Profiles in Practice: John Medeiros

John-Medeiros-400Only three days after being sworn in to the Minnesota bar, John Medeiros became a partner at the Myers Thompson law firm. He had earned it the hard way. “It was a long road to becoming a lawyer, but a very short road to becoming a partner,” said Medeiros. His journey was anything but traditional.

Medeiros comes from a working-class family from Providence, Rhode Island. His father was a machinist, the first-generation son of parents from the Azores, his mother a homemaker. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rhode Island in Spanish, English and Latin American Studies with minors in African Studies, Linguistics, and Education. “I have always been interested in learning how others view the world... The fact that we can look at the same thing but in a different perspective fascinates me,” says Medeiros. During college, Medeiros got his first taste of working at a law firm when he landed a job “schlepping files back and forth” for a worker’s compensation firm. He found that job deeply unsatisfying, but appreciated the work ethic of those he worked with. After college, Medeiros found his calling working with a nonprofit in Rhode Island, where he gave legal workshops to immigrant communities and coordinated a staff of six to help immigrants apply for amnesty.

While visiting a childhood friend in Minneapolis in 1994, Medeiros fell in love with the city. He recalls this visit took place in the summertime. Medeiros could see himself living here. He opened the phone book and began to apply for jobs at law firms. While he was sitting in the lobby of one firm waiting for an interview, he picked up a copy of Who’s Who in Immigration Law. This book introduced him to Sam Myers and Elizabeth Thompson, two national leaders in corporate immigration law who hired him a week later. Three years later, the three left their existing firm and started the firm of Myers Thompson, with Medeiros in the role of practice group administrator. In this position, he completed necessary tasks to support the practice, including creating information sheets on policy directives and templates that established consistency in the firm’s work. Over the years, his expertise in immigration law became invaluable.

Medeiros took his first LSAT in 1997 but he decided not to go to law school even before he received his results. He knew he could only go to law school on a part-time basis, and the only option for him at the time was an evening program that required him to take classes four nights a week. At the time, a professor advised him not to rush into law school, and in retrospect, he thinks that was the right decision. “I could not work five days a week and go to school four evenings on top of that. If I had gone to law school in 1997, I would not be a partner today,” said Medeiros. 

While building his skills and knowledge at Myers Thompson, Medeiros took a detour to pursue another passion of his: writing. He obtained a Master of Fine Arts, summa cum laude, in creative non-fiction and poetry. He has taught writing classes and led writing workshops, and even published a book of poetry while he was in law school. His poetry and non-fiction are widely published, and he is the recipient of dozens of awards, including two Minnesota State Arts Board grants and several national awards. He is currently working on a memoir and promoting an LGBT reading series that he has co-curated for  fourteen years. This past May, the Minnesota Historical Society Press published an anthology of the series called Queer Voices: Poetry, Prose, and Pride.

While in his early 40s, Medeiros took his second LSAT and enrolled in Hamline University’s weekend program. “Going to school on the weekend was the only way I could do it,” he says. “It was much easier for me to separate my work life from my academic life,” he adds. “And as for my social life, well, I had none!”

Medeiros graduated with honors in 2014. “Law school was quite the adjustment,” says Medeiros. “The first semester of law school was all about learning how to juggle it all. I had a partner. I had a house. I had a full-time job,” he adds. “But I also knew that once I did this, I had my career laid out for me.” In January of this year, Myers Thompson became Myers Thompson Medeiros. 

Medeiros’s clients come in many sizes. He works with small companies that employ as few as three people, as well as companies with offices around the world. As part of his job, he interprets regulations by the Department of Labor, the Immigration Service, and the Department of State — agencies that do not communicate well with each other.

Sitting on Medeiros’s desk are stacks of paper and a picture of his husband, John, along with a number of redrope envelopes. These envelopes contain requests for additional evidence from the Immigration Service, a norm in the life of immigration practitioners these days. “These times are challenging for immigration lawyers,” he says. “There is complete unpredictability, and the most challenging part of the job is to manage their clients’ expectations,” says Medeiros, “There are no longer any guarantees.”

Nevertheless, Medeiros is a leader in an evolving field of corporate immigration law. To unwind, he does yoga regularly and bowls in a league. He jokes, “Yoga keeps me centered, but bowling reminds me of the benefit of throwing something hard and fast at least once a week.”


By Eder Castillo

Mr. Castillo is a first-generation law student from an immigrant family. He graduated from the University of Minnesota and is currently in his third year at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.