Ifti Ahmed During his time as a law clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Iftikhar “Ifti” Ahmed worked on several pro se cases appealed from the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He couldn’t practice at the time, but Ahmed began to appreciate the value of legal representation in such matters. Now counsel to Akin Gump in Houston, he aims to always have a pro bono case on his docket—usually in the area of immigration law. Why is pro bono work important to you? Most pro bono clients have little hope of getting legal representation, and even if they have a meritorious case, they struggle to navigate the legal system and obtain the results that they deserve. The impact that I can have on a pro bono client’s life by devoting some of my time is immense. Pro bono work also gives me an opportunity to learn a different area of law than the one I practice. What has been your most memorable pro bono case? Last year, my colleague Rehan Safiullah and I helped a refugee from Guinea obtain asylum. The client came to us through the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project in Harlingen and was at the Port Isabel Service Processing Center. He had been a political activist in Guinea and had been persecuted by the government. His journey to the U.S. through South and Central America had been long and harrowing. Following a lengthy merits hearing, the immigration judge found him credible but denied him asylum. We were able to appeal that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals and obtain a reversal. The client had been in detention for several months when he was released. At one point, he had given up hope and wanted to abandon his case and be deported back to Guinea—even though he feared for his life there. We managed to convince him to stay the course, and he couldn’t have been happier when he was eventually granted asylum. I was thrilled that we were able to help him start a new life. He keeps in touch and calls me every so often just to say thanks. How does practicing on a pro bono basis impact the work you do at your firm? I have been fortunate to be at a law firm that values and encourages pro bono. It is given the same level of importance as any other work, and the same resources are available on these cases. Also, because so many attorneys at Akin Gump regularly handle pro bono cases, it is always easy to find help when you are faced with a challenging issue. Are there any pro bono resources that you find particularly helpful? For asylum cases, I’ve found that the National Immigrant Justice Center’s website, immigrantjustice.org, has manuals, tutorials, and other information that is helpful when trying an asylum case for the first time. Also, one of the perks of being a member of the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono College is that you get a free subscription to TexasBarCLE’s Online Library.
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