How Birding Made Me A Better Lawyer - Above the Law

How Birding Made Me A Better Lawyer - Above the Law

I start 2022 with immense gratitude for a transformational 2021. My first true hobby has transformed me. It has brought so much joy and love in my life that I want to spread the word. It has made me a calmer and even more caring human being, a better wife and mother, and a better immigration lawyer and advocate. My newfound love for birds is the love that I never knew before.

I recall being asked at various times in my life — “Do you have a hobby?” I used to say reading books, which became listening to books. Admittedly, I loved my transition into becoming an audiobook listener. I sewed. It was a short-lived interest. At the start of the pandemic, someone asked me: what do you do for fun? Do you have a hobby? I recalled thinking, “Who has time for a hobby?” I’m struggling to get through each day with all the responsibilities life throws at me as a parent, business owner, and lawyer. I suspect I am not the only one who feels that way.

But the question struck a chord. I hate to admit it, but not having an answer made me feel really un-fun. So, I tried to up my meditation practice which I’d developed a few years ago. I also thought mindfulness would bring me more peace. But with the kids at home, and with both my lawyer husband and me working from the house, finding a quiet space to meditate became a challenge. I started to wake up earlier to have my alone time. In this period, something magical happened.

I started to be awake and alert early enough to see the sunrise. I started to notice the birds flying through the sky against the beautiful sunrise colors and shades of pink, yellow, orange, and purple. One day, as I was working, I noticed the chirping of a bird outside. I went to the deck for a few minutes to watch it. I repeated this, for a few weeks, noticing the sparrows and finches, and others — just five to 10 minutes at a time.

Then I started to take photos with my phone. I wanted to capture the beauty of their wingspans, their colors, and shapes. Before I knew it, I’d upped my game to a digital camera because the cell phone images didn’t feel detailed enough. Soon, though, the small digital camera also felt inadequate, lacking the zoom capability I needed for the kinds of shots I wanted to get. The Canon DSLR camera was a great move and gave me far greater details.  But soon I began to feel like I needed a better lens for capturing images of beautiful birds I couldn’t get close enough to. The 600 mm lens that I settled on allows me to capture minute details that are 144 times in magnification.

This gradual transition happened over several months. Just spending a few minutes each morning on the deck watching birds left me feeling uplifted for the entire day. What I lost in meditation time, I gained in bird-watching. I was mostly alone, except for the birds. I had to be still to ensure they’d ignore me as I focused on getting the best shots.

Now I find myself going to parks in the sunshine, rain, or snow, trying to find birds I have not seen before. In the birding world, that’s called a lifer. I have exercised more in 2021 than ever by taking long walks in the fresh air while exploring parks I’ve never thought to visit before. I am now motivated to do weight training so I can carry my heavy camera lens.

I’m sharing all this now because we are living in unprecedented and unpredictable times when our clients have never needed us more. The practice of immigration law saw unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. The shutdown of U.S. immigration offices inside and outside the country brought cases to a standstill. So much has happened; I have written about them in my columns right here.

We all want to be better at everything but most of us don’t know how. We think working more is the answer. In 2021, I came to understand and believe that is not true.

I hope in this new year you are able to find your own form of whatever drives your passion. Find something outside of your daily practice of the law to feed your soul. Doing something for yourself, for your own well-being, is the foundation of everything else. Make 2022 the year of you so you can be the less stressed, more effective lawyer that you deserve to be.

Tahmina Watson is the founding attorney of Watson Immigration Law in Seattle, where she practices US immigration law focusing on business immigration. She has been blogging about immigration law since 2008 and has written numerous articles in many publications. She is the author of Legal Heroes in the Trump Era: Be Inspired. Expand Your Impact. Change the World and The Startup Visa: Key to Job Growth and Economic Prosperity in America.  She is also the founder of The Washington Immigrant Defense Network (WIDEN), which funds and facilitates legal representation in the immigration courtroom, and co-founder of Airport Lawyers, which provided critical services during the early travel bans. Tahmina is regularly quoted in the media and is the host of the podcast Tahmina Talks Immigration. She is a Puget Sound Business Journal 2020 Women of Influence honoree. Business Insider recently named her as one of the top immigration attorneys in the U.S. that help tech startups. You can reach her by email at, connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter at @tahminawatson.

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