The Journey of a Rebellious Lawyer: From Immigration Law to Fighting the Broken System

Seattle, Washington – The journey to becoming a social justice lawyer can take a much different path than the typical career trajectory often depicted on television. Monika Batra Kashyap, an immigration lawyer and visiting clinical professor at Seattle University School of Law, is an example of a “rebellious lawyer” who is dedicated to fighting for social justice.

Batra Kashyap’s desire to help others was influenced by her own personal history as the child of immigrants. Her passion for immigrant justice work taps into her politics, lived experience, and ancestral ties to the country. However, she didn’t always envision herself as a lawyer, let alone an immigration lawyer. It was during her undergraduate years in New York City that she discovered her affinity for social justice law.

While exploring different clubs and organizations in college, Batra Kashyap found her fit with a South Asian domestic violence support organization. This experience, coupled with volunteering as an interpreter for social justice lawyers, opened her eyes to the possibilities of a legal career focused on social justice and immigrant rights.

Before attending law school, Batra Kashyap worked as a paralegal in public benefits and immigration law. Despite her parents’ initial concerns about her decision to delay law school, she knew that this exploration was necessary to figure out the kind of lawyer she wanted to be. Her time as a paralegal solidified her passion for immigration law and she went on to pursue it professionally after graduating from the U.C. Berkeley School of Law.

Upon returning to Seattle, Batra Kashyap worked for a for-profit removal defense firm, defending individuals who faced deportation. This work often took place in courts located inside detention centers, with clients meeting their lawyers in rooms devoid of windows and fresh air. Despite the challenges of working within a broken system, Batra Kashyap found fulfillment in being able to make a difference in her clients’ lives.

After several years in private practice, Batra Kashyap transitioned into academia and became a clinical professor. In this role, she had the opportunity to work closely with a small number of clients, while guiding and mentoring law students. However, she also experienced the hierarchical and oppressive nature of academia, which she believes is riddled with systemic racism.

To Batra Kashyap, being a “rebellious lawyer” means recognizing the failings and harm of the legal system, while treating clients as partners in the fight for justice. She emphasizes the importance of clients’ contributions in fixing a broken system and urges lawyers to be grateful for their clients’ trust and engagement.

Despite the challenges and frustrations that come with being an immigration lawyer, Batra Kashyap finds immense satisfaction in helping to transform her clients’ lives. She shared a heartwarming moment of receiving a text from a client she helped with an asylum application years earlier, celebrating the client’s newfound happiness and achievements.

Currently in a moment of transition, Batra Kashyap is contemplating her next steps in her immigration law career. She emphasizes that the journey to finding one’s passion is ongoing, with internships and volunteer experiences playing significant roles along the way. As readers, we can look forward to seeing where Batra Kashyap’s fight for social justice takes her next.