Meet Chicago Immigration Attorney Mary K. Neal

Photo of attorney Mary K. Neal

Growing up in a university town, I developed a passion for all things international. This led me across the U.S. to our nation's capital for study and halfway around the world for service.

I graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in linguistics, proficient in Spanish, Russian and German.

In college, I was a program coordinator for the D.C. Public Schools Project, an organization that provides free English-language tutoring to immigrant children in public schools.

After graduation, I put my education and language skills to use as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the newly-independent nation of Estonia. I lived in a border town where two-thirds of the population were not citizens and most did not speak the national language. That experience opened my eyes to social problems associated with lack of citizenship and legal residency.

Upon my return home to the U.S., I worked for the Institute of International Education in Washington, D.C. organizing short-term international exchange programs for professionals from all areas of the world.

After several years working with professionals from around the globe, I realized that a career in law seemed the best outlet for me to protect and promote civil rights in the United States. So I applied to law school and was chosen as one of seven Honors Scholars to receive a full scholarship to Chicago-Kent College of Law. I moved to Chicago with my family in 2005 and quickly fell in love with the city and with the lively, diverse neighborhood of Rogers Park.

During law school, I served as a child advocate with the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights*, among other volunteer activities.  I was also the president of my law school's International Law Moot Court Honor Society, and led a team which had the second place memorial (written brief) at the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, Midwest Regional.

I earned my Juris Doctor and a certificate in public interest law in May 2008. I would then spend the next three years as a public interest attorney with Illinois Legal Aid Online, a progressive non-profit that uses technology to put the law within reach for all people.

I held a niche role with the organization overseeing the development of an online library of over 70 pleadings and forms in 32 areas of law. I collaborated with judges, attorneys and legal advocates across Illinois to incorporate automated documents into their daily workflow and to provide easy-to-understand form preparation programs for people who needed to represent themselves in court.

Prior to my solo endeavor I also served as an adjunct professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where I taught a legal research and writing course to second-year law students.

In February 2012 I decided to venture out on my own and form a community law practice to help the people of Rogers Park, West Ridge and greater Chicago overcome life obstacles and build a better future for their families.

Volunteerism continues to be an important part of my professional life. I currently accept pro bono cases from the National Immigrant Justice Center and volunteer at citizenship workshops hosted by World Relief.  Most recently, I volunteered to represent women and children seeking asylum while they were imprisoned by the U.S. Government in Artesia, New Mexico.  You can read more about this project on my blog.

*Then called Immigrant Children's Advocacy program



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