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MLaw alumnus spent several years in Japan

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

While earning an undergrad degree in Japanese studies and history, summa cum laude, from Hope College in Holland, Camaron Voyles spent a semester in Japan – and fell so in love with the country, its culture, and its people, he spent three years there after graduation teaching English at five elementary schools in Ono City, a city of about 50,000 residents.

“Riding my bicycle to work in the mornings through rice fields with hills and mountains in the distance was always a highlight of my day,” says Voyles, now an attorney with the immigration law firm of Antone, Casagrande & Adwers in Farmington Hills.

One of about a dozen non-Japanese people in Ono City, Voyles was amazed at how thoroughly the community embraced him.

“I was invited to share in some of the town’s most intimate moments,” he says.

He and a friend were the first two non-Japanese people to take part in an autumn festival in which dozens of men wearing traditional festival clothes carry a massive portable shrine to a temple at the top of a small mountain. 

Named a Special Goodwill Envoy by the governor of Hyogo Prefecture, Voyles also was invited to share in the town’s grief when a 6th grade boy was lost to a tragic athletic accident.

“Curious old men who did not get a lot of chances to interact with foreigners were eager to offer me drinks nearly every time I stepped into a restaurant,” adds Voyles, who says his students considered him to be a minor celebrity of sorts.

“One of my happiest moments was the night before I left Japan, when the owner of a restaurant I frequented, upon hearing that it was my last day, kicked everyone else out of the restaurant and threw a private party until long past when he normally would have closed,” he says.

After returning stateside and applying to law schools, Voyles took off for New Zealand in 2011 on a six-month working holiday visa with his girlfriend. While in Christchurch, one of the law schools e-mailed him, asking for updates on what he had been doing since Japan.  Before Voyles responded, a massive earthquake devastated the city, causing185 deaths and thousands of injuries.

“My girlfriend and I had nowhere to go and our building was one of the few in the area deemed structurally sound, so we stayed for more than a week – we were among the only people remaining in the central business district of the city,” Voyles says. “There was no water or electricity. Every day, we had to walk past a tank and a soldier with a machine gun, then on for about 45 minutes to a section of town that hadn’t been hit as hard and where a Buddhist temple was giving away free food and water to victims.”
After a week of this existence, Voyles was able to get free Internet access at a store, and e-mailed the law school to explain his situation. The next time he checked his e-mail, he had a congratulatory response offering admission.

“While I don’t have any proof, I believe the earthquake was responsible for my acceptance at that law school,” he says.

Voyles went on to earn his law degree, cum laude, at the University of Michigan Law School, where he focused on immigration, civil rights issues, and corporate law, served on the Executive Board of the Michigan Journal of International Law and was the Event Manager for the Asia Law Society’s 2012 symposium.

“I thought a law degree would bring me opportunities to interact with fascinating people from a variety of different countries while positively affecting their lives in some way,” he says. “During law school, it became obvious immigration law was a great fit for my interests.”

During law school, Voyles gained work experience at the major Japanese law firms of Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners in Osaka, and at Nishimura & Asahi in Tokyo. Legal work for some of the largest Japanese corporations including due diligence in preparation for a management-led buyout of a manufacturing corporation, drafting a joint venture agreement, and giving legal advice on topics such as Chapter 11 bankruptcy, trademark registration, real estate commissions, and antitrust.

“I have to say I enjoyed the view from my 27th floor office at Nishimura & Asahi,” he says. “I couldn’t believe I had that office as a summer associate.”

After graduating from U-M Law School, Voyles returned to Osaka to further hone his legal skills at Oh-Ebashi.

“The best and worst thing about big cities in Japan is the density of people – huge crowds in train stations every morning and evening can get very tiring, but density of people also means incredible density of shops and restaurants,” he notes. “In Tokyo or Osaka, you are never more than a few minutes’ walk from an amazing restaurant and you can live in Tokyo your entire life and not do everything there is to do.”

Voyles joined Antone, Casagrande & Adwers in May, where his work entails employment and family based U.S. immigration law including business visas, green cards, work permits, naturalization and citizenship, employer assistance, and other immigration petitions.

“The best thing by far about this firm is that all of the attorneys are a true team –we’re very much involved in each other’s cases,” Voyles says. “All work is looked at by at least two attorneys or paralegals before being sent out and extensive comments by peers make every project a valuable learning experience. We all genuinely celebrate each staff member’s personal victories. There is no competition whatsoever.

“In addition, the partners are extremely open to promoting even new attorneys if the new attorney has an interest in trying to expand into new clientele bases for the firm, as I do with my interest in becoming more involved in the Japanese community.”

A native of Fremont on the west side of Michigan, Voyles now makes his home in Farmington Hills, where the neighboring town of Novi is home to a large Japanese population, with which he hopes to get involved.

“This is truly a beautiful area and I’m very much looking forward to getting to know all of it,” he says.

Involved in choirs from fifth grade through college graduation, Voyles now sings mostly in the form of karaoke, and in Japan, he went to karaoke almost every week.
“Japanese-style karaoke – done in small private rooms with friends – is a bit more rare in southeast Michigan. I’ve found one place, but have been so far unable to convince my co-workers to join me,” he says with a smile.
 

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