The One-Firm U.N.

Judd Azulay lifts his lamp

Published in 2009 Illinois Super Lawyers — February 2009

Give Y. Judd Azulay your tired, your hungry, your M&M figurines.

The senior partner at immigration specialists AzulaySeiden is a collector (stamps and dreidels), a sports fan (Dolphins, Blackhawks), an avid golfer ("I get so frustrated by the game I don't keep score anymore," he says) and a self-proclaimed "freak for M&Ms." The display cabinet in his office is covered with knickknacks given to him by clients from over 60 countries, but the crowd of colorful plastic M&M characters ("Orange," "Red") attracts too much attention from one group of visitors. "They're all on the third shelf so little kids can't grab them," he says.

The practice's international character isn't confined to Azulay's office. Its lawyers and paralegals speak more than 40 languages, including Chinese, Arabic and Tagalog. Most are native speakers. This is by design.

"We want to cover the world," he says. "We want our clients to feel at home."

Azulay knows something about yearning to feel at home. Before he was an immigration lawyer, he was an immigrant.

Born in Jerusalem in 1947, Azulay and family immigrated to Canada before Israel's war of independence in 1948. He grew up in Toronto, listening to his father tell stories about being deported from Palestine to Egypt in 1917 when the British were fighting the Turks. "I've still got all the passports and all the work permits, and everything else relating to that," Azulay says.

The family kept moving: from Toronto to Buffalo to Miami. Azulay studied patent law in Alabama, and, in 1973, moved with his wife and two children to Chicago, where he'd landed a job with a patent law firm in the Hancock building.

In 1978, a friend asked Azulay for help on immigration issues. "At that point in time, I'd say yes to everything," he recalls. He'd never felt like he fit in the buttoned-up world of patent law, but he found immigration law fulfilling. "It's not in the clouds," he says. "It's reality."

The reality of immigration has changed since 9/11, he adds. Penalties are harsher. "When you rob a bank you can get parole," he explains. "But immigration isn't criminal and it's not civil, it's quasi, so you can end up being in jail without being bonded out and then getting shipped to your country. And once you're shipped to your country, you can never come back, no matter how many members of your family you have here. The things that are important, the freedoms that you have, you can lose them all."

Politics is behind these repercussions, says Azulay, who adds that people in his office get along by focusing on the firm's philosophy. "Emma Lazarus said it best: ‘Give me your tired, your hungry, your poor,' and I really believe that," he says. "I don't care where you're from. Everybody deserves an equal shot at it."

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