Mubaraka Saifee is an immigration lawyer and mother of three based in Houston, USA. In this blog, she recounts her professional development through different stages of life and her insights from what she experienced on the way.
I remember when I first realized I wanted to be a lawyer. I grew up in California, but my father had gotten a one-year transfer to Houston, Texas for work. I was less than thrilled to uproot and leave all my California school friends for a whole year. I found myself attending eighth-grade in Houston, a place I knew no one and frankly, didn’t want to be. It turned out to be one of the best years of my life.
My school in Houston had a speech club, and somehow I ended up joining and entering a debate competition. Much to my surprise, I came first in the entire school district. ‘If you agree with me, you are wise. If you do not, you are otherwise.’ This was the phrase that my father told me to say at the end of my closing arguments and I practiced in front of my bedroom mirror every day. The topic of the debate: Extra-curricular activities are overemphasized in public schools. I developed arguments, thought of questions to ask during cross-examination, then thought of answers to my own questions. And what do you know, it worked! That’s when I knew I wanted to become a lawyer. I was going to attend the very best law school in the country, no, the best in the world! And I would become Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. And bring justice to all, of course.
But life, as we all know, has its own plans. We moved back to California after our year was over, and this time I was upset that I had to leave my new friends and interests behind in Houston. My high school in California did not have a speech club. I was distraught and disappointed beyond measure. Suddenly, an opportunity arose and I got admission into the Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah Academy in India. Eager for a change and always ready for an adventure, I embarked on a new journey and left behind my old dreams for new ones. Or so I thought.
I attended the Academy for seven years and got married and had a beautiful baby boy. The winds of fate blew again, and my family and I found ourselves back in America. This time, we were in New Jersey. My son enrolled in school and suddenly I had free time on my hands. I decided to go back to college. I took classes in Computer Science and Business Administration and got myself a two-year Associate’s degree. We moved to Houston where I continued my education. This time, with the intention of obtaining a law degree. I would enroll in a full schedule of classes only to drop most of them when I discovered I was to be blessed with a new family arrival. Thankfully, my husband and my mother-in-law were my greatest supporters. As soon as the little one was able to eat solid foods, my mother-in-law would shoo me off and tell me to go back to college and finish my degree. My husband made sure the kids did their homework and played with them afterwards in the park. Fast-forward 10 years and 3 kids later, I finally had in my hand, a law degree.
So, while I am not Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (yet), I am a proud owner of my own immigration law practice. I am able to keep flexible hours, travel, attend family and social events, and basically just have a good work/life balance. I get to help people navigate through complicated immigration matters and I feel good about what I do. I learned a lot as I went along and gained valuable knowledge from my experiences, things they don’t teach in school. I’m not what someone might typically think of as a lawyer. My clients are not just clients, they are my extended family. I care about what happens to them. I mean, if they text me late at night, I will respond to their message (if I’m awake, ofcourse). I sometimes get phone calls and people are surprised to learn that they’re talking with ‘the actual lawyer’ and not some answering service. ‘Are you sure you’re the lawyer?’ they’ll ask. To which I feel like replying, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty amazed myself!’
If I could sum up my entire journey into one word, it would be ‘perseverance’. If there is something you want to achieve, I mean something you really, truly want; your goal, your dream, then stay after it. Sure there will be ups and downs, maybe even something so harrowing you’ll think, ‘I’ll never be able to get through this!’ I can assure you from experience, you will get through it, and you will be stronger for it, and you will achieve what you set out to accomplish. So what if it doesn’t look exactly like what you had originally pictured in the beginning, it’ll be a thousand times better.