Legal Migrations: An Immigrant’s Journey to Excellence in America

By Robert Green Atlanta Trend
  • Dec 29, 2023

Adriana Mitchell, the Senior Vice President, Sr. Associate General Counsel & Assistant Corporate Secretary at Global Payments Inc., a Fortune 500 payments technology company, moved from Bulgaria to the US with her parents at the age of 16. “My father had won the Green Card lottery, which allowed us to come to the States,” she says. Adriana’s journey is a classical and inspirational story of a hard-working immigrant who came to America and achieved great success.


The family’s move to the US held immense significance in Adriana’s life, and as the only child, she sensed a profound responsibility to excel in school and validate her parents’ sacrifices. Both her parents worked in minimum-wage jobs, with her mother engaged in housekeeping/custodial jobs while her father drove a limo. Adriana recalls, “While they aspired to secure a better future for themselves, much of their toil was dedicated to ensuring enhanced opportunities for me.”


Despite the challenges of arriving midway through high school and grappling with limited English proficiency, Adriana focused on her academics and swiftly adapted to the new curriculum. Although she achieved excellent grades, navigating the complexities of making friends in a new environment and in a new language proved rather challenging. “The first few years were rather isolating,” Adriana said. “But it has made me extra sensitive to making sure that members of our team feel valued and included.”  In addition to her studies, Adriana took on part-time jobs in both fast food and retail, experiences that proved eye-opening, especially considering the stark contrast to societal norms in her native Bulgaria where teenagers seldom combined work with education. Her efforts resulted in a full Hope Scholarship and two additional scholarships from the University of Georgia.


Reflecting on this period,” Adriana commented, “I realize that by  having to figure things out on my own, all while working at minimum wage jobs and focusing on my grades, I was forced  to develop resilience and grit, which has proved critical in navigating college, law school, large law firms and now as in-house counsel of a Fortune 500 company.” 


Attending the University of Georgia, Adriana majored in Political Science and minored in German. The University of Georgia provided a blank canvas for me," she reflects. "With everyone being unfamiliar to one another, I found it easy to make friends right from the start. This fresh beginning allowed me to forge connections and build a supportive network in this new chapter of my life." 


As for what she would do after college, that had already been decided. “As a child from Eastern Europe, it had always been driven into me that I needed to become either a doctor or a lawyer,” she says. “I chose the lawyer path, and fortunately, I enjoy the law and the career that I have.”


Adriana excelled in law school, graduating at the top of her class. Her parents’ sacrifices and Adriana’s hard work paid off - she began her career at Paul Hastings, a renowned international law firm. Commencing her career as a corporate and securities lawyer, she gleaned invaluable insights from her colleagues during her tenure at Paul Hastings. She then transitioned to Morris Manning & Martin. Joining this regional firm in the aftermath of the financial crisis, Adriana found herself immersed in a higher volume of deals, resulting in a wide variety of complex, but exciting, work. Reflecting on her time at both Paul Hastings and Morris Manning & Martin, she fondly acknowledges the enriching experiences and enduring friendships forged with her colleagues.


In 2014, Adriana became part of Jack Cooper Transport & Logistics, the largest light vehicle transportation company in North America. “I joined as the first securities lawyer tasked with guiding the company through the process of going public,” she explains. Quickly acclimating to her position as in-house counsel, Adriana emphasizes, “In this capacity, I recognized the strategic importance of offering practical advice that could be seamlessly put into action. And I found great satisfaction in being closely involved in the implementation of that guidance.”


In early 2017, Adriana accepted a position with Global Payments. “I was the only securities lawyer at the company,” she says. “As we grew and the corporate governance landscape evolved, my role changed and expanded.” She also supports the treasury, finance and tax functions internationally.


Adriana loves the team that she works with at Global Payments. “Most of the legal team at Global Payments have been there for many years.  Each of our lawyers are incredibly talented and I love that I have a great relationship with all of the businesspeople,” she says. “I know that they appreciate the fact that I am always responsive. I think they see me as a trusted advisor who is both substantively capable and pragmatic. By maintaining an open line of communication, we work to ensure that legal considerations are integrated into establishing priorities and strategic objectives.“