Raquel Bellamy is bilingual, loves to travel and even lived overseas for a year, so all that no doubt helped solidify the practice area that’s today a big part of the boutique law firm she founded in Memphis.
Bellamy came here from Nashville where she attended Vanderbilt University. Before that, she lived in Alabama and studied finance and Spanish at a small liberal arts college there, Oakwood University.
“I really enjoyed my experience there,” she said. “What I loved most about Oakwood is their program on language. I studied Spanish, and I actually lived in Argentina for a year and have traveled to places like Peru, Chile and Uruguay, so that’s what helped get me interested in immigration law, culture and things like that.”
When she came back from overseas, she ended up at Vanderbilt, took an immigration law class there, and loved the specialty even more.
Bellamy arrived in Memphis in August. She set up her practice, the Bellamy Law Group, in January, and she says she wants it to grow and that she anticipates collaboration with other attorneys.
Why she got interested in the law as a career in the first place makes sense, considering the work she does now on behalf of families and individuals in immigration court and working with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“When I was younger, I always felt this great joy from speaking up for others,” she said. “I thought it was a good field that would translate well into a law career. I remember how my mom used to put me in oratorical contests, and I always felt really comfortable with public speaking and writing and research. I always felt comfortable speaking up for people who aren’t as vocal.”
Her practice areas do extend into other things besides the primary work of immigration law. She also handles things like family law matters, non-contested divorces and some estate planning.
“I offer representation in removal proceedings,” Bellamy said. “I also offer assistance with filing applications with USCIS, going to interviews with Homeland Security, translation, and I can also offer assistance with divorce and the preparation of legal paperwork. Also motions, pleadings, general advice for new business owners who want help with drafting contracts and things of that nature.”
Part of what drew her to Memphis is the presence of an immigration court here. When she came here, she also wanted to get involved with a nonprofit, and that led her to start working with the Community Legal Center.
The CLC is a group that provides pro bono legal services, educational programs and clinics for low-income clients.
“I go there about once a week,” Bellamy said. “When I’m not there, I’m working on cases remotely pro bono, going to biweekly clinics and I help interview clients. It’s just a fascinating organization. A great way to learn about the law.”
Her advice for young and aspiring lawyers is simple: stick with it.
“It’s so hard now for new lawyers, because of this economy,” she said. “I would just tell people if you really want to succeed in the law, you can. I think it’s good to have a niche you like, and if you’ve got that it will help you find a firm or practice or client base if you decide to go solo.”