Our March 2009 spotlight is on Sean W. Lew. Sean is the Assistant Professor of Pro Bono at the Charlotte School of Law. Previously, he practiced law with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC and was a solo practitioner in Forsyth County for six years. In addition to his immigration law and general practice work, Sean has received numerous awards for his pro bono legal work with immigrants, self-help organizations, and underprivileged citizens. Sean was gracious enough to answer a few questions for our spotlight article this month.
Sean Lew (first name pronounced: "Seen")
Since August 2008, I have been the Assistant Professor of Pro Bono at the Charlotte School of Law. I have also been a solo practitioner for six years in Forsyth County.
Area of Practice/Expertise:
I help coordinate and promote the Pro Bono Program at the law school and in our legal community. As a solo practitioner, I maintained an immigration law and general practice.
J.D., 1998, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, A.B., 1991, University of Pennsylvania.
I have been very pleased to be part of the MCB Volunteer Lawyers Program's (VLP) efforts to develop a pool of volunteer pro bono attorneys dedicated to assisting in immigration matters, particularly Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petitions and U-Visas. VAWA petitions allow immigrant domestic violence victims to file for immigration relief that allows them to obtain permanent resident status in the United States. U-Visas are available to non-US citizens who have suffered substantial physical and/or mental abuse resulting from a wide range of criminal activity and are assisting with investigating authorities for the prosecution of these crimes. These U-Visas are designed to combat human trafficking.
On March 13, 2009, the MCB and Charlotte School of Law cosponsored a seven-hour continuing legal education (CLE) program entitled Immigration Workshop for the Bench and Bar. This CLE was offered to all MCB members who have an interest in learning more about the recently opened Charlotte Immigration Court. The morning was spent in a general session designed to give attendees an idea of what kinds of cases are heard by the new Charlotte court, as well as issues involving detention and definitions of convictions for immigration purposes. The afternoon was geared to teaching nonpractitioners the ins and outs of VAWA and U-Visa/human trafficking cases. It is hoped that this CLE will result in more MCB attorneys agreeing to help with VAWA/U-Visa cases. The MCB VLP is currently spearheading this issue as a pro bono endeavor.
Much has changed since I was a law student. Ten years ago, I remember few students talking about pursuing immigration law as a possible career field. I don't think my law school even offered an immigration course at the time. Now, on all law school campuses in the state, I am struck by the energy and dedication of current law students and faculty alike who are cognizant of the enormous legal needs within the state's immigrant communities. Through the MCB and the Charlotte School of Law, I have been blessed to meet dedicated immigration practitioners in Charlotte who have devoted their time and efforts in the name of immigrant advocacy. It's been an honor for me to collaborate with Rona Karacaova, Heather Ziemba, George Miller and Cynthia Aziz. I hope more MCB attorneys get involved with immigration law pro bono work.
How can the Mecklenburg County legal community help with this issue?
Please attend future immigration CLEs and participate in additional programs like the one that took place this past March! Contact Larry Gwaltney, MCB VLP Chair (firstname.lastname@example.org) to see how you can get involved and make a difference!
What is the best advice you've received during your legal career?
Utilize the Golden Rule in all dealings: treat others the way you would like to be treated.
What advice would you give others?
Seek mentors. Don't be afraid to contact more senior attorneys for their wisdom and advice in whatever practice area you are in. You will be surprised at how accommodating and welcoming more seasoned attorneys can be in your practice area.
What is the most challenging part of your career?
Family-work balance issues. My wife and I welcomed our third little one, Lucy Alison Lew, this past Halloween. The great news is that Lucy is sleeping through the night now!
What is your favorite part of your current job?
I enjoy working with the law students. It empowers me to be around such public minded and dedicated individuals who will be the next leaders of our profession.
What is your least favorite part of your current job?
There are so many opportunities but not enough time.
Are there any other pertinent things you would like to share with the Mecklenburg County Bar and legal community?
Pro Bono Pro Bono! It has been reported that over 80% of low income people and people of modest means cannot afford to pay attorneys and are unable to secure representation by pro bono volunteers. The need is there. Are you willing to step up and help?