About Lisa

Ms. Shea’s law firm, Immigrants First, PLLC, merged with VFN in October 2021 when she became at Shareholder at Vanderpool Frostick & Nishanian, PC, (VFN) and head of the immigration law practice. She founded Immigrants First, PLLC in 2007 at the start of rigorous immigration enforcement in Prince William County and Manassas, Virginia. Prince William County had just passed regulations allowing the police to racially profile immigrants and turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Ms. Shea became an outspoken advocate to protect the constitutional rights of immigrants by conducting Know Your Rights seminars to thousands of immigrants; testifying before human and civil rights commissions; and advocating for fair enforcement of immigration laws before the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. From its inception, Immigrants First, PLLC was about zealously protecting the rights of immigrants and providing excellent legal representation. Ms. Shea has personally won hundreds of cases concerning many areas of immigration: waivers, asylum, cancellation of removal, bond, Violence Against Women Act petitions, U and T visas, TPS, DACA, adjustment of status, naturalization and many more.

As a result of Ms. Shea’s humanitarian contributions to Prince William County, she won the 2021 Prince William County Universal Human Rights Award in January of 2021. Ms. Shea was one of the key persons involved in ridding the Prince William County Adult Detention Center of the 287(g) memorandum with ICE that permitted the Detention Center to detain immigrants for ICE pick-up. She served on the Prince William County Jail Board for a brief time until she realized through a client matter that the detention center was continuing to illegally hold immigrants for ICE pick-up even after the disbandment of the 287(g) agreement. She therefore resigned her seat on the Jail Board so that she, with a team of lawyers, could prevent the Detention Center from unlawfully holding immigrants.

Lisa Shea was named as Prince William Living Magazine Influential Women of the Year – Lisa Shea is a nationally recognized immigration lawyer, working tirelessly to support immigration and human rights. Shea founded Immigrants First, PLLC in 2007, an immigration and human rights law firm, employing 10 women. More than a year ago, she merged with Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. to head up the firm’s immigration law practice. Read the full article.

Ms. Shea has won several other bar and community awards for her excellence in immigration law, including the Virginia Women Attorney Association Justicia Award in 2015. She is a published author on immigration law and has presented to and trained thousands of people on immigration, women’s human rights and constitutional law issues. She currently serves on the Virginia Women Attorney Association State Board, and is the Board Co-Chair of the Centreville Labor Resource Center/Immigration Forum. She has also served on the Boards of BEACON, an ESL nonprofit, and ACTS/Turning Points, a domestic violence shelter agency. Ms. Shea taught immigration law as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, George Mason University, and Randolph-Macon College.

Ms. Shea accomplished her B.A. undergraduate degree at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA; her LL.B. from the University of Sheffield School of Law in Sheffield, England; and her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, MA. She earned a certificate in nonprofit management from Georgetown University. Before becoming an immigration lawyer, Ms. Shea was an international corporate and intellectual property lawyer at top world-wide law firms in the United States and the United Kingdom, where she is a qualified solicitor and member of the Law Society of England and Wales. Her expertise was in intellectual property licensing, computer law, mergers and acquisitions, international joint ventures, and start-ups.

In addition to vigorously pursuing justice in the world, Ms. Shea’s other passion is in the realm of intuitive and healing arts, developed as a result of being an immigration lawyer and working with severely traumatized clients. For 20 years Ms. Shea has trained and worked as an Energy Medicine Healer, Reiki Master, Remote Viewer and Shamanic Practitioner and holds over 20 certifications. She developed her intuitive skills with some of the best trainers in the world, including through courses at the Monroe Institute near Charlottesville, Virginia. Ms. Shea has also extensively trained in how to recognize and work with trauma survivors. Her background allows greater facilitation of her client’s testimony and preparation of their cases, which, combined with her thorough legal preparation of cases, creates a very high record of success in her representation.*

Ms. Shea is holistic in her approach with clients and views the immigration experience as both a way to accomplish legal status in the United States, and, for some clients, as a path towards healing the abusive and in-just experiences that brought them to the United States. For years Ms. Shea has shared her knowledge on these “soft skills” with her fellow bar colleagues through CLEs and trainings on lawyer wellness, mindfulness and how to manage vicarious trauma for self and clients.

In her spare time Ms. Shea is a hiker, world-traveler, avid reader and golfer. She is currently writing a book about her life experiences.


Ms. Shea grew up in Northwestern, PA, where her adopted father was a small-town lawyer. She spent much of her spare time in his law office and “absorbed” the law. When she was ten years old, in a debate with her father about a constitutional law issue, Ms. Shea knew she wanted to be a lawyer and work to preserve justice, freedom and equality for all persons; she later discovered that immigration law would “fit the bill” perfectly. After completing her undergraduate degree in the United States at Allegheny College, she married a Brit, moved to England and obtained a law degree from the University of Sheffield School of Law after which she worked as a corporate solicitor. One of the most valuable skills she took from her time in England was “how to think like a lawyer” through two years of jurisprudence, the philosophy of law, classes. Eventually, Ms. Shea wanted to return to the United States and she and her husband moved to Boston, MA, where she obtained her J.D. at Northeastern University School of Law and then worked in “big” corporate law.

During her years of practicing corporate law, Ms. Shea engaged in representing pro bono immigration cases. Through her subsequent work and study, she became an expert on women’s human rights issues, such as female genital mutilation (cutting), rape, honor killings, incest, domestic violence and other forms of violence and discrimination against women. In 2001, after winning a novel asylum case for a young mother from Turkey who was horribly abused by her husband and faced death if she was deported, she decided she wanted to work full-time in immigration law. Ms. Shea moved to Washington, D.C. to work at the Institute for Policy Studies where she helped found a program working with victims of human trafficking. She was one of the first lawyers in the U.S. to work with U and T visas, newly created at that time under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and she developed a national protocol on how to represent victims of human trafficking to get their legal status for the Freedom Network. She then became the Director of Legal Services at Tahirih Justice Center, a national nonprofit organization focusing on immigration relief for women and girls suffering gender-based violence, where she represented a case that was the foundation for the International Marriage Broker Act legislation, requiring U.S. consulates to provide criminal background information to K visa recipients entering the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen man.

Ms. Shea represented one the first successful rape recognized as torture cases for a Congolese woman, which became Amnesty International’s flagship case for their national Stop Violence Against Women Campaign. Ms. Shea was a frequent speaker for Amnesty International and Vital Voices, an organization started by Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright, and Ms. Shea has testified before Congressional hearings on immigration and women’s human rights issues.

After working in the nonprofit world, Ms. Shea wanted greater autonomy to work on complex immigration cases and she started her firm, Immigrants First, PLLC, at the perfect time to help thousands of immigrants in the Washington, DC and Prince William County area access information and quality legal representation. Ms. Shea is married with two children and everyday feels grateful to serve her clients through work that she loves.

* Even with Ms. Shea’s experience and successful record of wins, she never guarantees a result with clients, is direct in her approach, and warns clients that every case is different on the facts and in the system.


  • Allegheny College, Meadville, PA, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Communications
  • University of Sheffield School of Law, England, Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.)
  • Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA, Juris Doctorate (J.D.)
  • Georgetown University Certificate Program in Nonprofit Management

Practice Areas

Bar Admissions

  • Massachusetts
  • Washington, D.C.
  • England and Wales
  • Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
  • Virginia Women Attorneys Association
  • Prince William County Bar

Professional Activities

  • Virginia Women Attorneys Association
    • Virginia State-wide Board Member
    • Prince William County Chapter, Member
    • Prince William County Chapter, President, 2015-2016
  • Prince William County Bar Association, Member
    • Chair of Immigration Law Committee
  • BEACON, an ESL learning program, Manassas, VA, Advisor and Former Board Member
  • Centreville Labor Resource Center, Centreville, VA, Co-Chair of Board
  • Prevention Committee of the Greater Prince William Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Council, Prince William County, VA, Member
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association
    • Lawyer Wellness Committee
    • Former member, Ice Liaison Committee, Washington Field Office, Virginia
  • Unity in the Community, Prince William County, VA, Former Executive Board Member and Immigration Issues Advisor
  • Acts/Turning Points, Domestic Violence, Prince William County, VA Former Board Member
  • Prince William Leadership, Prince William County, VA, Class of 2009, Participant
  • Amnesty International Stop Violence Against Women, Campaign Coordinator for VA, Washington, D.C. and Speaker


  • Book: Immigration Law Essentials for Virginia Practitioners, published by the Virginia Bar 2021, and available for purchase.
  • Awards:
    • Prince William County Universal Human Rights Award 2021
    • Justicia Award 2015 – Awarded to a Female Lawyer Progressing the Rights and Status of Women, Virginia Women Attorneys Association, Prince William Chapter.
    • Special Recognition Award 2012 by Unitarian Universalists National Capital Region Committee on Social Justice for work on capital region immigration issues.
    • Prince William Living Magazine Influential Women of the Year 2023


  • Complex Removal Defense, including Criminal Immigration Consequences, Asylum, Convention against Torture, Cancellation of Removal, Adjustment of Status, Denaturalization
  • Waivers of all kinds
  • Family and Employment-based petitions and Consular Processing
  • Employment-based visas
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status
  • T and U visas, Violence Against Women Act Claims
  • Parole, Bond and Humanitarian Relief


I want to take this opportunity to thank you for serving on the BEACON Board. We are so fortunate to have someone as passionate and dedicated to the immigrants in our community as you are. Thank you for always being willing to present to students on their rights and general immigration process. And, thank you for your guidance on how to handle our role in the current client/respond to one of the church’s concerns. I really appreciate having an immigration expert that I can turn to when I have questions and can help educate the board. I also wanted to thank you for your visionary thinking/questions during our strategic planning. You really helped to push me to dream big for our program, which is so valuable. Thank you for the many years you have committed to BEACON and for propelling us towards growth.

Executive Director of Beacon ESL Program Run by Benedictine Sisters

Thank you for meeting with us yesterday. You gave us important information so we can go forward with launching the Democratic Immigrant Caucus.

Chair of the Democratic Immigrant Caucus, Prince William County

Lisa is an amazing lawyer! When I first met her my husband was going through an immigration issue. She was able to meet me late at night, calm me down and say “She’ll handle this.” Because of the court backlog, my husband and I worked with Lisa on her immigration case for five years! My husband was applying for asylum and it was a difficult case, especially because of the immigration crackdown we have been experiencing. I am so happy God was able to put Lisa in our path, because otherwise my husband would have been deported. She is not just a lawyer, she an amazing human being and she takes her cases very seriously. She treats her clients as family -- at least that is way we felt with her! God bless her always for the amazing job! Our life Changed for the best and it was because of Lisa’s help with our case! Thank you, Lisa, God bless you always!

Winning Asylum Client

I am very happy with my experience with Lisa Johnson-Firth [now Lisa Shea]. She helped me with the process of my case. She helped me be able to stay here in this country, safe and to create a life and work. Thank you Lisa.

Winning Asylum, Adjustment of Status and Naturalization Client

Very good experience because she worked hard for my case. Thanks to her I am able to be here in this country. She’s a tough lady in the court and passionate about her cases. A positive impact in my life because I was able to bring my family in this country and we are now reunited.

Winning Asylum Client
View all testimonials

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