Fresh start: Immigration attorney guides clients to new life in U.S.


By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
Immigration attorney Mike Nowlan remembers the challenges of the Visteon spin off from Ford in 2000.
“Trying to file amended Blanket L-1 and H-1B applications, green card filings, and over 100 L-1 applications in a very tight time window was both exciting and nerve-racking,” he said.  

As co-leader of the Immigration Practice Group at Clark Hill in Detroit, Nowlan represents Fortune 100 and 500 companies, scientists and engineers, religious institutions, business executives and entrepreneurs, computer and business personnel, and other professionals and their families as they plan for U.S. entry. 

His expertise also includes in depth knowledge of business and family immigration, non-immigrant visas, as well as the permanent residence and naturalization processes.

Nowlan notes that the Immigration Practice Group — recognized for excellence in immigration law in the 2016 Global Awards by Corporate LiveWire, among other kudos — is run as a boutique immigration law practice, but with large firm resources.

“We have a ton of support, but a lot of autonomy,” he said. “The leadership team of the firm is practical, down to earth, wicked smart, and extremely likeable.

Our CEO is inspirational. Our Practice Group is filled with smart, hardworking and extremely bright professionals. We have a great working environment.

“Nationwide, every immigration lawyer’s job is the same — the job is challenging, and the clients need our best solutions ASAP,” Nowlan said. “But at Clark Hill, our co-workers are fun and they make me smile and laugh every day.”

According to Nowlan, his career owes a great deal to luck. He earned a B.B.A. in strategic planning from Eastern Michigan University. His goal was to open a business with a friend, an idea that didn’t pan out.  

“Funny — I was willing to go to school and spend all that money, and had no idea what the end game plan was going to be,” he said.

Graduating when the job market was in the doldrums, he knew further schooling was in order. Since an MBA didn’t make sense without work experience, he looked at entering law.

Regarding law school, he said. “Without ever having worked at a law firm, and only having a vague idea of the daily requirements of the job, I committed to a degree in law.”

Earning his law degree from Detroit Mercy Law, where he says he benefited from the “very practical teachers and a strong focus on ethics,” at a friend’s suggestion, he took an Immigration Law class.

The professor, Jack English, later hired him as a law clerk; and Nowlan met and married a fellow law clerk at the firm, Lolita Dimovski. 

“Jack was a fantastic mentor and boss,” Nowlan said. “His advice and tips still help me today.”

Named among Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America, among many other honors, Nowlan is driven by the need to help people.

“While most of the Clark Hill Immigration Practice Group’s cases are employment based, they still have an incredible impact on the employee and the company sponsoring them,” he said. “This field of law is great when the company and employee want an outcome, and we’re able to get immigration to agree on time.”  

Nowlan and his colleagues recently won a PERM Labor Certification for a CEO of a company, even after an audit and all proofs were analyzed by the Department of Labor. 

“CEO cases are very difficult in the PERM context because of the uniqueness of the role,” Nowlan said.

Nowlan draws on his EMU undergrad business degree a great deal. 

“Having a strategic plan for a case is essential,” he said. “If I can see the plan in my head, then we usually can do it. It also helps with co-managing the Immigration Practice Group.”

The fundamental knowledge of business and how it works “helps me run numbers and analyze why we’re at a certain point,” Nowlan said. “It also helps with people skills. I’m very lucky to have our co-practice group leader James Morrison, in our Washington D.C. office, help us find our way.” A native of Sterling Heights, Nowlan calls Dearborn home with his wife and daughters Mila, 14, and Alana, 9. He and his family enjoy living in the greater Detroit area. 

“Being close to my wife’s family and my family has been great, and I love the people of Michigan and metro Detroit,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful for the unique opportunities I’ve had in my professional life, my wonderful and loving family, and a career focused on making a meaningful impact on people’s lives.”