggest transformation came when she reluctantly agreed to get a domestic pet, a Beagle/Whippet mix that now has her own Facebook page.

"I was flabbergasted because I always disliked and feared dogs" says LaCombe, who is now positively smitten with the four-legged family member.

She's also developed a case of what she calls "adult onset running" that was inspired by a friend. Since LaCombe was already an avid walker, she's trying to make the transition to picking up the pace.

However she chooses to spend her spare time, her profession allows her to do so.

"This is work that helps somebody accomplish something and I have work-life balance. It's not a bad gig," she says. "Because it's transactional, I'm able to go home in the evening and I feel pretty good about what I do. I lead a normal life and I have some satisfaction knowing that I help people."

Christa Minnick, an associate attorney with the firm, has worked with LaCombe for quite some time.

"We work in such a small office. It's a very large firm with very large resources and benefits, but the Michigan office is very small, so we're more like a family," she says.

Minnick has nothing but praise for LaCombe.

"She is very driven and successful. She's someone we all admire in that respect," she says.

Coming to the U.S. from Russia puts LaCombe in a unique position.

"She has a different compassion because she knows what it's like to be new to a country," says Minnick. "I don't know when she sleeps. She's involved with theater, not just behind the scenes, but in shows too. It's a lot of fun to see someone in that setting."

LaCombe seems to make a good impression wherever she goes.

"She's just one of those people, when she sets a goal she follows through. She's been a great mentor too," says Minnick, who started as a paralegal while attending law school. "That's a testament to the kind of person she is all around."

Published: Mon, Jun 13, 2016

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