'Dream job': Law grad to work at Office of Chief Immigration Judge

Recent law school graduate Katherine Ganick, pictured at Machu Picchu in Peru, will start as a judicial law clerk with the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (Executive Office of Immigration Review) in Cleveland in September.

Photo courtesy of Katherine Ganick

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

After her upcoming graduation from Detroit Mercy Law School, Katherine Ganick will launch her legal career in September with her “dream job” as a judicial law clerk with the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (Executive Office of Immigration Review) in Cleveland.

She landed this position through the Attorney General's Honors Program, starting the rigorous application process last August, culminating in the offer in January. Her application was one of 25 selected from thousands across the country.

Ganick has committed to a two-year term with hopes of becoming an attorney-adviser within the Cleveland Immigration Court; and will work alongside court staff and 10 judges to draft opinions to fulfill the mission of adjudicating immigration cases.

She also was offered a job at the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Va., one out of 18 applicants across the country to receive this offer.

“Being offered these positions was a testament that all my hard work during and prior to law school paid off,” she says.

A first-generation law student, Ganick’s interest in law was piqued when she served after undergrad as an AmericCorps VISTA, where managing a free legal clinic exposed her to the work of attorneys and paralegals, and to immigrant and refugee populations.

“I’d never really thought about becoming an attorney or thought it was out of reach,” she says. “I always had a passion for travel and service, and a career in immigration law made sense. I decided to ‘dip my toes’ into the legal field by entering into a post-graduate paralegal program—I succeeded and knew I’d the right choice.”

She then learned the basics as a legal secretary in Hilliard, Ohio, followed by three years as an immigration paralegal at Brown Immigration LLC in the Cleveland/Akron area, assisting in all areas of immigration including family, employment, and removal/defense.

“It was during this position I realized I was capable of becoming an attorney,” she says. “I loved the work and wanted to challenge myself to learn more. I think working at a law firm as a secretary and paralegal will help me be a better attorney because I know how challenging and essential those positions are—it allowed me to see the inner workings of a law firm and how secretaries, paralegals, and attorneys all must work together.”

Last summer, Ganick spent three months as a law clerk in the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and has also clerked for Fraser Trebilcock.

Her 2019 judicial internship with Judge Marianne Battani in the U.S.  District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan sparked her interest in clerking.

“Prior to this experience, I didn’t even know that this career was an option,” Ganick says. “I loved being in the court setting while being able to work on my legal research and writing.  During law school, I didn’t have much interest in becoming a litigator but rather found that my interests were drawn to legal research and writing and the behind-the-scenes court work. ICE was also a unique experience—given the political climate at the time, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

“However, I particularly sought out this opportunity to become a more well-rounded attorney. A prosecutorial experience was the only piece I was missing in my law school experience. I worked in the courts, did defense work as a paralegal, and after working at ICE, I got to see how prosecutors handle the law. I think to be an attorney, having as much knowledge as possible as to how the judicial system works is crucial. Both my judicial internship and time at ICE solidified that I wanted to enter into the public service sector and in particular, work for the federal government.”

The law school’s immigration law clinic has been a constant throughout her studies, starting as a work-study in her 1L first semester, and finishing as an advanced clinic 3L student this May.

“The immigration clinic has been a bright spot during law school—it reminds me why I’m pushing so hard with my studies,” she says. “I’ve formed an invaluable relationship with the clinic director, Professor Alexander Vernon as well as the clients we’re assisting. In particular, I was able to successfully assist in reuniting a trafficking victim with his children who were stranded in Guatemala and eventually got them permanent residency. I also assisted in applying for permanent residency for victims of crime and domestic violence.

“One of the happiest moments was being able to share the news with one of our detained clients that they will be released after spending nearly one year detained.”

In her final year, Ganick has served as a Teaching Assistant. “I enjoy being a TA because I want people to learn from the mistakes I made,” she says. “ I have a love for learning and enjoy teaching and explaining concepts. Also, I’ve always enjoyed academia—after my law school experience, I’ve thought about becoming a professor of law and possibly directing an immigration clinic.”

Ganick has been secretary of the Women’s Law Caucus executive board for two years.

“This organization is a great way to give back to the students and the community,” she says. “I get to work alongside my some of my closest friends. During the pandemic, WLC has remained strong, and we have continued to put on great events to remain connected as a community.”

As a 3L, Ganick served as the executive editor of outside articles for Law Review.

“This has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of law school,” she says. “I’ve spent countless hours editing and making sure articles are ‘perfect’ for publication. I learned how to, and had the privilege of working with my talented fellow executive board members to ensure law review runs smoothly. This was a challenge during the pandemic, but we adapted to the change and worked together to produce three volumes.”

By the time Ganick graduates, almost 50 percent of her legal education will have been online.

“Although I miss having in-person classes, going to the clinic and meeting with clients, seeing classmates and professors, and having a genuine law school experience, I’ve tried to see the good in remote work,” she says. “It’s a very real possibility the pandemic has changed the practice of law and thankfully, I’ve had some time in law school to deal with these learning curves. This is a unique time in history and is out of my control, so I’m learning how to adapt.

“Fortunately, I continue to be involved with the law school through the clinic, women's law caucus, and law review, and have regular meetings so I can still see my classmates and professors.”

A Pittsburgh native, Ganick currently calls Royal Oak home, but will be moving to Cleveland in August—and getting married in September, with a honeymoon in Spain and Portugal once travel is safe.

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