Kelly Fortier, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
Law degree received from: Loyola University Chicago School of Law, 2003
Kelly Fortier didn’t expect the opportunity, but she says is glad to have found her place as a corporate immigration attorney.
“I help bring people into the United States,” she said. “I’m helping companies bring in employees from all over the world.”
And, in doing so, Fortier said she not only represents her clients, but also a seldom-discussed piece of the immigration puzzle.
“I’m happy to be the face of immigration that is not the face of undocumented people,” she said. “I’m the face of the physician you need, the person who is going to make the next breakthrough, people who don’t get in the news but people we really need.”
It’s not the direction Fortier thought her practice would take after her job as a summer clerk at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP in 2002.
Back then, Fortier said, she thought her interest in regulatory work would carry her into property or real estate law. One year later, straight out of law school, the firm slated her to work in employee benefits.
But her mentor suggested immigration law, and the idea stuck.
Ten years later, Fortier is a legal leader on immigration, mentoring an associate in her firm with the same specialty, advocating for other attorneys as chairwoman of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and offering pro bono counsel to noncitizens dealing with domestic violence.
“I love what I do. … I know I’m not only helping companies bring in top-notch people to fill roles here, but I’m also helping individuals live out the American dream,” Fortier said. “It’s incredibly rewarding.”
It’s also time-consuming, she said, and Fortier credits her firm for giving her the flexibility to practice law while balancing a family.
Her firm’s willingness to accommodate family — Fortier works an 80 percent schedule so she can be more involved with her children, ages 2 and 5 — is part of the reason she started a women’s development group at Michael Best.
And her efforts have been well-received.
“Kelly thrives on inspiring others,” said Jennifer Rupkey, a marketing and business development director who works with Fortier. “And she has become a valuable asset at the firm and in the legal field opening doors for women.”