Law alumna gives to asylum clinic that forged her career path
Lauren Kostes ’15 JD says the UConn School of Law helped her find her life’s passion.
She traces it back to her second year when she participated in the school’s Asylum and Human Rights Clinic. She and another student got the chance to represent a woman who had fled from her home in Honduras.
“We did everything. We prepped for the hearing. We did the evidence package. We litigated an entire hearing before an immigration judge,” Kostes said. “At the end of it, I said ‘Alright, I figured it out. This is what I want to do.’”
Kostes is now an immigration attorney in Arizona where she helps detained immigrants facing deportation. She calls it her dream job. She is grateful for high-caliber classes and the law clinic experience that she recently donated to the school.
“It’s such a unique opportunity that doesn’t exist in any other place,” Kostes said. “Everyone is shocked everywhere when I explain the extent to which the clinic was able to represent people and what they let UConn Law students do. That’s why I feel it’s really important to support it as much as I can.”
Kostes, who is originally from Newtown, Conn., is a senior attorney at a nonprofit called the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project with offices in three cities in Arizona. She represents detained immigrants from Mexico, as well as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
She grew up around immigrants and she has always felt a strong connection to immigrant communities. Her mother came to the United States as a child from Italy.
“My family was really lucky in how they were able to come to the US,” she said. “They fled poverty but were able to get a green card from my great grandfather.”
When Kostes was first hired, she didn’t speak any Spanish. She had to enroll in an immersive online class for several months before she could begin working. Kostes said her job allows her to tap into her undergraduate degree from Bucknell University in international relations and enables her to research other countries.
“But I think the thing I like most about the job is the ability to really make a substantive difference in someone’s life,” she said. “My clients tend to be truly incredible, strong people in ways I am certainly not. What they’re able to endure to get here is really humbling and it’s really an honor to work with them and to help their stories get told. It reaffirms just how important attorneys are.”
Support the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic at the UConn School of Law.