After graduating from law school in 1987, Mr. Reina began his legal career in Houston, Texas, at Vinson & Elkins, a global law firm founded in 1917. Mr. Reina later moved to Washington, D.C., where he joined the firm Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells), which today has approximately 2,500 lawyers worldwide.
While an associate in the commercial litigation group at Hogan & Hartson, Mr. Reina discovered his passion for immigration law. Because of his ability in foreign languages, Mr. Reina’s help was sought out by other lawyers at Hogan & Hartson who were handling asylum cases pro bono on behalf of indigent aliens. Soon, Mr. Reina had tried several asylum cases himself, and he knew he had stumbled on the reason he had studied law.
At the conclusion of one of his first asylum trials, Mr. Reina and his client listened as the immigration judge rendered the court’s oral decision. Once it was clear the asylum claim would be granted, the client turned to Mr. Reina and embraced him, sobbing – finally relieved of the tension over whether he would be deported.
No greater satisfaction could any lawyer desire. Many years later, in a letter, Mr. Reina credited his Jesuit education with his passion for immigration law:
“Immigration practice has allowed me to serve the most vulnerable people in our midst. Never while in law school did I imagine that I would help tens of thousands of people and change their lives forever. I have that privilege today. It is inconceivable to me that God would wish me to do anything else. With very few exceptions, all of my clients are relatively poor and very disadvantaged. Many live in constant fear of deportation. The sense of social justice that drives me and my law practice is a vital gift from my education at Jesuit.”
After a few years at Hogan & Hartson, Mr. Reina returned to Dallas, Texas, where he was raised. Within a year, he opened a private practice, gradually handling more and more immigration cases. By 1996,100 percent of his work involved immigration matters. That same year, he joined the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
For several years, Mr. Reina worked without the assistance of any other lawyers. In 2000, he applied for and got board certification in the area of immigration and nationality law. In early 2001, Mr. Reina hired a lawyer to join his practice and “Joseph Reina” became “Reina & Associates.” Over the next several years, Mr. Reina tried hundreds of removal (deportation) cases and his practice grew enormously. Soon, more lawyers were needed to handle the firm’s burgeoning caseload.
For many years – indeed, since as early as 1997 – Mr. Brian Bates had proved an inspiring and encouraging mentor. Mr. Bates, who enjoys a national reputation, was known to Mr. Reina as an extraordinary immigration litigator who had chaired the Texas chapter of AILA and who twice had received the litigation award from the chapter. Mr. Bates was not only a spectacular lawyer, but also a generous mentor and friend. When the opportunity to work together materialized in 2007, Mr. Reina approached Mr. Bates with the idea of joining forces and opening an office in Houston, headed by Mr. Bates. In July 2007, their association became known as Reina & Bates.