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Jim Breckenridge- Levy Craig Law Firm

breckenridgeLong before Jim Breckenridge was a bond litigator or U.S. State Department interpreter, he was a kid in rural Kansas who sometimes felt scared.

“I didn’t feel free to express my true self,” said Breckenridge. “You’d hear homophobic slurs at school. I remember being bullied and slapped up side of the head with a biology book and called a ‘faggot.’ It drove me to seek other opportunities outside the place I was raised.”

For his junior year of high school, Breckenridge studied in Venezuela as a Rotary International student. The trip left him not only with Spanish-language skills but also self-confidence — and wanderlust.

A full scholarship pulled him to the University of Kansas, where he graduated in 2002. He spent some time in Peru working at a school for children on the autism spectrum, then returned to the United States, where he earned his certification as a court interpreter in Missouri.

Working with language appealed to him so much that he decided to study French in Montreal, then earn a master’s degree in Conference Interpreting at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2009. That degree led him to the U.S. State Department, where he interpreted on a freelance basis for the International Visitor Leadership Program and for diplomatic-security trainees.

In this stage of his life, he was traveling 11 months out of the year while fulfilling federal-government contracts. Then one day, while in Washington, D.C., he got a phone call. His aunt in Kansas had suffered an accident and was hospitalized.

“I realized that I couldn’t continue to travel and be on the road so often if I was going to be there for my family,” said Breckenridge. He knew his parents would need more care as they aged. He also craved a more rooted life. The practice of law appealed to him.

“I think interpreting and lawyering are very similar in terms of making quick analysis, conducting in-depth analysis, learning about different areas of policy and the functioning of the courts and the government,” Breckenridge said. “There’s a lot of overlap there.”

While studying law at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, he grew intrigued by contract law and fell into commercial and bond litigation, which he practices at Levy Craig. In addition, he takes immigration cases, some on a pro bono basis. In one such pro bono case, he was alerted to the plight of a Ukrainian teen who had come out as gay while studying in Kansas only to learn that his parents back home had disowned him. Breckenridge is trying to secure an avenue through which the teen can remain stateside.

Once a month, Breckenridge speaks on immigration issues at the Mexican consulate. He offers his audience free legal consultations. Many of those who assemble don’t understand the difference between local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies, he said. During the past two years, he said, he has noticed more fear in their faces and voices. He attempts to alleviate it.

As for Breckenridge himself, he no longer feels the same fear he used to. He married his partner earlier this year in Sweden.

“Ten years ago, my marriage wouldn’t have been possible,” he said. “It’s important not to focus too much on the negative because negativity will kill you.”