Lawyer Limelight: Kate Kalmykov

When her family immigrated to the U.S., Kate Kalmykov’s parents instilled in her the importance of seeking a better life. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international relations – always passionate about taking her work global – she knew she wanted to help other families achieve the same dream hers had. She entered law school and devoted her career to building a practice as a business immigration attorney at global heavyweight firm Greenberg Traurig.

After landing a clerkship at the firm fresh out of law school, Kalmykov has advanced through the ranks at Greenberg Traurig and is now Chair of the firm’s Business Immigration and Compliance Practice. Her practice centers around representing clients in employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visa matters. Over the course of her career, she has helped workers in a variety of sectors – including artists, executives, investors and other persons of extraordinary ability – fulfill their immigration journeys.

Kalmykov is acclaimed for her work structuring EB-5 immigrant investor matters, working with developers, private equity funds and other organizations to assist investors in their moves to the U.S. Notably, she structured the largest EB-5 raise in the program’s history. Kalmykov also assists employers in compliance, I-9 employment verification, audits and diligence issues to ensure that the immigration process progresses smoothly for employers and international employees and investors alike.

Lawdragon: Can you describe the range of work you do within the immigration space?

Kate Kalmykov: I work with large corporate clients, as well as startups, non-profit institutions, universities and hospitals on their personnel’s transfer to the U.S. for both nonimmigrant work visas and permanent residency. I develop corporate compliance programs and assist in audits of clients before the Department of Labor, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Additionally, I work with real estate developers, regional centers and private equity funds on the structuring of EB-5 immigrant investor capital raise programs. I likewise represent high-net-worth individuals in applying for the EB-5 immigrant investor visa.

LD: What led you to this practice area?

KK: As an immigrant myself, I have always been drawn to helping people, but I am also very business-minded. Business immigration was a natural fit for my interests.

LD: Did your experience with the immigration process influence your career choice?

KK: I have always been taught by my immigrant parents to be proud to be an American and to be grateful for the opportunities this country gave us. I wanted to give that back to others.

LD: What have you found most fulfilling in this work?

KK: There is nothing more satisfying then helping clients achieve their workforce needs and seeing the dedication and excitement of individuals when they are able to come to the U.S. and remain here to pursue their "American Dream."

LD: Are there any matters that stand out?  

KK: I structured the largest EB-5 raise in the history of the program for the largest real estate development in the U.S.

I have always been taught by my immigrant parents to be proud to be an American and to be grateful for the opportunities this country gave us. I wanted to give that back to others.

LD: You were recently made chair of the business immigration and compliance practice at Greenberg Traurig – tell me a bit about that.

KK: For me this was an incredible achievement and a testament to the ability to advance at the firm where I have spent my career. I started at GT as a law clerk, later became an associate and eventually a shareholder in the practice. I am delighted and excited to lead our practice group and expand our geographic footprint, as well as our services and capabilities.

LD: What trends have you been seeing in your practice lately?

KK: The past two years have truly been ones of transition and change due to the political worldwide situation, post-pandemic reality, inflation and changes in the administration. Our practice is always dynamic in the sense that immigration law, its interpretation and its implementation is ever changing and now even more so. Attorneys in this field are required to be nimble and adapt quickly to zealously represent client interests.

LD: Do you have an example of that flexibility in any recent matters you’ve worked on?

KK: I recently defended a very large corporate client with thousands of employees before ICE in an I-9 audit to verify the work eligibility and identity of their workforce.

LD: Were there any challenges in that defense?

KK: Staffing a large audit of this sort is critical, and given the tight deadline set by the government agency, being able to do so in the setting of a large firm is key. I put together a professional and experienced team across offices and time zones to ensure that the needed audit measures were taken immediately and delivered results that eliminated any civil or criminal penalties for the client.

LD: What was the outcome?

KK: The client was able to avoid penalties imposed by the Department of Homeland Security. The company likewise has now established operating procedures to avoid any pitfalls in compliance going forward. We also trained their in-house staff and developed an employer handbook for training and reference.

LD: What did you enjoy most about working on that matter?

KK: Watching a team come together at all staffing levels, working around the clock with a single goal in mind, is always inspiring to me and makes me so proud to do what we do.

LD: Going back a bit, did any of your undergraduate work steer you toward a legal career?

KK: My undergraduate and master’s degrees were in international relations. Certainly, the area of law to which I have dedicated my career has put me into a position where I travel the world to meet with clients. Knowing the history and specific nuances of different countries from my undergrad has very much informed me and, I believe, given me a competitive edge in my legal career.

LD: In addition to earning your bachelor’s and master’s, did you have any jobs before law school?

KK: While I went straight through in my education, I worked continuously, as well. In law school, I worked at a non-profit working with politicians from the former Soviet Union to travel to the U.S. to learn about democracy through a program funded by the Library of Congress. I also worked at the Middle East Institute where I learned Arabic and about political relations between the Middle East and the U.S. Finally, I also worked as a clerk at the Small Business Association.

Our practice is always dynamic in the sense that immigration law, its interpretation and its implementation is ever changing and now even more so.

LD: Those jobs seem both closely tied to your undergrad and graduate degrees and your current career. Is there a reason why you chose American University over another law school?

KK: I loved the international focus that the Washington College of Law at American University had.

LD: Is this the type of practice you imagined yourself practicing while in law school?

KK: Absolutely – but, in truth, it's been even more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I truly love what I do.

LD: Did you have any mentors in law school?

KK: I had a wonderful professor in law school who taught immigration law and I also took part in the immigration law clinic which allowed me to go to court and represent clients as a student before an immigration judge.

LD: Do you have any advice for current law school students?

KK: Stick with it and study hard!

LD: So, you’ve always practiced immigration law, but how has your practice changed since the early part of your career?

KK: I have broadened my skills and branched out into many areas that simply weren't popular or well-known, like EB-5. This gave me the opportunity to develop and build expertise and capture a huge portion of the market in what I do.

LD: How would you describe your style as a lawyer?

KK: My style is to approach matters as someone knowledgeable in the law, with a business mind who is looking for practical and cost-effective solutions for my clients.

LD: Tell me about your journey at Greenberg Traurig. What do you enjoy about the firm?

KK: When I was a first-year associate at Greenberg Traurig we were taught to be "3D lawyers." A 3D lawyer is someone well-versed in the law, who thinks with a business mindset and who prioritizes client objectives with practical service, technology and advice. It’s stuck with me my entire career and now when I mentor junior attorneys I always start with this concept.

LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?

KK: Cook and travel!

LD: Tell me about your work in pro bono matters and public interest activities, like the Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations.

KK: I am president of that organization, which is the central coordinating body for the Russian-speaking Jewish community of New York and New Jersey. I am incredibly proud of the work COJECO does in our community, as well as in the campaign we engaged in this year to help support those impacted by the war in Ukraine. 

Through Greenberg Traurig’s pro bono efforts, I also helped to process and review immigration cases for hundreds of Ukrainian families. While the circumstances are awful, I hope that our work has helped these families and individuals find a safe haven in the U.S. during this difficult time.

LD: Do you have a favorite book or movie about the justice system?

KK: “Just and Unjust Wars” – it blends my love of international relations and law.

LD: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be doing now?

KK: Attending culinary school in Italy to be a chef!