Mehlman Barnes LLP partners, Shannon Napier Barnes and Sharon R. Mehlman published “Risky Business – Assumptions in the Hiring Process” in the November 2014 edition of Bender’s California Labor and Employment Bulletin. The article provides much needed guidance to employers, HR and talent acquisition teams in handling the hiring and onboarding process with care to avoid unfair immigration related discrimination allegations.

Copyright © 2014 Matthew Bender & Company, Inc., a member of the LexisNexis Group. All rights reserved. Materials reproduced from Bender’s Labor & Employment Bulletin with the permission of Matthew Bender & Company, Inc., a member of the LexisNexis Group.

04 Nov 2014
November 4, 2014

Legally Blonde – A Professional Fairytale

Personal blog of Partner Shannon Napier Barnes tells the back-story that led to the establishment of the firm and the inspirational tale that shows real dreams do come true.

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by Shannon Napier Barnes, Partner & Attorney at Law

I have never been a personal blogger, but I realized recently that I might actually have a story to tell. It’s an inspirational piece, a professional fairytale if you will. This is the story of a headstrong Beverly Hills sorority-sister turned lawyer, managing to take over the world of law through charming antics, perseverance, and a love for all things pink… Okay, you got me… In reality, perhaps my story isn’t quite so glamorous. I was never in a sorority and I’m not from Beverly Hills. Still, every time I watch Legally Blonde and see Elle Woods parade the grounds of Harvard Law School, head held high, unaffected by the ridicule of her peers, and dressed to the nines, I think to myself “that’s me.” Tell me…what do you think?

“You got into Harvard Law?” “What? Like, it’s hard?” -Elle Woods

Okay, fine…I admit that I didn’t go to Harvard, but the meaning behind Elle’s story and her ability to take Harvard by storm has similar attributes to mine. When Warner broke up with Elle to move away to college in pursuit of a Harvard law degree, Elle mourned the loss and eventually mustered the strength to pick up the pieces of her life. She mastered the LSAT to lock in her admission to Harvard, and then moved across the country with her Chihuahua, Bruiser, to pursue her dream. Elle’s story is one of strength, encouragement and determination.

My loss wasn’t quite as simple as Elle’s, but my loss did force me to pick up the pieces left of my life to work towards something new. My senior year of high school I lost my only brother to a fatal car accident. I still remember waking up the morning of May 5, 2000. There were two policemen at the front door. They were armored with stoic expressions and their hands were clasped at their abdomens, acting as a barrier between them and the reality as it struck me and my family. In that space, they regurgitated the events from the evening prior that led to my brother’s tragic death.

The first several months that followed seem like a blur to me now. I remember going through various stages of grief, including denial, survivor’s guilt, and eventually withdrawing from family and friends. I often found myself wondering, why was I left behind? What purpose do I serve in this life? Nearly a year after the accident, the pain finally began to subside to the extent that I could focus on my studies and my future. The passage of time and ability to heal eventually enabled me to pursue my degree in the evenings and on weekends, and also to obtain a full-time position at a local law firm where I worked in the employment-immigration practice group. The more I learned about employment-immigration and the astounding benefits it provides to our economy, the more motivated I became. This motivation transcended the work place into my studies and resulted in my achieving a GPA that ranked among the top of my class. I graduated from college with magna cum laude distinction and from there I decided to make a go of it at law school. Skeptics were everywhere. Despite my success in college, people mocked my newfound dream. They said I would never succeed. Still, just like Elle, I pushed aside the negativity and ridicule of others. I packed my car and moved across the country with my cat, Sassy, to pursue my dream of an eventual career practicing employment-immigration law.

“I changed my mind. I’ll take the dangerous one, because I’m not afraid of a challenge.” -Elle Woods

When Elle arrived at Harvard Law School, she threw her whole self into the law student role. She dressed the part (with a fabulous wardrobe selection almost always accented in pink), she studied hard, and she happily took on the challenge of seeking an internship with a distinguished law firm. If you have seen the movie, you know that the internship situation didn’t exactly work out for Elle quite the way she had planned…but mine did, and then some.

By the time I arrived in San Diego, I had only 2 days before I would start my new full-time job as an immigration paralegal and only 9 days before I would start law school. Everyone cautioned me that concurrently working full-time and attending law school in the evenings was virtually impossible. They said I was setting myself up for failure, especially if the end goal was to pass the California bar exam. Still, I continued to ignore the negative and chose to focus on what I believed in my own heart to be true – that I could face this challenge head on and succeed. I knew that my brother would want me to and I refused to believe that I didn’t have a purpose. I chose to ignore the skeptics and pursue my dream, continuing on my journey to find my purpose and my path in this life.

As it turned out, my decision to work full-time and study concurrently was one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve ever made. While I attended law school in the evenings, I was fortunate enough to be mentored in the workplace by an amazing and highly respected lawyer in the field, who had also faced the challenge of working full-time and pursuing her law degree years prior. Sharon Mehlman taught me the nuances of immigration law and practice, and she provided me the guidance I needed to identify within myself the type of person and lawyer that I wanted to be. Sharon grew to become one of my closest friends. She was there for me when I passed the California bar exam (on my first attempt I might add), and she was there to guide me through the transition from immigration paralegal to immigration lawyer. Our paths eventually parted professionally for a few years, as I embarked out on my own to create new adventures and grow. Little did I know at that time that our paths would cross professionally again, let alone to the extent that they have to this day.

“It’s pink.” “Oh! And it’s scented! I think it gives it a little something extra, don’t you think?” -Elle Woods

Quite possibly the thing I love the most about Elle is her unwavering adoration of the color pink. Not because it is immature or feminine, but because pink makes a statement. Pink says “I’m fearless”, “I’m innovative”, “I’m unexpected”, “I’m bold” and “I’m confident.” These are all qualities that I have come to value in myself over the years since my brother’s passing, and now also in the law practice that Sharon and I founded together. Mehlman Barnes LLP opened its doors on May 5, 2014, fourteen years to the day after the personal loss that could have broken me, had I let it. I know that my brother would be so incredibly proud of the person I’ve become, and although there have been bumps along the way I have finally found my path and my purpose.

I consider myself to be incredibly blessed. Not many people get to say they have overcome their challenges and lived their dream. Today, Sharon and I are celebrating the six month anniversary of Mehlman Barnes LLP, a boutique employment-immigration law firm. Perhaps poetically, our firm proudly displays the color pink on almost everything we affix our name to. Our dedication to the color pink serves as affirmation that we believe in being fearless, innovative, unexpected, bold and confident. Together, we are able to work as the closest of friends, as reputed colleagues, and as law partners representing industry greats in the fields of technology, communications, gaming, and beyond. We are both contributing every day to a cause we wholeheartedly believe in. I am living out my dream…and… most importantly… I’m loving every minute of it. It doesn’t get much better than that.

CBP has issued an important travel advisory applicable to all Canadian/US cross-border travelers for the weekend of Friday, October 10th through Monday, October 13th due to the Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday. To view the full travel advisory, visit www.cbp.gov.Thanksgiving3

CBP encourages travelers to plan trips in advance and to obtain a valid, acceptable travel document, such as a passport, a U.S. passport card, a trusted traveler card (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry or FAST/EXPRES), a permanent resident card or an enhanced driver’s license. Possession of these documents will expedite entry into the United States and make future border crossings more efficient.

CBP also urges all foreign travelers requiring I-94 or I-94W (visa waiver) entry document processing to obtain the essential document early instead of waiting until the day of their travel to avoid potential delays at the border. Travelers are encouraged to obtain the required document as much as a week in advance for faster and more convenient processing. All travelers requesting an I-94 or I-94W entry document may be required to establish financial solvency, proof of residency outside the U.S. and demonstrate that they have sufficiently strong ties to their country of origin including a home abroad they do not intend to abandon.

Border traffic volumes are expected to significantly increase during the weekend and CBP provides some few simple steps that travelers should utilize to make cross-border travel more efficient during this time:

1. Check out the new CBP informational website. The CBP site has been completely redesigned to help users quickly access the content they need. It also is optimized for access by smart phones and makes use of a new content delivery network that will improve access internationally.

2. Beat the border rush. Cross during off-peak times, such as before 6 a.m. or after 3 p.m. Most lines at the border start building in the morning and carry on into early afternoon. Monitor wait times for the ports of International Falls, Minnesota, and Pembina, North Dakota, here. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits.

3. Keep travel documents handy. Make sure each passenger has the correct travel document accessible and ready to give to the CBP officer. If you are a frequent international traveler and have not already become a member of a trusted traveler program, sign up now. For more information, please visit CBP’s Trusted Traveler site.

4. Know the contents of your vehicles and be prepared to declare all items. Travelers are required to declare all items being imported into the United States from Canada. If you are not sure about what to declare, do not hesitate to ask the CBP officer.

5. Know what food products can be imported. Many fruits, meats, dairy, and poultry products are prohibited from being imported into the United States from Canada. For more information, view Prohibited and Restricted Items.

6. Declare all firearms. Travelers are reminded that specific requirements must be met to import or export firearms and ammunition to/from the United States. For more information on the importation or exportation of firearms and ammunition visit ATF, State Dept., and Commerce Dept. websites or contact CBP at 701-825-5800.

By Shannon Napier BarnesInternational Arrivals
Partner & Attorney at Law

Whether you are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or an international traveler, arrival to the U.S. following international travel is often a frustrating experience. Now you have the opportunity to make a difference and let Homeland Security know how to improve the U.S. arrivals process!

On Thursday, May 22, 2014 the President issued a Memorandum directing the Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security to establish a national goal within 120 days to improve service levels for U.S. arrivals. The objective is to expedite the arrivals process and enhance security by focusing officer time on the highest risk passengers. Along with general comments and suggestions, the agencies are specifically seeking insight as to the following:

1. What are some suggestions to improve the international arrivals experience at U.S. airports?
2. What kind of technology should be considered to improve the international arrivals experience?
3. What recommendations do you have for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to improve passport and baggage inspection?
4. What recommendations do you have for the airlines to improve the arrivals experience?
5. What recommendations do you have for airport operators to improve airport facilities as it relates to international arrivals?
6. Is there anything missing in the international arrivals process that should be added to make the process more comfortable and/or pleasant?
7. What recommendations do you have to improve traveler perception of the international arrivals process?

View the official Notice in the Federal Register here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-07-22/pdf/2014-17215.pdf. Don’t miss your chance to make a difference and improve the U.S. arrivals process! Electronic comments are preferred and may be submitted directly to OACIE@trade.gov and modelports@cbp.dhs.gov by Friday, August 15, 2014.

07 Jul 2014
July 7, 2014

Mehlman Barnes LLP is moving!

Mehlman Barnes LLP is expanding! Only 9 weeks in business and your friends at MB are moving into bigger space! Not to worry, our contact information and mailing address will remain the same. Our phones and email will be down periodically today but if you have an urgent matter please call reception at 858-546-4333 and leave a message for one of the Partners.