Why I Made a Change: Sanaa Assa

Amsterdam-Netherlands-800From an Unwanted Career Change, to Happily Being in Two Legal Worlds at the Same Time

Unusual stories make for the best and sometimes worst stories. I am unsure where my story lies, probably somewhere in between. In 2014, I travelled 4,154 miles from the Netherlands to Minnesota to start my law school journey at the University of Minnesota Law School. After three long years, I graduated, took the Minnesota bar exam, passed (!) and landed a great staff attorney position at a plaintiff’s employment law firm in downtown Minneapolis—against all odds as a non-US citizen. After a few months, a firm in St. Paul recruited me for a position as an associate attorney, which included sponsorship for a work visa. An American dream-like story so far, right? Well, here comes the kicker: you are eligible to be considered for the work visa after you have been picked in the lottery, and fate had it that I wasn’t picked. After a life, network and career that I had built for years in Minneapolis, I was forced to move back home in August 2018. I put in my notice at my firm, I sublet my lease at my apartment, and I packed up my life for my big unwanted move at that time.

I thought, what’s next? I came to UMN Law straight from law school in the Netherlands, so my professional network at home was nonexistent. It felt like starting from scratch. You get creative in the face of adversity, so I decided to work as a freelance attorney for my old firm and solo practitioners who could use a few extra hands. After a crash action of networking, I then slowly moved on to an international firm in Amsterdam where I focused on corporate law. In order to have more work-life balance, I somewhat quit law and joined forces within the Dutch government focusing on policy work and compliance. I say “somewhat” because I still do some freelancing in practicing employment law for solo practitioners in Minneapolis. I found it important to maintain my attorney license and good standing at the Minnesota Bar. Through different time zones I attended CLEs during a time when it was still unusual to work remotely. I guess I was ahead of the game!

Long story short: I am grateful for my unwanted move to the Netherlands; to be close to my family and friends; and to have felt safer during the pandemic that hit the world just a year and a half after my move. I came to appreciate the Netherlands more, all while making a shift in my career and remotely maintaining my law presence in Minneapolis.

Sanaa-Assa-150Sanaa Assa

Sanaa Assa is a compliance officer at a national government organization in the Netherlands and a part-time, remote, independent contractor attorney for law firms in Minneapolis. Before moving to the Netherlands, she was an associate attorney at a mid-sized firm in St. Paul, practicing business litigation, construction law, and employment law. Sanaa pursued her legal education at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, followed up by the University Minnesota Law School where she graduated with a J.D. in 2017. 


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