July 2017 Alumni Highlight | Pace Law School

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July 2017 Alumni Highlight

Two LawyersWhen you ask Miriam Lacroix (’14) and Stephanie Ramos (’14) about their Pace Law experience, there are many common threads, but perhaps none stronger than their gratitude for Professor Vanessa Merton and Pace Law’s Immigration Justice Clinic. “Professor Merton is absolutely our favorite professor. She gave us the confidence to start our own immigration practice. Stephanie and I were both in the Immigration Justice Clinic and worked on many cases together under Professor Merton’s supervision. She, along with the Clinic, shaped our career.”  

Prior to attending Pace Law, Miriam already had a strong Pace connection – attending the University as an undergraduate student. “I had a positive experience with Pace at the undergraduate level and was eager to pursue a law degree at Pace Law thereafter.” During her time at Pace University, as a political science major, Miriam pursued internship opportunities in the political arena.  She was an intern with then United States Senator Hillary Clinton’s office and also with State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins’ office. After graduating from Pace University as a political science major, Miriam was accepted into Pace Law.

Stephanie’s path to Pace was a bit different than Miriam’s. Prior to attending law school, Stephanie graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services with a women’s study minor. “I was told by an undergraduate mentor that I would make a great attorney and that I could do a lot of good with a law license. But, I was 6 months pregnant and thought law school was a crazy idea. I decided to work a year or so and then decide on graduate school when my daughter was a bit older.”

Stephanie started at Pace Law in the fall of 2011, just after her daughter’s second birthday. Miriam began in January 2012 in the accelerated program. Both note how they noticed right away how many opportunities there were at the Law School to help others through participating in clinics and internships.  Stephanie was a legal intern with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. “I was fortunate enough to gain experience in a variety of areas – from domestic violence, to elder abuse, to housing law. I even participated in court proceedings. As a student, I definitely gained a practical advantage as a result of my internship.”

In 2013, both Miriam and Stephanie became student attorneys with Pace Law’s Immigration Justice Center.  At the time, they had no way of knowing that this opportunity would eventually launch them later in life to open a law firm together. Stephanie notes, “[o]ur most memorable experience with the Clinic was when we helped a woman from Senegal and her two young daughters escape female genital mutilation. We assisted her in her application for asylum, which was granted for all of them. It was rewarding for us to know that our hard work saved her and her daughters from future persecution.”

Miriam and Stephanie were the first “Semester in Practice” students. They spent an entire final semester working as full-time time student attorneys in the Clinic. They were able to gain experience interviewing clients, evaluating, and analyzing legal options, investigating the facts, obtaining evidence, submitting necessary petitions, drafting legal documents, and appearing in immigration court (under the student practice order).  “We worked so closely in that final semester that we realize we really had a chemistry. We decided then that we would start our own law firm dedicated to representing immigrants.”

Miriam is confident that the Clinic gave her the confidence to eventually open her own practice. “As a student attorney, you are responsible for your case. You want to ensure the outcome is a positive one for your client. I learned how to act and work as an attorney from my experience with the Clinic. I am the child of a Haitian immigrant, so helping other immigrants was never a question for me, rather a privilege. And, my experience with the Clinic gave me the confidence to help people like my father.”

In 2014, Miriam and Stephanie graduated from Pace. Miriam was chosen as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow with the City Bar Justice Center. Miriam accepted the prestigious 2-year fellowship and functioned as an immigration lawyer. Stephanie was chosen as a Legal Fellow/Attorney with the Pace Community Law Practice. They used their time at their fellowships to hone their legal skills and start building the plan to launch their firm. The pair provided a wide variety of immigration services, including naturalization, family-based petitions, deportation defense, unaccompanied minors, asylum, and victims of domestic violence and crimes. Stephanie describes it as “a year of intensive experience as an immigration attorney.”

While at their fellowships, Miriam and Stephanie stayed in close contact – sharing their experiences as attorneys and preparing for the launch of their immigration practice. Then, in 2015 they decided to take the leap and open their own practice.  Lacroix Ramos, Attorneys at Law, LLP launched in September 2015 and is located in White Plains.  Naturally, the firm is focused on immigrants. The firm handles family and humanitarian based immigration services for small business owners, victims of domestic abuse and other serious crimes, migrant children, and LGBT families. Miriam notes “Professor Merton and the Immigration Justice Clinic, thoroughly prepared us to be zealous advocates for immigrants. We are confident in ability to help our clients, because we learned how to be the best attorneys that we can during law school.”

Both Miriam and Stephanie are very involved in the legal community. They are both active volunteers on non-profit boards, mentor interns and young lawyers, and speak at a variety of immigration events. In Stephanie’s spare time she enjoys spending time with her daughter, volunteering, and reading. When not at the office, you can find Miriam singing, reading, or spending time with family and friends. Both Miriam and Stephanie have the same advice for current and future law students: “Don’t tell yourself that you can’t and don’t listen to those who tell you that hanging out a shingle is crazy. If you love helping your clients, you’ll succeed because they need you.”