Miatrai Brown ’07
Miatrai Brown ’07
Making Immigration More Accessible
BY SUSIE ZIMMERMANN
In tenth grade at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes, Miatrai Brown traveled to Nicaragua for a service trip. The mission of this trip was to participate in an authentic cultural exchange by living with local families and participating in the community through clean up efforts. Miatrai experienced daily impactful moments; however, one instance became particularly memorable.
One day, during a meeting with a town official, Miatrai noticed that he had a large jar of honey, complete with bees, sitting on his desk. Upon learning that Miatrai had a sore throat, the official suggested she try some honey to soothe it. This honey was not just any honey, his wife’s grandfather had harvested the honey shortly before his passing. A bit concerned about all the bees in the jar, Miatrai was reluctant; however, she was so moved by the origin of the honey, she tried it. “Of course it helped,” she remembers with a laugh.
That simple exchange, a passing moment in the day, made a large impact on Miatrai. She recounts her thoughts at the time of “how different cultures are, and yet at our core how kind, similar, and interconnected we all are.” She says this “opened me up to think of the world beyond my own awareness, and made me begin to realize that the more interconnected our world is, the better off we will be.”
“By incorporating my core principles of equity and access, which was fostered during my time at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, my firm helps individuals attain their immigration dreams and allows U.S. companies to increase their performance capabilities.”
The service trip to Nicaragua opened her eyes to just how different children’s lives around the world could be. “We had great teachers [at SSSAS], and a comfortable environment, strong education and so many resources, but it was so different in Nicaragua,” she recalls. “There, the kids sold items on the street and did not have much food, but were still smiling and happy. That really changed my perspective, and encouraged me to get out of our bubble of privilege and into the broader community through volunteer work and helping others.” From that point, Miatrai knew then that she would always want to be “a positive influence in [her] community and beyond.”
Miatrai’s travels were not only service oriented, but also sports oriented through a lacrosse tournament in London. This further shaped her belief in the importance of cross cultural and cross intellectual exchange.
Fast forward 17 years later, and this exchange catalyzed Miatrai into opening her own law firm, Direct U.S. Immigration. Her purpose is to help people realize their dreams of coming to the U.S. and help companies improve their performance capabilities by bringing in talent from overseas.
Beyond the impact of the service trip, opening her firm has required a combination of talent, determination, focus, and hard work, all attributes Miatrai believes were first developed at SSSAS. One of three siblings who are alumni, Miatrai remembers the strong and steady work ethic that the school instilled in those early years, “something I’ve since applied throughout my life.”
Miatrai also enjoyed playing a wide variety of sports in her early school years, and settling into a year-round schedule of basketball, lacrosse, and track in upper school. “SSSAS fostered your ability to both do what you liked to do and also to take chances trying new things,” she says. “Just being encouraged to try, fail, and pick yourself up, made even new things fun to learn about and enjoy,” she says.
Upon graduation, she attended Virginia Tech where her prior experiences had given her a strong idea of what she wanted to do—something with an international orientation that would allow her to help people and positively impact the world. She majored in international studies with a business concentration, studied Spanish as well as Arabic, and after graduating worked as an executive legal assistant and paralegal for a Mclean law firm. Within one year she embarked on law school and graduated from American University.
The law degree combined with her interest in business guided her subsequent steps. She worked in Virginia and D.C.-based law firms, working on cases for tech firms, financial institutions, and small companies including filmmakers and security-oriented entrepreneurs. The combination of experiences on the client-side, coupled with a wish to deliver quality work more efficiently led Miatrai to soon begin designing how her own firm might operate.
Within six years of earning her law degree, she opened that firm, grounded in the core tenets of strong communication, empathy, focus, and determination. With a small team of attorneys, consultants, and specialists, the firm is staffed to cover every time zone so someone can be working at any time of the day to address client needs. Miatrai believes in surrounding herself with “motivated, inspired, and open-minded individuals,” and providing them with the training and support they need along with a comfortable and happy work environment.
Together the Direct U.S. Immigration team is committed to handling cases quicker than other firms to deliver client success. Careful attention to quality control ensures that her standards are equal to that of larger firms so that her clients, no matter what size, are always receiving the best service and support.
Along with a focus on the internal workings of the business and needs of her clients, Miatrai also must keep an eye on building the business and nurturing a strong and visible public profile. She is active in the local legal and business community, and has been recognized as one of Northern Virginia’s Top 40 Under 40, the National Black Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 and one of Northern Virginia’s 40 Under 40 Emerging Women Leaders in Law. Her pro bono work has been honored by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and she regularly publishes in major legal outlets including Bloomberg Law and Law 360.
“It also helps that my name is unique and noticed,” she quips.
Outside of work, Miatrai cherishes living nearby her sister and mother—whose entrepreneurial spirit in running her own businesses helped to ignite Miatrai’s drive. She is also grateful to only being a phone call away from her brother whose continued success and ambition is motivating. SSSAS continues to be a part of her life as she remains close to friends she developed at SSSAS, and she remains appreciative of the school for setting her on her path. “You don’t realize how wonderful it was until leaving,” she says. “SSSAS prepared me for the future. The teachers were thoughtful and cared about us, our education, and the trajectory of our lives. We felt it then, but I appreciate it even more now.”
Most of all, Miatrai thanks SSSAS for instilling in her a curiosity about learning and about the world, and an ability to accept feedback and failure and learn from every experience. She encourages today’s students to absorb this as well. “Be curious in every area of your life and use your education and curiosity as a foundation to springboard into new opportunities.”