You might look at this at CHS pandering to one of its advertisers but when we saw the self-serve ad order come in for Olivie Law, it stood out. For one, it was hot pink. For another, there aren’t a lot of young immigration lawyers opening offices on the Hill. Olivie didn’t stay a CHS advertiser for long but we still wanted to talk to him — and another neighborhood lawyer — about law on the Hill.
André Olivie graduated from the Seattle University Law School and created his own law practice soon after, focusing on immigration, naturalization, and asylum law. He works out of the Office Nomads building on Boylston Ave.
An immigration activist and co-founder of the Society of Refugee and Immigrant Justice, the 26-year-old Olivie told CHS, “I believe that people should be able to come to the U.S. and make a better life… Somebody needs to stand up for them.”
He has opened 10 cases in the last 4 months since he began his practice. At the moment, he is working on a case defending a gay man from Eastern Europe seeking asylum from the persecution he faces in his home country because of his sexuality.
It is this sort of LGBT immigration case that Olivie would like his pratice to become known for.
“I’m gay, I can help people stay in this country and be safe,” Olivie said.
Olivie said the lack of official recognition for gay marriage makes it much more difficult for gay couples of different citizenship to be together. Unlike straight couples, gay partners are not allowed to marry and acquire a green card. Instead, their process involves applying for citizenship, possible deportation or, in the case of Olivie’s current client, physical harm.*
“When you’re the only attorney, if you mess up, they could be deported forever, and if it’s an asylum case, they could be killed,” Olivie said.**
Capitol Hill and the surrounding area are sources of diverse clientele for Olivie, and so he says he is able to keep his work local and personal.
Like Olivie, lawyer and fellow Seattle University Law School graduate, Cameron Collins, also focuses on the local population in the local Seattle area. However, Collins’ focus is on representing the Seattle music scene.
“There was a huge void in Seattle, there was no one helping artists,” Collins said.
Collins, 30, and his colleague Mark Saku, 32, started their Bellevue Ave firm, Saku Collins Entertainment and Media Law Group, in the summer of 2007. Their goal is to help artists and music labels set up royalties and copyright within contracts, and establishing limited liability corporations.
“Both of us come as parts of the music scene, not as lawyers trying to break into the music scene,” Collins said.
Collins views himself as part of the music world first, and a lawyer second. A DJ for several different local radio programs during school and still spinning, Collins blogs and writes for music websites, zines, and magazines such as Sound Magazine. You can also follow him on Twitter: @legalmindedpunk
“Everything I do,” he says, “ya know, writer, blogger, all that stuff, I view all of that as a way to help, not just my clients, but the entire music scene.”
His desire to help comes through in how he and his partner manage their firm, offering informal advice, and a lot of pro bono counseling.
“If someone doesn’t have money, I’m not going to turn them away, ” says Collins. “If you have money, you have a voice… I don’t think it’s fair.”
Collins says he wants to help the Seattle music scene grow and become a community. “The whole idea is to create a music scene that brings everyone up,” Collins said.
* Olivie contacted me after the article was posted and wanted to add a note to the paragraph: A proposed bill, the Uniting American Families Act, could change this problem for bi-national gay couples and gay families. The bill is currently being debated in congress. If passed, Olivie says U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents would be allowed to sponsor their foreign-born permanent partners for legal residence in the U.S.
**Olivie, for legal purposes, would like to instead say, “When you’re an immigration attorney, the stakes are high, your client could be deported and separated from their loved ones for years. If it’s an asylum case, they could be killed.”