Change of pace: Former paralegal aims to keep career options open

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Law student Alicia Rodriguez spent more than five years as an immigration paralegal.
Photo courtesy of Alicia Rodriguez


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Alicia Rodriguez found her interest in the legal field was sparked when she grew up watching the popular TV shows “Criminal Minds” and “Law and Order.”

But the 1L Detroit Mercy Law School student took a few twists and turns before heading to law school.

She started by studying occupational therapy at Illinois State University, but after a freshman year class in American history and the legal system, changed her major to political science.

After her sophomore year, Rodriguez knew she wanted to work in the legal field. Asking a couple of attorneys and a law school student for advice, all three strongly recommended she get legal work experience prior to applying to law school to make sure it was the right career path; and so she spent over five years as an immigration paralegal, at Fragomen in Chicago, and at Dickinson Wright in Ann Arbor.

“Becoming a paralegal just seemed like the best fit to gain the proper legal experience I wanted before solidifying my decision to go to law school,” she says. “It mainly consisted of form drafting and working with clients. The focus at the firms I worked at was business immigration, which a sprinkle of family matters. I really enjoyed the content and it definitely made me want to become a practicing attorney.”

Although her previous experience is in immigration, Rodriguez aims to keep an open mind on the different areas and opportunities in the legal field.

“I’m not 100 percent sure what I want to go into post-graduation and am excited to continue figuring it out,” she says. “My goal is to just become a well-rounded practicing attorney possibly working at a bigger firm. I’m excited to find something I’m passionate about and
grow in my career.”

Rodriguez appreciates the law school’s location in downtown Detroit.

“I also do love how the school has a religious and community outreach aspect,” she says. “I think it was really cool during our orientation that we were able to go out and volunteer within the community. I think opportunities like that are really great and giving back is always something I would like to do.”

Prior to law school, Rodriguez carried out her paralegal work remotely from home for two years during the pandemic.

“Going back to school in person has been a transition,” she says. “It’s been a learning curve, but I’m excited to be back in person and meeting new people.”

Rodriguez hails from La Grange, Ill., a suburb outside Chicago, and her immediate family still lives in the Chicago suburbs. She and her husband, a Canadian, make their home in Livonia.

“I’m still fairly new to Detroit, so I’m enjoying being downtown five days a week and I’m excited to continue exploring the area,” she says.

After interning in undergrad at the not-for-profit A Safe Haven Foundation in Chicago, that helps people transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency, she has volunteered for the past year at First Step, a nonprofit agency in Wayne County providing services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

“I was pretty involved prior to law school, starting by helping with their client giveaway which supplies necessities including clothes, toiletries and toys to residents and anyone who is in need of these items due to their situation,” she says.

In her leisure time, running and reading are her passions.

“I think running is like my meditation,” she says. “I’m able to run off my brain and it’s for sure a stress reliever.”

 

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