Baltimore Pro Bono Spotlight: Nelson Mullins

December 23, 2020

December 2020 Pro Bono Spotlight

Nelson Mullins

Kaitlin Motley, Katie Burrows, Kevin Penhallegon, Maria Penuela, Mike Halaiko, Rob Lindholm, Nelson Mullins

KIND’s Baltimore office is pleased to recognize a team of pro bono attorneys from Nelson Mullins for our December 2020 Pro Bono Attorney Spotlight! This team was recognized by multiple KIND attorneys for their dedication to their client. In particular, the Nelson Mullins attorneys took the initiative to coordinate across the firm’s offices to secure continued representation for the client after his relocation to another state. Kevin Penhallegon and Mike Halaiko provided the below reflections of their work with KIND and what they have learned from their clients and this experience.

When and why did you first take a KIND case?

I became involved with my first KIND case in 2019.  I did not have any previous immigration law experience but was interested in getting involved due to the tremendous need for representation of these children.  My wife is a teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools with experience working with Spanish-speaking children and she sees first-hand everyday the struggle that children have in adapting to life in a new country, while also dealing with a language barrier.  I wanted to get involved so that I can hopefully play a small role in helping to ease that transition.

I decided to volunteer as an attorney for KIND in early 2019 because I wanted to help minors trying to reunite with their families pursue a path to a legal immigration status.

Do you have any stand-out client stories?

In the first case I was working on the child’s father was a fisherman who spent months at a time out at sea.  Given the circumstances, we knew that it was going to be difficult to serve him, but with the help of a local attorney and family members we were able to effectuate service on the defendant without substantial delay.  It was a significant relief to overcome that hurdle and move the case forward.

What have you learned from this experience or from your KIND client(s)?

I have learned that these children often come from extraordinarily difficult circumstances in their home countries and have come to the United States because they have no other choice in seeking a better life for themselves.  I have also learned that these children are incredibly resilient and thankful for the support and assistance that we are able to provide as they navigate the immigration journey.

The immigration system is difficult to navigate as someone who is a native English speaker and has years of legal training and experience.  For a minor coming to this country to be with his or her family, the systems can be an insurmountable obstacle.  Thankfully, programs like KIND connect minor immigrants with attorneys to help navigate the legal systems and hopefully bring the minor and his or her family some sense of stability and security.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with KIND?

My favorite part is getting to know the clients and seeing them persevere through such difficult circumstances.  I also greatly appreciate the support of the KIND mentors in working through these difficult circumstances.

Volunteering for KIND is extremely rewarding.  Meeting with the clients and his or her family and offering them a path to stability in their life is a humbling and gratifying experience.  Additionally, the staff at KIND is incredible.  They are available to answer questions and strategize about your KIND case anytime.  Their guidance is imperative to the success of your case.

Why should other attorneys do pro bono?

Pro bono cases allow attorneys to gain experience in a field of the law in which they may not otherwise have an opportunity.  It is an excellent way to broaden your knowledge base and also work with experts in the field who provide mentoring.  Not to mention, it is a rewarding way to give back to individuals that are dealing with very difficult situations in their lives.

As attorneys we are all so incredibly blessed.  The KIND program offers us an opportunity to give back and make a huge difference in a young person’s life.

Do you have any advice for attorneys who may be taking their first pro bono case?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  It can seem overwhelming at first but there are numerous resources available and excellent mentors to help guide you through the process.

Use the resource of KIND and its staff.  The staff attorneys at KIND have been exceptional.