April 14, 2016
Kerri Sherlock Talbot (HLS, 2002) knew she wanted to focus on immigration work when she came to HLS, but wasn’t quite sure how a post-HLS career would look like in the field. Immigration positions are difficult to attain, but Talbot managed to secure a position after graduation that allowed her to do direct client work and start her career in immigration. Talbot eventually made her way to Capitol Hill, working for Senator Robert Menendez and currently works for the Veng Group, a government relations and public affairs firm based in Washington, DC. This profile was written when Talbot was Chief Counsel for Senator Robert Menendez.
Kerri Sherlock Talbot ’02 found her passion for immigration issues when she taught English to Mexican immigrants as an undergraduate at Tufts University. Teaching introduced Talbot to communities affected by immigration law and made her realize how badly the US immigration system needed reform. An international relations major, Talbot was also fascinated by immigration because it sat at the intersection of international and domestic issues.
Talbot knew she wanted to focus on immigration policy when she enrolled at HLS and worked in the immigration clinic. Talbot spent much of her time in the immigration clinic while at HLS and was immersed in the client work. Immigration policy jobs, however, are rare, so after graduation it was challenging to find a job. However, through connections she made at Harvard, Talbot secured a job with the Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service in Baltimore. Although Talbot had hoped to work in advocacy instead of legal services, this first job out of law school allowed her to learn more about the field and start networking.
Talbot’s desire to move to D.C. led her to a job at Break the Chain Campaign, which works to prevent the abuse and exploitation of migrant women workers. She then joined the Rights Working Group, a coalition of over 350 local, state, and national organizations that advocate for civil liberties and human rights. At Rights Working Group Talbot became heavily involved in immigration policy issues and met her future employer, Senator Robert Menendez, when she briefed him on immigration issues in 2007. After a stint at the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, an organization with which Senator Menendez had a strong relationship, Talbot was well positioned to transition to her current position as Senator Menendez’s chief counsel, a job she used her strong network to land.
As Chief Counsel Talbot works on all judiciary issues, including national security, guns, domestic violence, crime, nominations, and her area of expertise, immigration. She researches all issues before the Senate, briefs Senator Menendez, writes letters for him, and attends meetings. Talbot has dedicated the past eight months to assist with writing the immigration bill that recently passed the Senate, an effort that involved negotiations with Republicans, briefing Senators, explaining amendments to them, and guiding the bill through the Judiciary Committee mark-up process. While Talbot works long hours, she relishes the opportunity to have a direct influence on policy and finds fulfillment in seeing the legislation she has written enacted.
Talbot advises students who want to pursue policy work on Capitol Hill to intern on the Hill while in law school. Those who hope to work in immigration should take advantage of every opportunity to work their way into the community and meet lawyers in the field, as immigration jobs are scarce. Talbot encourages students to explore different areas and to get experience to confirm their interest in a field. Most of all, Talbot says, students should have an open mind and remember that they have a long career ahead of them. If the first few jobs out of law school aren’t the perfect fit, they can still provide valuable experience and expose young lawyers to new practice areas.