Howard B. Eisenberg Lifetime Achievement Award

Thomas C. Hochstatter

Thomas HochstatterThomas C. Hochstatter’s legal credentials are as impressive as his pro bono commitment and his high ethical standards.

Tom graduated from Maryknoll College, Glen Ellyn, Illinois in 1966 with a B.A. in philosophy. He received his M.A degree in international relations from the University of the Americas, Mexico City in 1971 and then received his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1974. Between 1968 and 1971, prior to attending law school, he taught in store-front academies with the Urban League in New York City.

For the first eight years of his practice, Tom worked as a legal services attorney for migrant farm workers, six of these years as Director of the Migrant Project of Legal Action of Wisconsin. He trained and mentored many paralegals, law interns, and new lawyers in unique and challenging areas of laws, such as migrant housing, crew leader regulations, minimum wage, and migrant education. Many of the people he mentored have become prominent leaders in the Wisconsin legal community.

Tom opened his own law practice, which later grew into the firm of Hochstatter, McCarthy, Rivas & Runde, S.C. The firm provides a full range of immigration law services to individuals, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local governments throughout the United States.

It is impossible to count the number of pro bono hours Tom has accumulated or the number of attorneys he has mentored in the area of immigration law. As an attorney mentor, Tom has always made himself available to legal services attorneys, Public Defenders, and private practitioners, and he also has been a reliable and trusted source of advice to many community and religious organizations.

In mentoring new lawyers as they struggle to open their own immigration practices, Tom is raising the quality of legal services in a community in which there is much need. After 41 years practicing law, you’ll still find Tom talking to callers every day, at no charge, to help them wade through their complicated immigration cases. He knows in the vast majority of cases he will not be able to offer a legal solution because of the current limitations of U.S. immigration law, but he takes these calls anyway to make sure people receive competent advice.

Recently, Tom agreed to represent two unaccompanied teenage age girls from Central America, which required him to do a guardianship action in state court and to drive hundreds of miles to the farthest reaches of Northern Wisconsin for the hearing. The case was also logistically challenging because the client family was moving around and had to appear in Immigration Court in Chicago as well as in a Northern Wisconsin court, within a short period of time. Tom also was one of the pro Bono attorneys who helped the families of the victims of the Oak Creek Sikh Temple shootings with their immigration issues, together with four other attorneys from his firm.

In addition to his work in his successful practice, Tom volunteers regularly at the Marquette Volunteer Lawyers Clinic. While the MVLC is understood to be an advice and referral service only, Tom routinely follows up with the people he sees at the clinic, either to provide them with a more extended consultation (for free) or to offer them representation at no cost or at a much reduced fee.

Tom is also one of only a few immigration leaders who are expert in legal ethics in this unique area of law. Besides teaching countless ethics seminars, Tom regularly advises other immigration lawyers on difficult ethical issues. Tom served as the chair of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association from 1986 to 1988 and as treasurer from 1991 to 1996. He was appointed to serve on the Wisconsin Migrant Council, a statutory advisory body, by three successive Wisconsin governors, from 1977 to 1986. He has appeared as a panelist on television programs, commenting on immigration issues, both in English and in Spanish. He also regularly speaks on immigration issues before attorney and community groups.

Tom was also selected by his peers as a Best Lawyer in Immigration Law and a Super Lawyer year after and year, and is regularly named in the International Who’s Who of Corporate Immigration Lawyers, Wisconsin Super Lawyers, and Chambers USA.

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