Moorestown resident Manuela Morais is a recent appointee to the Girl Scouts of Central and South New Jersey Board of Directors.
Manuela Morais has made it her mission to empower women and minorities in South Jersey.
“I feel that when you do good it comes back to you in many ways,” Morais said.
With more than 20 years practicing law under her belt, Morais has spent much of her time mentoring young women in the legal field. As a recent appointee to the Girl Scouts of Central and South New Jersey Board of Directors, Morais is hoping to mentor young women beyond the scope of the law, and she she is looking forward to helping build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.
Morais was born in Portugal, but around the age of 5, her family immigrated to the United States. Her family put down roots in South Jersey, initially settling in Riverside.
She earned her bachelor’s of arts degree from Rutgers University where she was an English major. Upon graduating, she served as a congressional aide to Congressman Robert E. Andrews at the U.S. Department of State, and she said she felt an immense sense of fulfillment from the work she was doing.
“I loved it; I loved helping people,” Morais said. “I was really intrigued about the immigration [part]. I could relate to it.”
An immigrant herself, Morais said the immigration facets of the job really appealed to her and sparked her passion to enter the legal profession. She went on to earn her juris doctor from Widener University in 1999.
Upon graduating, she was offered an associate position in the immigration practice at Pepper Hamilton, LLC. In 2004, she went on to manage the immigration practice at Blank Rome LLP, and she moved to Mooretown with her family in 2010.
In 2014, Morais decided she was looking for more work-life balance. She said she had a 10-year-old daughter at the time, and when she gave notice, she didn’t know she wanted to start her own practice. She left Blank Rome in August and, by October, she had two paralegals and the idea that she would work a few days of the week and spend her other days pursuing other life interests.
Morais’ practice, The Law Offices of Manuela Morais LLC, specializes in U.S. immigration and nationality law. She said as a corporate immigration attorney, she helps multinational companies and individuals who need to come to the United States for work to get appropriate visa documentation.
In her free time, Morais is on the board of directors and one of the founding members of Women Owned Law. The organization’s goal is to bring together women attorneys who have their own practices. She said many of these women have left big practices to start their own firms, and Women Owned Law is a networking forum for women to mentor and support one another as they navigate transitioning and growing their business.
She said working with Women Owned Law fueled her desire to connect with young women.
“I feel that really strong women entrepreneurs stem from when they are growing up, and at a crucial age, they need to be exposed to certain things,” Morais said.
She has applied this logic to raising her 14-year-old daughter. She said she may not want to be an immigration attorney or doctor, but she’s exposed her these paths and let her know these possibilities exist for women. She said she’s also passionate about mentoring young women in the legal sector making a point to mentor young attorneys about immigration law.
Morais said Girl Scouts aligns with her current goal, which is helping girls achieve the most they can. She said as a board member, she’ll help encourage understanding the Scout’s mission. She said the organization teaches girls about leadership, empowerment, friendship and working together, but most importantly in her eyes, Girl Scouts gives young women a platform.
“I’m energized by the things they’re doing right now,” Morais said. “There are a lot of changes within Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and I feel like I bring new energy to the board.”