Babaoglu driven to help others find American dream

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Jan. 3, 2013

Being of Azerbaijan descent and born in Milan, Italy, Rehim Babaoglu of Thomason Hendrix Harvey Johnson & Mitchell PLLC, preaches the American dream from his pulpit high above Main Street as an immigration lawyer.

He tells the story of a 5-year-old boy in 1951: “I was on a boat and it was coming into New York Harbor, people were being called on deck and I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I go up on deck and there, in the fog-shrouded harbor, is the Statue of Liberty.”

It was, he said, “the penultimate immigrant experience” and is one he has carried with him throughout his life. He grew up in coldwater tenement flats in Newark, N.J., a fictional yet very true-to-life setting for “The Sopranos.”

“I used to shine shoes as a kid in bookie joints, they were on every corner,” Babaoglu said.

Babaoglu’s father spoke eight languages and worked distributing international music records, but he went to college at Rutgers University, originally with plans to be a dentist, yet ending up with majors in Russian language and history.

His work as a probation officer after graduation taught him that there was too low of a ceiling in government work and, while observing attorneys in court, Babaoglu said, “I can do better than that.”

It was the dean of the Rutgers Law School who suggested studying at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law … (read more)