Davis Polk associates Alex Moss and Paul Shortell were featured in Law360 discussing their pro bono work advising on asylum cases for LGBTQ individuals. They highlighted the legal hurdles and challenges involved in securing asylum for their clients and how they approach those challenges.

“Asylum representations often entail difficult conversations with our clients regarding past trauma. Reliving painful memories in a conversation with lawyers is no easy task in the first place, and LGBTQ individuals can encounter particular barriers to recounting their experiences,” Paul told the publication. He also noted that clients may be understandably reluctant to share personal details about their identity in order to avoid further discrimination.

As for how to navigate these challenges, Alex explained that establishing relationships and trust is vital. “We are often among the first people with whom a client is sharing their identity and the most intimate aspects of their past — clients often have not shared these stories with even close friends and family. I believe one of the most important steps to establish trust is to let the client dictate the pace of initial conversations,” he said.

Paul added that he thinks it is important to structure conversations in a way that allows clients to see him as an ally and to explain that attorney-client confidentiality prevents disclosure of information outside of the asylum process.

When asked what inspires him to continue working on these types of asylum cases, Alex said, “Our clients have already undergone immense personal struggle to get to where they are, refusing to accept the status quo in their home countries. I find myself energized by clients’ resilience and continued hope for a better life in which they can be their complete selves, and their determination motivates me to help them tackle their remaining hurdles.”

BigLaw Attorneys On Navigating LGBTQ Asylum Cases,” Law360 (July 7, 2023) (subscription required)

Learn more about Davis Polk’s Pro Bono program.