Editor’s Note: This is a new feature focusing on immigrant-run businesses in NH. If you know of someone we should spotlight, please contact Editor Matt Mowry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born and raised in Ghana, Francis Agyare pursued a career in molecular biology before finding his passion for the law. He opened an immigration law firm (www.agyarelawgroup.com) in Nashua three years ago and says he knows firsthand the challenges immigrants face and the rewards that come from taking risks.
“I know what [my clients] are going through,” Agyare says. “It’s tough. You remember the worst parts, like getting stopped all the time. But that’s not what’s important. You do the best you can. You need to make it work.”
Agyare’s father moved the family to Canada when Agyare was 17. As a teenager, he says he found himself in a new country at a time when he was also deciding what to do with his life.
His first dream, to become a pilot, didn’t work because his eyesight wasn’t sharp enough. With his interest in science, Agyare says he then considered becoming an astronaut, conducting research on the space station.
He joined the Canadian Army Reserve in his last year in high school and was in boot camp before he had even selected a college. “I rose through the ranks fast and became a sergeant,” he says. During his six years in the reserves, he attended a nearby college where he earned a bachelor’s in biology followed by a master’s in molecular biology.
With his degrees in hand, he immigrated to the United States to work in a Massachusetts lab while trying to further his education. The lab was bringing new products to market and that meant intellectual property lawyers coming in. “We had to educate them about the science,” he says. Agyare says he liked that intersection of science and the law, and decided to pivot and pursue a law degree instead.
After attending Franklin Pierce Law School in Concord and interning as a law clerk for Judge Randall R. Rader of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., Agyare returned to NH, landing a job as assistant patent counsel to DEKA Research and Development in Manchester.
It was a get-together with a former schoolmate from Ghana, who was living in Worcester, Massachusetts, that caused his career to change again. Agyare began attending church in Worcester, which has a community of immigrants from Ghana, and when people discovered he was an attorney, they peppered him with questions.
He started researching immigration law and used that knowledge volunteering at Catholic Charities NH, which has programs that help new Americans.
That’s when Agyare says he discovered it was more fulfilling for him to help someone get a green card than to help a company land another patent. “It gave me more purpose,” he says.
While working at a law firm, Agyare says the passing of his father and subsequent issues with his family back in Ghana distracted him and he lost his job. That’s when he decided to set out on his own. He speaks favorably of his former employer, with whom he’s still in contact. “He actually did me a favor,” Agyare says. “That gave me the push to do it.”
For the past three years, Agyare has focused on growing his immigration practice, which has a second office in Worcester. And he’s working to get licensed in Ghana.
Since the Supreme Court ruled that people being advised to take a plea deal need to be informed about deportation possibilities, Agyare says the criminal cases have also picked up with clients and fellow attorneys calling.
“The quality of the work is important to me,” Agyare says.