• Juris Doctor with honors, The George Washington University Law School, May 1997
  • Master of Music, University of Michigan, School of Music, December 1992
  • Bachelor of Music, Oberlin College, Conservatory of Music, January 1989
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Admission to Practice

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit – 2013
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan – 2012
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of California – 2007
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit – 2004
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Southern California< – 1999/li>
  • Supreme Court of California – 1999
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (inactive) – 1998
  • Court of Appeals of Maryland (inactive) – 1997
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John Richard Smith

Of Counsel, Immigration and Nationality Law

John graduated cum laude from the George Washington University School of Law in 1997, and worked for small firms in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., before moving to San Diego. He has limited his practice exclusively to immigration since 1998, working as a staff attorney for Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc. for 3-1/2 years before opening his own office in 2003. After nine years running his own law office, John decided to join a private law firm in Detroit, Michigan, as a Senior Associate Attorney, so that he could focus more on the substantive law and less on the operation of his business. In 2014, he received an offer to return to San Diego to join a small firm here; and he has served Of Counsel to Jacobs & Schlesinger LLP since August of 2015.

John’s practice focuses on nonimmigrant visas for entrepreneurs, family-based immigration, removal defense, humanitarian immigration (through asylum and other victim-protection laws), and immigration-related litigation. He is a recognized expert in addressing and mitigating the effects of arrests, convictions, and prior immigration violations on his clients’ ability to immigrate and naturalize through creative legal analysis and strategy. He has frequently been called upon to serve as a peer-to-peer educator on matters relating to issues of ineligibility for lawful immigration status, as well as waivers to overcome those issues. He is renowned for never shying away from a challenging case, while always remaining realistic about what is possible under the law.

As a law student particularly interested in issues of social justice, John was first drawn to immigration law after accepting a summer internship, working to address issues of domestic violence with the drafters of the immigration-related provisions of the federal Violence Against Women Act of 1994. From that starting point, his interests expanded from assisting victims of domestic violence and asylum seekers looking for protection from their persecutors, to obtaining relief from deportation for long-time lawful residents whose families were facing the threat of separation and economic deprivation in the wake of the foreign nationals’ criminal convictions, to seeking redress through litigation for wrongful government action in the implementation of the immigration law.

More recently, the scope of John’s expertise has expanded to include representation of artists, athletes, and business professionals seeking to enter the United States to work in their chosen fields on both short- and long-term bases. He has obtained short-term visas for acrobats, artistic designers, business executives, and investors—in industries ranging from gaming to international advertising, product manufacturing and distribution to entertainment and food service, and commercial real estate development to dry cleaning. His focus on these visa types complements the firm’s existing expertise in more common nonimmigrant and immigrant options for those in specialty occupations and fields in which the United States needs qualified workers due to a domestic shortage.

John has been highly active in the American Immigration Lawyers Association (‘AILA’) since first devoting his career to the field of immigration. He has served on numerous liaison committees of the San Diego Chapter of AILA, engaging in dialogue with immigration-related government agencies including the San Diego District Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the San Diego Field Offices of Enforcement and Removal Operations and Chief (Legal) Counsel for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the San Diego Immigration Court—serving as committee chair for a number of years on several of those committees. His leadership role in AILA has also included serving one year each as Treasurer, Secretary, Vice-chair, and Chair of the San Diego Chapter, and as a member of the Board of Governors for the national organization.

John is fluent in both oral and written Spanish, and committed to developing in his clients the fullest understanding possible of their cases and the laws that affect them.

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John Richard Smith is available for consultations on all matters.
Set up a meeting with him today! (619) 230-0012