Member Spotlight: Committed to Making a Difference

By Sarah Kellogg

February 23, 2017

In March's Washington Lawyer, the D.C. Bar spoke to women who are devoting their careers and legal expertise to help people in need. Below, Smita Rao Dazzo talks about her work in the Immigration Legal Services of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Smita Rao DazzoSmita Rao Dazzo
Staff Attorney, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, Immigration Legal Services

The immigration system is slow. If somebody comes to you and wants you to file an asylum case for them, it could be three years before you have the decision that will help them change their life. The hard thing is watching them struggle with that and living with the uncertainty. The kind of work we do is the long haul. There is very little instant satisfaction. You do get concrete results, but you have to be patient.

It can be stressful. We're juggling huge caseloads. I've got 150 clients. They all need you at some point. One of the great things about Catholic Charities is it gives us the freedom to do things on our own. We make our own hours. We take the clients we want to take. There is not as much pressure as I can imagine there would be at a firm. 

When you think about big law, it's hard to see the difference you're making unless you're looking at numbers at the end of the day. If you have somebody sitting in front of you talking about how scared they are to go back to their country, or somebody who made the brave decision to leave an abusive husband, the day you help that person stabilize their life is the day you see the concrete effects of your work.