Adena Altman ’13 grew up in Canada and attended NYLS as a foreign national, an experience that sparked her interest in immigration law. Today, she is back in her native Vancouver, working as a U.S. Immigration Attorney and Senior Associate at PwC Law LLP, which is affiliated with the professional services firm PwC.
Altman briefly lived in New York when she was 18 and pursuing a career as a professional dancer. Between dance classes and auditions, she developed an interest in law. When Altman returned to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia, she was confident that she would come back to New York one day—this time, to study law.
“I still loved dance, but could see myself being more interested, and for a longer time, in a legal career,” Altman says. She applied to metropolitan-area law schools and was drawn to NYLS’s “vibrant community.”
As a first-year NYLS student, Altman was interested in helping others but unsure where to direct her focus. The summer after her 1L year, she interned for the New York State Division of Human Rights, investigating employment discrimination claims. The work was compelling but could be emotionally draining. She realized it wasn’t for her.
“At the same time, as a foreign national, I was starting to think about my own status,” she says. “Could I get a full-time job after law school? Could I be paid? I wanted to know as much as possible. My interest in helping others navigate similar issues grew from there.”
In the fall of her 2L year, NYLS helped Altman secure an externship with a solo immigration law practitioner whose office was steps from campus and from New York’s active immigration court.
“It was eye-opening,” Altman says. “She seemed so happy in her field, she cared deeply about her clients, and she worked hard. I knew that I wanted to have a career like hers.”
Altman gravitated toward NYLS’s highly regarded immigration law programming and connected with Professor Lenni Benson, founder of the Safe Passage Project at NYLS and a nationally sought immigration law expert.
“Professor Benson is on a mission to create genuinely good immigration lawyers—which does a huge service to all of her students, no matter where they work,” Altman says. “There is a lot of respect for NYLS in the immigration law community, especially in New York City.”
By Altman’s 3L year, she was taking more specialized immigration law courses, under Professor Benson’s guidance, and had secured an externship with the business immigration firm Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, LLP. After graduating from NYLS magna cum laude and passing the bar, she joined Gibney as an associate. For the next three years, she helped clients in the finance and tech sectors navigate U.S. immigration issues.
In June 2017, Altman came home to Vancouver and joined PwC Law. In the role, she helps employers bring individuals and families to the United States and advises on compliance with federal immigration laws. Altman likes that her work involves helping people; she also likes the diverse range of issues that arise daily.
“No case is the same, and this work constantly challenges you to be creative,” she says. On the side, she helps with pro bono special immigrant juvenile cases.
Altman is also pleased that she has found the area of business immigration law that allows her to apply her expertise in U.S. law while living and working in Vancouver.
“New York City was a fabulous place to go to law school and to start my career,” she says. “At the same time, I was happy to find out how easy it was to leave the U.S. and continue developing my career. Our legal practice is growing, and it has been an exciting time to move back home.”