Despite graduating from Hamline's part-time weekend JD program, Tamara Cabán-Ramirez is hardly a weekend warrior.
As a mother, poet, and the head of her own criminal defense and immigration law firm, to say she works eight days a week would be far more accurate. They key to this juggling act, she says, is "always being open to change and new things" -- a mantra that's helped her navigate her own challenges and those of her clients.
Knowing the ins and outs of immigration law is no easy task. “It’s extremely intricate,” says Cabán-Ramirez. “People have this conception that it’s black and white—pay the money and get the papers. But the process can be long and frustrating.”
For example the end goal for many of her clients is United States legal status, which can lead to periods of separation for couples or families in order to abide by the law and get through the paperwork. “Say someone marries a foreign national and wants to gain legal status or permanent residency for his or her spouse,” she says. “The spouse may have to leave the country in order to achieve residency in the United States.”
Being bilingual—her first language is Spanish—often gives her an advantage with clients from Spanish-speaking countries. “Sometimes it’s harder to achieve a client’s goals when dealing with an interpreter,” she says. “Things get lost in translation.”
A warm welcome
Cabán-Ramirez knows the immigrant experience firsthand. Born and raised in Bayamón, a municipality south of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she arrived in Minnesota for the first time in 1993 at age 16 to pursue her undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. After graduating with degrees in Spanish, political science, and Latin American studies in 1998, she worked her way up to become a paralegal for Julie Zimmer JD ’93.
It was Zimmer who steered Cabán-Ramirez to Hamline’s weekend JD program. “As a young, single woman, I had to work,” says Cabán-Ramirez. “The weekend program was the best of both worlds. I could work yet still pursue the career that I wanted.”
Upon graduation in December 2004, her focus on immigration law led her to a small firm, but it was short-lived. “I did some soul searching,” she says. “Having a solo practice was always in the back of my mind, but it was a scary proposition to balance both the business side and the legal counsel.”
Five years later, Cabán-Ramirez’ Minneapolis practice is thriving, in part because she taught herself to be tech-savvy. “I was trying to find ways to market my firm without spending a lot of money, and technology is a great way to do that.”
She has website (www.cabanramirezlaw.com) written in both English and Spanish, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account (@tcabanramirez). In 2010, the Minnesota State Bar Association named her blog, Bilingual MN Attorney (bilingualmnattorney.wordpress.com)—also written in English and Spanish—one of the Top 25 Legal Blogs in the state.
“I was hesitant to delve too far into technology, as many of my clients may not be computer savvy,” she says, “But their children are or their spouses. At any rate, they find me.”
Technology has also enabled Cabán-Ramirez to work from home, a crucial development as she and her fiancé, Sean McDaniel, welcomed their first child in April 2011, a son, Quinn Sebastián McDaniel-Cabán.
A limber leader
Her home life may take more of her time, but Cabán-Ramirez continues to grow professionally. She recently began taking on criminal defense cases, particularly those that intersect with immigration issues. “I have a passion for pursuing justice and equality for all human beings,” she says. “Unfortunately the law isn’t always applied equally to everyone. For many of my clients, a minor transgression, such as driving without a license, could become a federal/immigration case and, perhaps, lead to deportation
or removal proceedings. While I never underestimate a criminal offense, I try to minimize the immigration consequences.”
She also serves as the Secretary of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association and was part of the planning committee for the National Hispanic Bar Association Conference that took place in the Twin Cities in 2010. She was also named one of the “25 On the Rise” by Twin Cities Business Magazine in 2007.
Poetry, which she has pursued since she was a child, has unfortunately fallen to the wayside with her new role as mother. “You get busy,” she says, “and it isn’t such a priority anymore. But the baby is a new muse. And poetry could serve as an exercise in ‘me’ time—I can’t be all work and baby.”
Perhaps that will become her new mantra.