American Dream: Lawyer helps immigrants find a new life in the U.S.


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Clara DeMatteis Mager understands first-hand what it is to immigrate to this country – and now she helps others achieve the same dream.

A native of the village of Corbellino in southern Italy, Mager came to Detroit as a child with her family. Her uncle sponsored her father, who in turn was able to sponsor his wife and children a few years later.

“We came to the U.S. and started our new life – the same story many immigrants share today,” says Mager, a shareholder based in Butzel Long’s Detroit office and the Practice Group Manager of the firm’s Immigration Group.

Although Mager started her legal career at Butzel Long working in real estate and state and local tax areas, within a couple of years she teamed up with James Bruno to develop the immigration law practice.

“As a new associate I thought it would be a terrific opportunity to become an expert in a new area, to have immediate and direct client contact and to work in an area of law that is very personal to the client,” she says.

Mager, who has focused on this area for 25 years, works primarily in the area of employment-based immigration, and provides training sessions to business clients on numerous immigration topics. 

“We’ve assisted new companies in establishing their offices in the U.S. and transferring or hiring foreign nationals,” she explains. “Ultimately we impact a person’s ability to work in the U.S. and to remain in the U.S., by obtaining work visas and status, lawful permanent residence/green card, and U.S. citizenship.” 

Newly elected to the board of the French-American Chamber of Commerce (FACC), Michigan Chapter, Mager is excited about her new role.

“I know the other board members and together we strive to plan events that include networking, education, and learning about French companies doing business in the U.S.,” she says. “I enjoy the collegiality and being part of the planning and strategic focus of the FACC.”

An upcoming highlight is the annual gala and awards ceremony to be held Friday, April 24 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills. The event, celebrating the ties that bring France and the United States together through Michigan companies with French roots or French leadership, will feature guest speaker Olivier François, Fiat brand CEO and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Chief Marketing Officer, and a member of the FCA Group Executive Council.

Mager has presented programs to the FACC, as well as to the German American Chamber of Commerce, Federal Bar Association, Italian American Bar Association, Wayne County Family Lawyers, and the Michigan Institute for Continuing Legal Education. She is a frequent speaker on business immigration to professional, educational and business organizations including Wayne Law, International Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, and APROMEX.

For the past 18 years, she has helped organize and has presented at Butzel Long’s full-day Immigration Seminar; and has been a speaker in the firm’s Annual Labor and Employment Forum.

A former president of the Italian American Bar Association of Michigan (IABAM) and former chair of the State Bar of Michigan International Law Section, Mager is also active in the Michigan Chapter
of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). She also volunteers with pro bono immigration work.

“It provides opportunities to give back to the community and to people who cannot afford the cost of legal services,” she says.

Listed in Best Lawyers in America, Michigan Super Lawyers, DBusiness Top Lawyers, and a Martindale-Hubbell featured AV Peer Review Rated Lawyer, Mager serves on the firm’s Strategic Planning Committee, is chairperson of the Diversity and Retention Committee, and a member of the Global Automotive Industry Group.

Mager got an early start in a law career by working part-time as a clerk for law firms while in high school. While earning her undergrad degree in Italian Language and Literature at Wayne State University, she worked as a legal secretary and paralegal, an experience that influenced her decision to attend law school.

Attending evening classes, she earned her J.D., cum laude, from Detroit College of Law – now Michigan State University College of Law – where she was a member of Law Review.

“Many of the students were also working full time and brought real life experiences to the study of law,” she says. “In addition to the academic legal perspective, DCL provided practical aspects of practicing law.”

Married with two daughters, Mager makes her home in Grosse Pointe Farms, where she enjoys sailing, skiing, knitting, and other crafts, and has been involved in many volunteer projects over the years including Gleaners Community Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity.

A graduate of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce Leadership Detroit XXII Class, she is a big supporter of the Motor City.

“I’ve always loved working in the City of Detroit, and I’ve seen the city change over the last few decades,” she says. “The developments in the past couple of years are very encouraging – with young people, apartments, new restaurants and more, the city has a bright future. I enjoy meeting friends and colleagues in Detroit, exploring new places and restaurants, going to Tigers games, the Detroit Athletic Club, and being close to home.”


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