Lawtina Story: Karen Bobadilla, Esq.
My name is Karen B. Bobadilla. I moved to the US from Lima-Peru on January 2005 right after finishing law school there. I was 22 years old at the time. A few months later, I found a job as an intake worker at a non-profit. My job was to screen applicants for legal services and assist the lawyers with interpretation when needed. That job was part time. I worked part time at a retail store to supplement my income. I was also looking into going back to school but wasn’t realistic at the time because I was working seven days a week.
After two years of working as the intake person, the immigration lawyer at the office took me under her wing and I became the immigration paralegal. I started learning about immigration law, specifically asylum and domestic violence. I was still doing intakes and working on retail.
Since I worked in a non-profit, the lawyers at my office helped me apply to become an Accredited Representative. An accredited representative is a non-lawyer that has permission from the Board of Immigration Appeals (now from the Department of Justice). There are two levels: (1) Partial- represent people at USCIS and (2) Full- represent people at USCIS and Immigration Court. The BIA approved me as a Full Accredited Representative on August 2012. At the time, there were less than a handful people in Massachusetts who had this accreditation.
In 2014, one of the lawyers and I went to one of the Detention Centers at the border. I saw first-hand the need of families who came to the US to receive representation and moreover, with someone who could understand them in their own language. After that trip I decided to apply for an LL.M.
I did the LL.M. full time program while also working full-time. It was a challenge, but I had the support of my father, friends and co-workers. Little did I know that the challenge was just about to start. When I got into the program, I was told I would not pass the bar on my first try. Nobody told me that it would take me SEVEN times to pass the bar and in the middle of a pandemic.
By the time I started to sit for the bar I had lost my mom and lost my aunt (who was really like a second mother to me) the day after my first attempt. Both because of metastasized breast cancer and after three years of battling it.
During this time,I was diagnosed with anxiety and had awful panic attacks during practice exams and even at the bar.
Every time I took the exam, my scores keep improving but not passing yet. When people asked me, I always said that I will sit until the Board saw my name and say, “not her again”. I knew giving up wasn’t an option, so I kept studying and trying different methods. When I say I tried everything, it’s because I really did. I tried the commercial courses, when they didn’t work, I found private tutors. To work on my anxiety, I tried hypnotherapy, reflexology, aromatherapy. Even now, I still see my counselor every two weeks. I identified my triggers and was able to work on grounding techniques. I haven’t taken a real vacation since 2014, before I started the LL.M. I used all my vacation time to study and prepare. Eventually, leaving the retail job to also use that time to study.
P Finally, once the pandemic hit, we started to work from home and even the bar exam was at home. My state requires 270 to pass. The last time I took the bar and didn’t pass, I got a 259. This time, I passed with a 295 score. According to my state statistics only 20% of more than four times takers have passed the bar this time.
During the time I was preparing for the bar, I was honored to receive an award from the Peruvian community in the US for my work with immigrants. The Tumi USA Award on the citizenship category. After finding out that I passed, I was offered a promotion at my office and I am now a Staff Immigration Attorney there. The same office I started to work at in 2005, responding phone calls. I specialize on VAWA’s, U-visas and SIJ’s. I am excited about all these changes and to not limit advice and representation to just the immigration process. I am looking forward to keep advocating for my clients and their families.
I have been humbled by my colleague’s words and know I made my mom and everyone else who loves me proud. (Lawyers I work with had actually told Judges this).
My advice to others is, don’t let others tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t let adversity put you down. Don’t stop trying if results are not as you expected. Take a break if you need it and keep trying. Look for what works for you. It's never too late to achieve your goals. Look for help if you need it and don’t ever ever ever give up!