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VOL. 124 | NO. 213 | Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ashby Brings Immigration Knowledge To Donati Firm

By Rebekah Hearn

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BRYCE W. ASHBY
Position: Attorney
Firm: Donati Law Firm LLP
Basics: Ashby practices in labor and employment law and civil rights law.

Bryce W. Ashby recently rejoined the Donati Law Firm LLP after clerking for Judge Bernice Donald in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Ashby, who is fluent in Spanish and has worked extensively as an advocate and organizer in Latino and immigrant communities, practices in labor and employment law and civil rights law.

Ashby graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Rhodes College. He received his juris doctorate in 2007 from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude.

In law school, Ashby served as editor-in-chief of The University of Memphis Law Review. As a student, he received the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) Awards in several areas, including civil rights.

Currently, he is an adjunct professor of legal methods at the law school.

A prolific writer, Ashby has co-authored several articles on issues such as immigration reform. In 2007, he received the Irvin Bogatin Social Justice Award and the American Law Institute-American Bar Association (ALI-ABA) Scholarship and Leadership Award.

Ashby is a member of the Memphis, American and Federal bar associations, the National Employment Lawyers Association and the American Inns of Court.

Q: What do you think is one of the most important aspects of immigration reform in the U.S.?

A: That is a difficult question because immigration reform is such a complex issue. I think ultimately the biggest issue is what should happen to the 10 million to 12 million individuals who are currently living within our borders without documentation. Anti-immigrant groups argue that they should all be deported. This just is not realistic. The sensible answer seems to be to create a pathway to normalization of status likely through payment of back taxes, a fine, and a demonstration of good moral character. This was the proposal contained in the comprehensive immigration reform bill proposed by Sens. (John) McCain and (the late Ted) Kennedy.

Q: Why were you inspired to go into these areas of law, particularly civil rights?

A: I worked at Latino Memphis Inc. for a couple of years and was continually frustrated by the limits of my abilities as an advocate. So many individuals and families came through our doors who had their basic rights violated or who had been taken advantage of. Becoming an attorney seemed like a natural step to bridge the gap between my limits as an advocate and the needs of those among us who are the most vulnerable.

Q: What kind of work have you done in the Memphis-area Hispanic community?

A: I worked as the programs director for Latino Memphis and an organizer for the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). I also serve as a pro bono attorney for the Workers Interfaith Network’s workers’ rights center.

Q: How has working at The Donati Law Firm benefited you?

A: I have been fortunate to work with two really intelligent and talented attorneys, Don Donati and Billy Ryan. Billy and Don have both gone out of their way to teach and to mentor. The kind of relationship that I have with them and the environment we work in is pretty rare for most young attorneys to find, especially on the plaintiff’s side.

Q: What aspects of practicing do you focus on when teaching legal methods?

A: I teach at the law school both semesters. My focus is on teaching first-year students how to formulate legal arguments and then organize them in a manner that is conducive to the reader’s understanding. I have had the opportunity to learn from some really good writers, like Judge Donald, Billy and Don. Tom Walsh at Ford & Harrison (LLP) was actually my legal methods professor in law school, and he taught me a great deal. I mostly try to pass on some of their knowledge to the students.

Q: Your undergraduate degree is in biology. Did you have a different career in mind when you started college?

A: Initially, I had planned on becoming an ecologist. I loved the subject, but I am not sure my talent resided there. I even followed that path for a couple of years with work in Honduras as a Peace Corps volunteer, but ultimately the law has been a better fit.

Q: While studying, clerking or practicing, what has been a case that has affected you the most?

A: I worked for a summer during law school at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. In that work, I had the opportunity to work and travel throughout the Southeast with a group of really talented young attorneys. Their clients were mostly farm workers from Latin America, and some workers who were brought to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after (Hurricane) Katrina. The conditions and the treatment these workers faced would, I think, infuriate most people. That was the first time I got to see firsthand how an attorney’s work can empower workers and shine a light on workers who have been pushed into the shadows.

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