Brian Graham, a partner at K&L Gates in Austin, came into immigration law “through a series of fortunate coincidences. After my first year of law school I decided to stay for the summer and take an early morning class,” Graham says, of the practice that earned him a 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” award in Texas’ Best Lawyers. “I had no experiential connection with immigration—there were no recent immigrants in my family, which on my dad’s side had been here since before the American Revolution. Perhaps because I had no direct experience of immigration, I was able to approach it more objectively, which led me to appreciate it in a different way.”

Graham sees immigration as the “wild west” of the American legal system, “since Constitutional norms don’t apply in the same way and Congress and the executive [branch] have this unparalleled shared power.” As he’s made his way along this legal frontier, Graham has seen some significant cases. He’s represented former presidents of foreign countries, diplomats, and celebrities (though for privacy’s sake prefers not to disclose their names). “One of the more interesting cases I worked on was doing the immigration work for Rock in Rio, the world-class Brazilian rock festival. They had a deal with MGM Grand to put on a festival in Las Vegas. We did the visas for the founder and the whole executive team as well as all these interesting Brazilian bands and entertainers. They gave us festival passes so myself and some of the team went to Vegas to enjoy the fruits of our labors.”

Of course, no one familiar with the current state of American immigration would assume work in that area is entirely fun or glamorous. By now, Graham is used to navigating these difficulties. “It’s certainly become more challenging, which I think has started to reverse this trend of corporate immigration being viewed as a commodity. The demand for corporate immigration is largely driven by technology and globalization and our classic American drive to be not merely competitive but to remain a leading economic power. As technology factors into that more and more, there is more demand for the highest skilled workers. And so many major Texas employers like Toyota, Samsung, Shell, Bayer, so many others are all foreign-owned and need corporate immigration to continue to run their entities here.”

For Graham, the most rewarding thing about working in immigration law is the legal process itself. “Law is a wonderful profession despite all its shortcomings. The fact that we can be well compensated to solve problems and we have this authority to stand equally to the government and challenge them when they’re wrong is really something very special.”