Helen (Jugovic) Tarokic (JD ’06) receives national AILA award for mentoring immigration lawyers

Photo of Helen Jugovic Tarokic (JD '06) sitting at a table in her office.

Immigration attorney Helen Tarokic started her own Wilmington practice in 2011 and is one of two North Carolina board-certified immigration specialists in Wilmington. (Photo by Chris Brehmer)

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)  will recognize Helen (Jugovic) Tarokic (JD ’06) of Wilmington, North Carolina, with the national 2018 Sam Williamson Mentor Award for her outstanding efforts and excellent counsel to immigration attorneys. The award, in particular, recognizes her work with helping human trafficking survivors and teaching other lawyers about complex creative business immigration options.

The award will be presented on June 14 during AILA’s Annual Conference and President’s Reception in San Francisco, California.  On June 15,  Tarokic will participate in a human trafficking panel, “T Visas Should Not Be Overlooked,” as part of a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar.  ”T visas” are visas made available to survivors of sex and labor trafficking. Tarokic has obtained “T visas” for several Wilmington victims of trafficking, who are also immigrants. North Carolina is among the “Top 10” states for human trafficking, according to Tarokic.

Tarokic is the founder of Helen Tarokic Law PLLC and an N.C. Board Certified Immigration Law Specialist. Her law firm has organized two human trafficking courses and one advanced business immigration seminar in Wilmington.

What makes Tarokic’s mentoring unique is she has done much of it through the Association of Mother ImmiGration Attorneys (AMIGA), which provides immigration attorneys, who are also mothers, an uplifting, collaborative, and inspiring community.

“AMIGA focuses on the ‘whole-istic’ self, which is comprised of Amiga members’ passion for their children, motherhood, immigration law, and their law businesses,” Tarokic explains. “Through AMIGA, Tarokic offers information and resources to help mother immigration attorneys (or “Amigas,” as the members are called) in their quests to balance motherhood with being lawyers, and to provide the support they need to prepare winning cases and create thriving businesses.”

Tarokic adds, “I am thankful for Ally Lozano, AMIGA’s founder, for allowing me to participate in this unique platform.”

Tarokic says she has been sharing her work, theories, and new screening methods to help powerhouse women lawyers, as well as many male colleagues, revamp their intake methods to identify individuals eligible for immigration options one might not expect at first glance.

A passionate advocate for empowering immigration lawyers and their staff, and training paralegals to ensure that the law firm is achieving their clients’ goals, Tarokic herself is the child of immigrants. Her mother, Koraljka Jugovic, has devoted much of her life to mentoring professional women as a nurse, as well as being a leader in local government and women’s groups in Croatia (the former Yugoslavia). Her father, Valentin Jugovic, is a retired Caterpillar factory worker, who in the 1960s, brought his family to the U.S. for a better life.

“He felt that barriers, borders, and boundaries were things to be overcome, and he has shared that with me, his daughter,” Tarokic explains. “I have always felt that closed doors are a challenge waiting to be explored.”

Tarokic recently celebrated her 40th birthday. As a result, she has set a goal over the next five years to ensure 5,000 visas are awarded annually to trafficking survivors. She also plans to continue offering new legal education programs for lawyers who are balancing family with their law practice as well as her expansion into opening a second office in Croatia, where her parents are currently living and retired.  Her husband, Ante Tarokic, a dual national of Croatia and the U.S., also works for Helen Tarokic Law, and the couple have two children.

A member of AILA since 2006, Tarokic has served on the Carolinas Chapter New Member’s Division and ICE Liaison Committee.  AILA is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Tarokic graduated from Wake Forest Law, where she also received an award for mentoring women in the profession. “I’d like to thank Immigration Law Professor Margaret Taylor for being my mentor and colleague,” she adds.