Jennifer Cook is one of the founding partners of Benach Ragland. In fact, the firm was nearly Benach, Ragland & Cook, but we decided that law firms these days were going for shorter names, like Duane Morris or Dewey LeBoeuf (Wait, not that one!) Plus, Jen, unlike the other founding partners, does not have a monstrous ego that requires constant feeding. But make no mistake, Jen is essential to this firms’ operation and activities. Jen’s organization, thoroughness and commitment to creative and zealous representation and client service keep us all on track and our clients’ needs at the forefront. And, as a former environmental lawyer, Jen not only organizes our practice, she also multitasks by being in charge of our extensive recycling program at BR.
Other than a spell (6 year spell!) of California fever, Jen has made Washington her home since she came to Georgetown as an undergraduate. A devoted Hoya, she attended Georgetown law. Before dedicating herself full-time to immigration law a few years ago, Jen spent a decade at Duane Morris in the environment and energy practice. Doing this work, Jen learned the ins and outs of federal agencies. She dealt with them on administrative matters and sued them to protect her clients’ rights. Sounds a lot like what we do. Her experience makes her a savvy and skilled advocate who can find her way around a labyrinthine statute and agency. Getting warmer to immigration! However, Jen, a warm and outgoing person, missed the human element in her work. Representing utilities and trusts is not the same as representing nannies, laborers, and families. In immigration law, success is measured in dreams achieved: the ability of a family to stay together, an education for a farmworker’s daughter, freedom of expression and to be who you are. It is manifested in hugs, tears of relief, jerk chicken, Diwali sweets, and spicy enchiladas. After finding that Thomas Ragland and Andres Benach needed help with some of their work while at Duane Morris, Jen threw herself into immigration law, with characteristic gusto and doggedness. Pretty soon, Jen was driving to see clients in immigration detention, attending immigration interviews and haggling with judges over bond.
Jen took to immigration like a fish to water. She presented a demeanor that clients knew that they could trust. In one of her first cases, she was able to gain the trust of a Ugandan client to tell her that he was gay. He was in his thirties and had told no one of his sexual orientation. Jen helped him to gain the strength to make this admission to his conservative family. His admission saved his life as he was able to seek protection from deportation on account of the horrendous treatment of homosexuals in Uganda. If it were not for Jen’s perceptive questioning and her warm and approachable demeanor, he may have carried that secret to an early grave. Jen also did the heavy lifting in our federal court naturalization case, Abusamhadaneh v. Taylor in which a federal judge in a 90 page decision found that the government was wrong to find that our client lacked good moral character. While Thomas Ragland and Denyse Sabagh were in the spotlight, Jen did the hard work of reviewing the materials, digging through the record, and finding the facts that led the client to victory.
A marathoner, Jen knows about endurance, pacing herself and keeping at a goal that may seem far out of sight. Jen takes inspiration from the travails of our clients. Immigrants take risks by leaving their country and embarking on a dangerous journey for the hope of a better life. Jen left a comfortable practice and took a risk by starting a new venture in the hope of a life with more meaning and deeper human connection. All of us at Benach Ragland are enriched because she did, as is our clientele.