Clients Praise Westwood Lawyer

Erin Prawoko

Daily News Transcript
March 12 2008

Immigration Lawyer Samia Chandraker, right, meets with her clients,
dance instructor Gayane Ghazaryan, left, and soccer coach Karen

By Jeb Bobseine/Daily News staff Daily News Transcript

————————————– ——————————————
WESTWOO D – In 2003, Karen Babayan was stopping international soccer
stars like France’s Zinedine Zidane from scoring goals.

Five years later, the Armenian-born Babayan coaches at the New England
Sports Academy on University Avenue and lives nearby with his family.

That new life, Babayan says, is possible because local lawyer Samia
Chandraker took his immigration case.

Chandraker, a Scotland native, opened her first office in Cambridge
11 years ago – after studying at Harvard Law School – before moving
to the Westwood area in 2000.

Her clients include New England Sports Academy, Computer Arithmetic,
as well as physicians, academics, scientists and others.

One client, Henry Shterenberg, says he couldn’t manage without her

Shterenberg opened the New England Sports Academy in 2003 to offer
youth athletic instruction.

Coaches from all over the world make up the staff, said Shterenberg,
a refugee from the former Soviet Union. Many are former high-level
athletes who he said are extraordinary assets to the United States.

"They’re the best in their field," Shterenberg said.

Chandraker helps foreign citizens enter the U.S., get their green
card and citizenship papers, he said.

"She’s done a phenomenal job. She’s never failed."

In 2007, Chandraker took on Babayan’s application for a green card.

She made his case as an alien of "extraordinary ability," as he played
professional soccer in Europe, and for the Armenian national team.

Unlike a professor or researcher seeking permanent status – aliens in
the medical field make up half of Chandraker’s practice – there is less
tangible supporting data for an athlete like Babayan, she explained.

As a result, she loaded the case with statistics, colleague
testimonials, and explanations of the nuances of European soccer.

She called the case an "incredible challenge."

Instead of documents and publications, Chandraker said she relied to
newspaper articles describing Babayan’s athletic prowess; photographs
with famous players, including French superstar Zidane; even a National
Geographic article arguing for the importance of soccer as a way to
"change dialogue between nations."

Babayan, who received his green card in five months, was pleased with
the outcome, as well as Chandraker’s work.

It took such a short time, he said. "She’s very, very smart … a
nice person … (and she) knows everything," he said.

Gayane Ghazaryan, another Academy instructor, echoed Babayan.

Ghazaryan has taught dance and gymnastics at the Sports Academy for
two years. Before that she choreographed performances for a dance
troupe she started in her native Armenia.

Ghazaryan is waiting for her green card. Chandraker helped prepare
her application.

Her case is a bit tougher than Babayan’s because it is hard to
quantify ones excellence in dance, according to Chandraker. It has
fewer international structures and no overarching organizing body,
as soccer does, she said.

One of the ways she made the case was to test the market for
Ghazaryan’s skills by placing ads, through the Sports Academy, to
see if any similarly qualified U.S. workers were available.

None were.

Ghazaryan’s case highlights one of Chandraker’s self-proclaimed
strengths. "Transparency of communication" makes her law office
different from others, Chandraker wrote in a press release.

To achieve this she, or her associate Meghna Shah, provides detailed
one-page monthly case status reports for each client showing how the
case is progressing and what the next step will be.

There are these traditional stereotypes in the legal profession, she
said. People think of lawyers as arrogant, too busy and inaccessible.

Even with her office handling around 100 cases each year, the hope
is her clients don’t feel that way, she added.

"She’s a great tool for us to improve people’s lives," Shterenberg
said. She not only helps the coaches whose cases she handles, but
the hundreds of kids they are then able to teach, he added.